Saturday, March 29, 2008

Dr. Strange: The Oath

My dream creative team for a Doctor Strange mini series would be Alan Moore and P. Craig Russell, but since the likelihood of that happening would almost be as amazing as Steve Ditko himself ever working on this character again, Brian K. Vaugan and Marcos Matin's 2006 Doctor Strange The Oath mini series (collected into a nice trade paperback in 2007) is a fine addition to the few great Doctor Strange stories that exist.
Marcos Martin, who also illustrated the excellent Batgirl Year One mini series for DC years ago, was a perfect choice for artist on Doctor Strange The Oath. Actually Marcos Martin has a nice clean, sparse style that would probably be suited for almost any kind of comic book story / character, but in The Oath he wonderfully evokes Ditko, while at the same time channeling David Mazzuccheli (artist on Miller's Batman Year One).

Brian K. Vaughan (Y The Last Man, Ex Machina), in The Oath, wrote a Doctor Strange that was faithful to his previous appearances and added some humor to the character that didn't seem out of place. Doctor Strange The Oath opens up with Iron Fist going to an hospice run by Night Nurse (she's actually a surgeon, but as she states in this book, Night General Practioner doesn't look as good on the sign) because he pulled a hamstring in a fight. A couple of pages later Dr. Strange is brought in by Wong (his assistant) due to having been shot. So right away by introducing Night Nurse as a character interacting with Doctor Strange (why hasn't this been thought of before!?), Vaughan has once established that he's done his homework and knows how to get a book started on a strong note. A big part of the series is about Doctor Strange looking for a cure for a medical condition that Wong has and both that quest and the other tangents the story takes all add up to one of the best Doctor Strange stories in years. The only thing missing was Clea, a fellow sorcerer and love interest of Doctor Strange, but that character hasn't been used in years and I don't even know what happened when she last appeared (maybe Alan Moore and P. Craig Russell could tell that story).

Doctor Strange is one of those uber powerful otherworldly characters (Thor has the same problem) that are really hard to do well because of their power levels which make it hard to come up with threats big enough for them and or readers have a hard time getting a frame of reference for. Characters like Doctor Strange are also best used sparingly because with their power levels they could just single handedly defeat almost any villain or fix anything. Having a mini series like The Oath is the way I'd use Doctor Strange in the future because Vaughan came up with a story suited to the character's "world" and yet had it take place within the Marvel universe without the reader having to susppend too much disbelief like I feel one has to with that character being a part of the Avengers.

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