Doctor Strange - in space
I know we all feel utter contempt for the constant resetting of comic book numbering back to number one, and we pity the weak-minded fools who are swayed by this to pick up a comic book that they haven’t read in a while. The only people we reserve more disdain for are the publishes who pander to this ingrained flaw in human nature by constantly resetting their comic books back to issue one. It is beneath all of us, and it has to stop.
Having said that… I noticed that Doctor Strange has been reset to number one and it caught my attention. Also, it isn’t just the usual Doctor Strange, it’s Doctor Strange… in ssppaaacce! I love Doctor Strange, and I love sci-fi, which should be obvious from almost every post on this site, so I looked away from the big number one on the cover, held my nose at my own weakness, and grabbed a copy. Not an actual copy, though. I still read about half my comic books on paper, bought from a news stand or my local comic book store, but this one I got digital.
The first thing I want to say about the rebooted Doctor Strange is that the art is beautifully painted, by Jesus Saiz, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. It is lovely to look at, and fun to marvel at the artist’s skills, but painted art tends to lack the sheer detail of drawn art. The panels tend to be emptier of clutter, and I am a fan of clutter, especially in a sci-fi title. For example, the artist recycles a single panoramic view of a New York street crossing as a background for four or five frames. The action is fun and inventive, with Doctor Strange, the ex-surgeon, suturing up a rip in space and time, but the background is as static as a stage backdrop. The people in the background don’t even move, making it look like time has been stopped. Like when Anthony Hopkins clicks his fingers on a busy Westworld street.
The comic loses no time in sending Doctor Strange off into space, as promised, and the spaceship he ends up going in is a very nice design indeed. He is given it by Iron Man, so it is painted in Iron Man’s branded color scheme of red and gold. But for me, Iron Man having access to such advanced technology is a bit stupid. This spaceship is a compact design that appears to be able to travel faster than the speed of light. It makes absolutely no sense that anyone on Earth would be able to build a spaceship so advanced, especially not Iron Man.
For some reason I could probably accept a spaceship like this being provided by the Fantastic Four, but that isn’t possible right now because Marvel has them in some weird limbo where the team is disbanded and Mr Fantastic has gone missing, so Iron Man is the one doling out the amazing science gadgets. But nope, I just don’t buy it. I mean Iron Man also gives Strange a universal translator - that staple of almost all sci-fi shows and writing - but how in blazes would Iron Man be able to build one, let alone plant it in Doctor Strange’s skull. It takes an effort of will to swallow baloney like this. Again, I’d have believed Mr Fantastic could come up with a gadget like that, but Iron Man? Iron Man? No.
Mercifully, this part of the setup is kept short and Doctor Strange is soon blasting off and leaving our solar system, and then our galaxy. I had to read that text box twice. Did they really say he left our galaxy, after just two panels of travel? Erm… Wow. That’s a long way. Doctor Strange’s long journey through space is wonderfully painted and it only takes a couple of pages for the good Doctor to end up on his first inhabited planet, and the adventure begins.
We get one page showing a very nice painting of an alien city, but then the camera tightens up and we see only closeups of Doctor Strange and the aliens he meets. In a drawn strip we could see vistas of the alien city in every panel of the comic book, but in this painted strip we have to be content with a glimpse here and there. We see a few alien spacecraft, but they are smooth and lacking in any detail whatsoever. It is understandable why what we are seeing is simplified so much: it is so that the art can be painted in time to hit the publication deadline, but that’s not great for a sci-fi strip. A sci-fi strip should revel in the background detail, not try its best to keep us from seeing it. The camera is actually often pointed at the sky so a lot of the time all we see is the top half of a character against a blue background.
The art is absolutely beautiful, but it might not be the best choice for a sci-fi strip. A sci-fi strip should be full of robots, aliens, and spaceships in the background. That’s all I’m saying.
The story, on the other hand, does its job of setting up the space adventure in this one issue nicely. Strange makes first contact, and it does not go well, so we are all set up for some rip-roaring, sci-fi adventures to come. Judging by the cover art, I think the story will be going in some interesting directions real soon. In theory, I should be excited, but I keep coming back to the painted style of the art. It is impossible to add background detail and get it done to deadline so everything feels claustrophobic - the view is kept tight on Doctor Strange so there isn’t room to paint much other stuff around him - and empty - the corridors and streets we do see are deserted of interesting alien robots and characters.
It is like Strange landed on a post-apocalyptic planet with only four alien inhabitants, and no robots. And constantly being in closeup just emphasizes how bland this Strange is. He has smooth, tanned skin, and his facial expression doesn’t fluctuate much. Hopefully, Marvel will only keep this gifted but inappropriate artist on the title for a couple more issues and then it will he handed on to somebody who does some actual drawing, so we can get some panels with background detail, technology, and aliens. After all, in my humble opinion, that is what sci-fi is all about. There is potential here, and so for now I’m sticking with it. Doctor Strange isn’t a natural choice for sci-fi, and having to depower your superhero to make a story work isn’t usually a fruitful avenue of storytelling but, who knows, this all might just work… maybe.
Start Reading the Dark Galaxy Trilogy
Galaxy Dog is an epic space opera. What starts as an ordinary invasion of an alien planet, brings to light an ancient archaeological site of huge importance. A young man called Knave makes a life-changing discovery there and rises from a lowly position as an infantry trooper to become a player among the powers of the galaxy. This is the story of his rise, and the story of the fierce and independent woman and the feisty robot who help him.