Review: Doctor Strange Vol. 3 – Blood In The Aether

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Review: Doctor Strange Vol. 3 – Blood In The Aether

After a rough month, Doctor Stephen Strange is having the week from hell. The attack by the Empirikul drained the Earth of most of its magic, destroyed Strange’s library of mystical books and artifacts, and left the Sorcerer Supreme to defend the world with not much more than scraps and spit. Worse, the enemies he’s made over the years have started to notice that the Master of the Mystic Arts doesn’t have much magic left, and several of them are fighting for the chance to kill him once and for all.

Oh, and he also gets trapped in Hell. Literally, the really-and-truly real Hell. One of them, anyway. That was Wednesday, and it’s not even the worst thing that happens.

Jason Aaron only has a few more issues before he finishes his run on Doctor Strange, and I’m going to miss him. It’s more than the dimension-spanning storylines and the depth he brings to the character; what makes this book so fun to read often boils down to one element: humor. Aaron shows just how ridiculous things can get when you have a magic-wielding defender of Earth – not to mention all of his bizarre cohorts and enemies – set up smack in the middle of Manhattan, and I love every flipping second of it.

“You ever try to hail a cab while carrying a sword? I don’t recommend it.”

“You better get yourself a car, Doc. Some sort of Strange-mobile.”

“You’re a floating head in a jar, Chondu, so I’m guessing you don’t know what it’s like to try to park in this city.”

A huge number of artists went into making this collection. In addition to Chris Bachalo, there’s Kevin Nowlan, Leonardo Robero, Cory Smith, and Jorge Fornes on pencil, John Livesay, Tim Townsend, Al Vey, and Victor Olazaba taking up inking tasks, and Jordie Bellaire and Antonio Fabela bringing the title’s psychedelic color scheme to life.  I wasn’t quite so fond of the art in issue #11, at least for the flashbacks; the stretched-mouth look that Strange has there is almost more cartoon-like than Bachalo’s artwork, although the darker colors helped set the tone for the pre-magic Strange hitting rock bottom by overdosing on Mutant Growth Hormone in a filthy alley. And I don’t have a problem with alternating artists, but I really prefer it when there’s some rhyme or reason to what section each artist works on. Having the art switch mid-issue, sometimes mid-scene, is needlessly jarring.

But that’s just a small part of the collection. The rest is Bachalo, who I’m going to miss even more than Aaron when he leaves after issue #20. Everything I’ve said about Bachalo’s artwork here still applies to this latest collection. Bachalo obviously loves to draw monsters, especially ones with tentacles and too many mouths, and the artwork splashes all over the page and rambles across panels. Every page is a treat to look at, whether it’s Strange and his librarian Zelma eating apples in the ruins of the Sanctum Sanctorum, or the expressions on the face of the devil’s daughter as she tries to make her Hell into a tourist destination, or what it looks like when Doctor Strange has to dive through the nightmares of half the planet at once.

“Clowns. Of Course. There’s gonna be lots of clowns, isn’t there?”

The chapter titles are all cleverly organized by day of the week, but by the end of the book things have gotten so crazy that no one’s even sure what day it is anymore. These graphic novels are still a really good purchase, but I think I’ll have to read the next few issues as soon as I can get my hands on them, because I don’t think I can wait for the next hardback to be released to find out what the heck is going on.