10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Doctor Fate, Magicman, Zatanna, and even Mandrake the Magician pale in comparison to one of my favorite Marvel characters of all time: Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts. One thing I've realized through reading Marvel's various Essentials is how many of their Silver Age titles started off very strongly, only to burn out by the time the Bronze Age rolled around. Reading through those titles 25 issues at a time really makes it apparent, but with Doctor Strange, I find it's a more even read. He may not have been as exciting or popular as Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four, but while those titles were stagnating in the '70s, Doc's title was still charging ahead with dark stories that didn't rely on tedious slam-bang fisticuffs in order to solve a dilemma. Instead, he uses his knowledge of sorcery to foil various plans for domination of our Earth, universe, or even the whole dimension. Interestingly, with all of this responsibility, he still makes plenty of time to flirt with the ladies.
ESSENTIAL DOCTOR STRANGE VOLUME 4 collects Doctor Strange #30-56, Chamber of Chills #4, and Man-Thing #4, primarily from the period 1978-1982. This is my favorite of the Doctor Strange Essentials so far, featuring The Dweller in the Dark, Nightmare, D'Spayre, the Black Knight, Baron Mordo, the Shadow Queen, Brother Voodoo, and Dormammu. The book features an impressive roster of talent for what many consider a second-tier character. Writing chores are primarily handled by Chris Claremont, JM Dematteis, Ralph Macchio, David Michelinie, and Roger Stern, and while some of the stories may be somewhat standard, they are rarely boring. In particular, Claremont creates some intricate, multilayered plots, and Stern's "Morganna Blessing" arc near the end of the collection is exceptional. The only real problem I could see was the clumsy integration of Chamber of Chills #4 into the storyline - seriously, with all the confounding plot exposition and narrative miscues required in order to make this happen, I feel like I missed out on an entire year of stories.
A wide variety of artistic styles are on display here, from the sturdy, straightforward pencils of Tom Sutton, Frank Brunner, and Kerry Gammill to the beautifully distinctive work of Gene Colan, Marshall Rogers, Michael Golden, and Paul Smith. One more group I have to recognize is the inkers: contained herein are the skills of P. Craig Russell, Dan Green, Terry Austin, and the great Rudy Nebres - all A+ talents who can work wonders over even the most lifeless pencils.
So, to Marvel: thanks for giving the good Doctor the attention he deserves. Here's hoping I won't have long to wait until volume 5.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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Doctor Strange is one of my favorite characters and it's a shame that he's been "retired" by the publisher. If you're a fan like me but didn't have the chance to read all the comics or you simply don't know his origin then get books 1 through 4. You won't be sorry you did and even if your not a fan now you will be once you get to know Doctor Strange.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
The fourth volume of Essential Dr. Strange is even more uneven than the previous Volume 3 even though there is less rotation of writers. That said, this volume contains some stellar, even classic adventures that redeem it. I'd give it two stars if not for the excellence near the end. The book can be divided into three parts reflecting the three major creative teams. The first third of the book contains Roger Stern's first run on the character during which the otherworldly horror The Dweller in Darkness decides to ruin the Sorceror Supreme. The Dweller echoes back to the Lovecraftian horror of the Shuma-Gorath saga (see Essential Vol. 2). The storyline has a strong start, veers into peculiar villains and ends anti-climactically. The Dweller never reveals his presence to Dr. Strange and instead attacks the mage through intermediaries and cat's-paws. He essentially decides to claim victory (and he sort of succeeds) in his war with Dr. Strange even though the good Doctor never discovers who was behind his recent battles, much less their purpose. In addition, Stern tries to use the storyline to answer the question of who used the Black Knight's statue to attack the Avengers (a story from the Avengers comic) and ...I'm still not sure of the answer! The run isn't particularly satisfying.
The second part chronicles Chris Claremont of X-Men fame taking over Dr. Strange and we're treated to a gripping battle with Baron Mordo. That said, I found Claremont's take on Strange far too moody and whiny. Claremont builds upon a sub-plot from Stern's run as to Clea falling out of love with Dr. Strange, while Strange begins to run into some old girlfriends. At times, the drama brings the histrionics down to earth but it also undermines his status as a wise individual. The character is a far cry from his more heroic days under Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and Steve Englehart. The reader could consider this change a product of the Dweller's victory over Strange; his goal was to undermine Strange's confidence after all.
Gene Colan returns to art duties in this volume but it lacks his usual style. Astute readers will notice these comics force Colan to adhere to a more structured panel arrangement. And inker Dan Green, who does much of the inking, is no Tom Palmer who did a fabulous job on Colan's previous Strange run. The end result is a lackluster Colan and I just felt it made the stories harder to read. I in fact stopped reading the Claremont and Colan run after a few issues because it was such a slough.
The third part is a masterful six-story arc by Roger Stern and Marshall Rodgers that nearly redeems everything preceding it. Strange battles his three major adversaries - Baron Mordo (in a beautiful, malevolent performance), Nightmare and Dormamuu - travels back in time to meet Nick Fury and Rama-Tut, has a run in with the Spanish Inquisition and encounters Brother Voodoo. Plus, we have a satisfying if sad end to the Clea - Strange relationship. It is thrilling, engaging and mysterious, a welcome return to the Lee and Ditko days.
The volume ends with Roger Stern working with a variety of great artists including Michael Golden and Paul Smith. These stories act as a denouement to the six-issue epic and ably serve their purpose. Golden's art is a tour-de-force and elevates a perfectly okay story into a great one. Paul Smith may lack Golden's virtuosity but he makes up for it with clean design and some of the strongest comic storytelling in the business.
Overall, I was disappointed in this volume but the last third is a gripping read worthy of purpose. It would be nice if Marvel reprinted the Marshall Rodgers stories in one collection as they read elegantly on their own.
0 of 15 people found the following review helpful
R. G. Heckathorn
- Published on Amazon.com
I was very much looking forward to this so I'm hugely disappointed. The Doctor was one of my favorite characters growing up even though I was a DC fan and I was excited to see some of the issues I used to own collected in one brand new volume. I would have preferred a hard cover edition (I prefer hard cover for all my books) but was willing to make due. So I ordered and waited gleefully until it arrived and then ... I opened it. Black and white. I feel like I ordered an overly expensive coloring book.
Thankfully, Amazon has a great return policy. I still have to pay for the shipping since this was no fault of theirs but I chalk it up to my mistake and the cost of doing business with a company that has treated me right for years.
Since I did not find a review that mentioned this and do not see it in the description I felt obligated to let the next Dr. Strange fan know. This book is in black and white. Maybe that doesn't bother you and in that case, enjoy. But for those looking for a new condition replacement of sorts for some of your old favorite comics, this won't do the trick.
It's also too bad because I see they have a Moon Knight version. Love the Moon Knight.
Hey, Marvel. Put these collections in colored pages between hard covers and I'm there.