Chris Bachalo and Tim Townsend’s beautiful, eye-catching cover for “Doctor Strange” #3 may not perfectly represent the events inside, but they’re close enough, even if the Master of the Mystic Arts isn’t seen running down the street in his stylish boxers with monsters from another dimension in pursuit. The cover is worth the price alone, and its detail, color balance and overall atmosphere does justice to the story contained within. Jason Aaron’s plot is no less spectacular, even if Strange isn’t wearing boxer shorts throughout.
Aaron clearly writes his story to Bachalo’s strengths, and his script gets into Strange’s mind and shows the world as he sees it: cloaked in magical energy, extra-dimensional slugs and plenty more. Through Strange, Aaron convinces readers that magic is akin to the Force in the Marvel Universe, surrounding everything and everyone, and few outside of Strange are aware of it. Bachalo and the inking team capture this brilliantly, with the real world shown in stark black and white while the magic elements are all filled in with bold color, as if to symbolize the bigger and more far-reaching world beyond the physical one. As rendered by Bachalo, the story would have worked if Strange had been merely strolling down a Manhattan street for the entire issue.
Aaron’s script has a comedic touch throughout, as required by any story that features a naked Doctor Strange running through the astral plane. Again, though, Aaron leans on Bachalo to convey some of his humor visually; one brief scene is simultaneously funny and beautiful. Aaron also puts forth interesting scenarios, a la invasive species on a trans-dimensional level and its effect on the realm of magic, which ironically and brilliantly parallels the effects of invasive species in the real world. There’s another whole world that no one can see, but Aaron and Bachalo make it seem as though it’s right in front of us all. All the while, Aaron continues to tease an impending threat, as he has since the series’ inception.
Townsend, Al Vey and Mark Irwin all tag team for a remarkably smooth presentation from page-to-page; all of the scenery is detailed and crisply defined and works to Bachalo’s strengths, just as Aaron’s script does. Few are better than Bachalo at bringing such demonic creatures and mind-trippy landscapes to life. Many of his layouts span across two pages, making reading the comic nothing short of a magical mystical tour of breathtaking sequential art. With constant transitions between careful use of vibrant color and then none at all, Bachalo effectively conveys another different environment, one that lies in ruins, with tones of ashen grey that stand out against the contrasts used elsewhere.
There are few creative synergies that use the potential of comic art with such beauty and effectiveness, but Aaron and Bachalo not only pull it off — they make it look easy. “Doctor Strange” #3, like the past issues, is a wonderful reminder of how awesome comic books can be.