In an effort to try something new, I searched through my books to find something I haven’t read before but have been curious of for a while. Today, that is Doctor Strange.
I’ve certainly come across him in other books, most noticeably Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars. Not to mention the Benedict Cumberbatch film for the MCU. But even with that familiarity, I was yet to dive into the Doctor Strange comics until now.
Doctor Strange: The Way of the Weird is the first volume of Jason Aaron’s run and part of the second Marvel Now relaunch. Jason Aaron is also the writer of Marvel’s Star Wars series. Given my familiarity with the writer, and that the relaunches are intended to hook in new readers, this seemed like a decent starting point. I’ve heard before that a good starting place for Doctor Strange is The Oath by Brian K. Vaughan but given that the point of the ‘Trying Something New’ exercise is to read books I’ve collected but not read, my choices are limited.
As a relaunch, the first issue works incredibly well! The book opens with an explanation page, as told by Stephen himself. The explanation page, while not completely accurate, even resembles older comics to add weight to how long Stephen has been doing this. How battle worn and experienced he is. This jumps to seeing Stephen in action. Fighting interdimensional beings that have managed to infect the soul and body of a young boy. All the while, we are hearing Stephen describe and talk about how he feels about all this, and how activity seems to be increasing of late. This is a great way to hook in a new reader, as we are learning not only about Stephen, but his line of work, how he feels about it, how weird it all seems even to him. It’s refreshing. Especially mixed with such vibrant and intricate artwork.
“Just that one glimpse is all it takes to drive the average person to the brink of madness. If they only knew. If they could only see the world the way that I do. The human body is a breeding ground for microscopic monsters. Whether you know it or not, your flesh has been colonized by millions of bacteria. Right now there are mites living on your face and eating your dead skin. Look it up if you don’t believe me. Though you may regret you did. Your Soul attracts parasites as well. On a mystical level, instead of a microscopic one. Interdimensional Bacteria. They may look like monsters, but like those aforementioned face-mites, they’re relatively harmless. Some are even helpful. Some are spiritual burdens that are none of my business.”
Through the first issue, we are introduced to not only Stephen, but other members of the Marvel Magical universe, such as Doctor Voodoo and the Scarlet Witch. We get some nice foreshadowing that will pay off later, and even begin to explore the Sanctum Sanctorum through the eyes of a none believer.
The Way of the Weird trade contains the first 5 issues, and while it works as a great introduction, it’s also a tremendous hook for a seemingly massive story arc. Though the first two issues, both in story and especially in the last pages. Were shown moments where magic is failing, or that Sorcerers from other dimensions are being hunted down and killed. That these things are starting to infect not just Stephen but this world. It’s built up slowly and alongside Stephen’s character in the eyes of new readers. Meaning that after we have spent some time in Stephen’s world and seeing how he works, we care about the magic dying. We can see the consequences of such a thing.
At key moments in the story, we are treated to lesson’s Stephen has learnt along the way. Most noticeably the price he pays for using magic. That he can no longer eat normal food, his body is host to its own magical parasites. That he may spend days ill because of over use. It’s phrased in a memory he experiences with the Ancient One. That when he was ordered to use his broken hands to punch the Ancient One, the punch hurts him just as much. That there is always a price for using force. It’s the same with magic. This ties in rather well to the final story threads of issue 5. That magic is disappearing, and it’s time to pay the price.
As a first Doctor Strange book, this works great. It introduces the world and character. Gives you an understanding of how magic works and its cost. As well as making you want to explore more and keep reading. The second volume is now high on my list of things to read. A wonderful and gripping introduction to the world of Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme!