Are you ready for the Doctor Strange movie in November? Are you? ‘CAUSE I SURE AM.
While we wait, I decided to check out the Doctor Strange: Strange Origin graphic novel that Marvel released this month. Although when you get right down to it, 99% of this is a re-release since it’s a repackaging of Greg Pak and Emma Rios’s Doctor Strange: Season One graphic novel, with the first issue of the latest ongoing Doctor Strange comic tacked on to the end.
The 2012 Season One storyline follows most of the usual highlights about Doctor Strange’s origin, but adds a new dimension to his relationship with the character of Wong. Traditionally portrayed as Strange’s loyal servant, Wong appears in this story as a rival student of the Ancient One, and he’s not happy about Stephen Strange being admitted as a student as well. He also doesn’t trust Strange when the two of them are roped into a quest for three powerful relics that could give their owner the power of the mystical Vishanti.
The character origin for Wong is a little jarring, because we’ve always seen him as Strange’s moral compass and steadfast support. Having him start off as a cocky, flamboyant and very much ticked-off fellow student feels weird. Greg Pak plays it off with a lot of humor and some standard tropes. Even if we weren’t already familiar with the character, we’ve all seen enough buddy-cop movies to know that the two guys in the story who spend the entire time bickering and brawling will end up the best of friends by the end.
The story itself has some of the same nod-and-a-wink humor by Pak, and a few more familiar tropes. You know which ones I’m talking about: the fate of the world depends on being able to recover three magical rings before the villain (who’s only motivation seems to be “He’s the villain”) can find them, and only the most worthy can hold the rings without being corrupted by their power, yadda yadda yadda. Pak is well aware that this story has been done before, and he has Strange and Wong comment on it, and then has them pick at each other about it.
Some of the best parts of the story for me were about Strange himself. He starts out exactly as cocky as you’d expect the former famous surgeon to be, barging into the Ancient One’s monastery and trying to throw money around. Finding out that yes, magic is indeed real broadens his mind a little and convinces him to become a student, but he infuriates Wong by freely admitting that he’s only staying until he can find a cure for his broken hands, and then he’s leaving the mystical BS behind. There’s obviously something more to him though – a little bit of heart and some devil-may-care cleverness – and it shows in scenes such as when he helps a young surgeon in a tough spot, or when he recovers one of the rings using nothing except his reputation and a lot of charm.
Emma Rios is an amazing artist…but I find myself preferring her work in other books to this one. Her style has tightened up for her more recent titles like Pretty Deadly; here it feels a very wild. There’s a lot of energy in every frame, but I’m picky about artwork and I just don’t like how the faces are drawn. Plus, the action scenes can be confusing, and it’s hard to tell with all the splashy lines exactly what the heck happens in each frame.
I don’t want to be completely negative though. There are quite a few gorgeous frames, particularly when the Vishanti make an appearance. The color work by Jordie Bellaire goes perfectly with the almost hallucinogenic scenes, and for some reason I particularly like the last page of the story.
I’ve already talked about the Jason Aaron/Chris Bachalo’s Doctor Strange title (which you definitely need to read) here, so having the first issue included in the back of Strange Origin is a plus. I’m not entirely sure if it justifies buying the entire book though; Doctor Strange: Season One is still available at amazon after all, so it almost makes more sense to get that and the graphic novel of the current title rather than this repackaging. I think it may mostly be completist fans who will want to get this one, but if someone who only knows about Doctor Strange from the upcoming movie picks up this one and it makes them want to read the current title, well that’s good too.
images courtesy of CBR.