DOCTOR STRANGE #381

Writer: Donny Cates

Artist: Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Reviewer: Humphrey Lee

Marvel Legacy time! New Creative Teams time! Time to pick up some comic books I wasn’t already reading thanks to a “reboot” time!

I may not always like them, in fact I outright loathe most of them, but big, corporate comic book events are usually always a good time for jumping on a book as they always make for a good opportunity to throw a fresh creative team on with a fresh “framework” for the universe in place. In the case of DOCTOR STRANGE in this “Legacy” era, 2017 break out writer Donny Cates of GOD COUNTRY fame and the visual mastermind of the best book of 2016 (IMO, of course) THE VISION in Gabriel Hernandez Walta are the team tapped to take on Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme. Except now that title of King Tuna of the Marvel Magic World is being held by none other than Loki, God of Lies/Mischief/Stories/Floppy Hair and I am the confused.

As you might imagine, such a dramatic turn of events is really the focus of this issue is jumping perspectives to show how things have switched and the state of the world for it, starting with Doc Strange’s “not a Companion, we swear” Zelma, to Loki himself in his new role, and then his predecessor. And, honestly, it’s all a bit straightforward as the issue actually paces itself in its roll out of the new order of things. Zelma is holding down the fort, giving a man with haunted eyes the grand tour of the currently vacant but for herself Sanctum Sanctorum, the book cuts to Loki and several pages of Loki inspired shenanigans, and then a “cliffhanger” of sorts with Strange. Obviously, though, the appeal of this book in general and what Donny Cates has proven himself quite capable of in a short period of time is the ability to think outside the box with this type of backdrop where literally anything can happen, and Cates with tag team partner Walta do a good first run with this issue.

The main hit with this debut for the creative team is the personality they put on display. Zelma is quirky and upbeat in her bizarro world librarian’s gig and Loki is appropriately all over the grid with his emotional swings, which is also nice and in line with how that characters has developed in the past decade between dying, deaging, dying again and trying to build himself in a new image somewhere in the gray space of anti-hero and villain. He’s all overconfident megalomania at first but those give way to glimpses of “what the fuck am I doing here?” and back again as he interacts with the magic community. It’s a pitch perfect rendition of the character given where his personality is now after the dedicated effort to evolve him under the hands of Kieron Gillen, Matt Fraction, Al Ewing, et al. And I like the idea of having this new mystical playground to mess around in beyond just the tried and true mythological bits, though who knows how long he’ll be meddling in these new digs. I, personally, wouldn’t mind seeing this past just an arc, or at the least him just becoming a regular just to bounce off the good Doctor Strange, who already seems to have made himself a fun new friend by the end of this issue.

That’s just the thing about this issue is that it succeeds at just being a lot of fun. As I said, it does play through pretty breezily on plot points – It’s really only got the two; Loki is Supreme now, Strange is not so much – but it’s got a lot of personality. Walta’s artwork helps a lot in this regard too. It’s as detailed and expressive as it has ever been but it’s a lot heavier on the inks and whatnot to make it a lot more moody. I’m really looking forward to seeing how surreal it can get too; I’m hoping Cates and him have a lot of neat oddities and otherworldly beasts to slam against whoever ends up being Sorcerer Supreme in the short term. Based off what I saw in this first issue, I’m definitely down to sit around for the rest of this arc and probably another to see where the Cates/Walta tandem really take things now that they have this shock to the system of the “natural” order of the Marvel mystical realm out of the way. If they can come up with some cool new and powerful (possibly gross!) villains out of the primordial muck of the universe and combine it with the charms on display in this debut, this could be a hell of a run.

Humphrey Lee has been an avid comic book reader going on fifteen years now and a contributor to AICN COMICS and now at MLMILLERWRITES.COM. In fact, reading comics is about all he does in his free time and where all the money from his day job wages goes to – funding his comic book habit so he can talk about them to you, our loyal readers (lucky you). He’s a bit of a social networking whore, so you can find him all over the Interwebs on sites like Twitter, Facebookand a blog where he also mostly talks about comics with his free time because he hasn’t the slightest semblance of a life. Sad but true, and he gladly encourages you to add, read, and comment as you will.