Doctor Strange is a character that has a lot of potential for story-telling, but one that writers don’t really seem to use properly. What I mean is that, instead of getting his own stories that flesh out his character, he’s typically used as some sort of mystic advisor or a deus ex machina to end a particular event comic. He’s become more plot device than character, but there do exist really good stories for him even in modern times.
Luckily, this is the case with this Roger Stern and Neil Vokes collaboration, one that uses the origins and character of Stephen Strange to their fullest. And to think, this almost didn't see the light of day.
House HuntingHere, we get a re-telling of how Doc Strange came upon the use of the Sanctum Sanctorum as his base of operations. We learn of the building's seedy past, and it becomes glaringly obvious that Strange will face a hefty trial before he gains the building's services. What follows is a tale that exemplifies and uses the character's origins and personality to make what could easily be a simple "wizard vs. demon" issue something with much more gravitas.
By the Eye of Agamotto!Bottom line, this is a classically written story. Stern KNOWS the character of Doctor Strange, writing him equally parts suave, arrogant, and disciplined. I'm not even sure how to sum it all up, it's just such a crisply paced and solidly written comic. Stern weaves the character's origins in with the origins for the building so flawlessly that, seeing as this title is actually an unused story from a cancelled Marvel series, it's almost unthinkable that it hasn't really come out in one form or another.
The cartoony style of Neil Vokes just punctuates the classic feel this story has. Although some might prefer a more realistic or detailed style in their sequential art, I think this kind of punchy "Saturday Morning Cartoon" feel is really under-appreciated. It's accessible AND beautiful. The vibrant use of colors during Strange's fight with the demon adds an almost psychedelic level detail, one that feels unequivocally "Strange".
Just Plain MagicAt the end of the day, I just can't be negative about this book. Unless you have a complete and utter aversion to Stephen Strange, there's nothing to stop me recommending this one-shot. At $2.99, it's on the cheap side (for a Marvel title), and it's well worth the cash. This is even a great starting point for those looking to get into the character, and despite some sensitive subject matter concerning human sacrifice, is probably alright for the kiddies, too.
Doctor Strange: From the Marvel Vault conjures up 5 stars out of 5. It's beyond solid.