Written by Robbie Thompson
Art by Javier Rodriguez, Álvaro López, Jordie Bellaire, and Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: October 26, 2016

The debut issue of Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme brings twenty pages of magic, time-travel, and a speck of navel-gazing.

In the aftermath of “The Last Days of Magic,” Doctor Stephen Strange is playing a bit of Indiana Jones, trying to reclaim mystical artifacts to jumpstart magic, as the Empirikul all but wiped out magic, but Strange is a bit mopey about it, despite facing the wrath of Q’Uvin the Malevolent.

Writer Robbie Thompson and artist Javier Rodriguez kick things off with the comic book equivalent of a pre-credits scene that peeks back into 507 A.D., as Merlin banishes a servant and sets in motion a plot that will come back in this very issue, fueling the series going forward.

Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #1 cuts to Strange fighting the mystical behemoth as Jordie Bellaire’s colors take on more contemporary tones. In both the opening scene an the second scene (as well as throughout the remainder of Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #1) Bellaire’s colors are saturated and bright, unapologetic, at times magical, and at other times, nauseating (in a presumably intended good way).

Merlin’s scenes have heavy purple and green tones, and Strange’s first appearance is gilded in reds and red-orange, making their shared scene an explosion of color that must have had everyone at the printer stopping to stare in its unrestrained brilliance. And it all works in the framework that has been established for the visuals of the world Stephen Strange battles.

Javier Rodriguez and inker Álvaro López likewise follow suit on the design elements of the current adventures of Doctor Strange, with magical influence not appearing to the mundane citizens of New York, regardless of size or proximity. In these bits, Bellaire drops out the color in the backgrounds, placing the readership’s full attention on struggle for and because of magic.

While exaggerated, Rodriguez’s art has a different tone than that of Doctor Strange series artist Chris Bachalo. Both tug at the edges of realistic, but Rodriguez tends to be more economical in line, more varied in stroke width (no doubt largely attributable to López), and deceptively simpler.

That’s not to say Rodriguez skimps on the detail. He most certainly does not, and there are a number of single panels that demonstrate that, let alone the intricacies of the character designs, like the scalloped trim on Merlin’s cloak or the patterning on Kushala’s jacket. Strange’s beard is a bit too hipster for me, but it presents scruffiness that one might expect on a character who has been pushing himself.

Thompson’s story itself is an introduction to world of the Sorcerers Supreme and the threat Merlin has gathered them for. Like a child who has dumped out the toy box to share with a little-seen, but much beloved aunt or uncle, Thompson shows readers all the things: new characters, old characters, what magic was, what it is, and what it may be. There’s very little depth given to any of the exposition, but there doesn’t have to be. Yet.

Thompson does an effective job of putting all of the pieces on display, gives readers just enough information, avoids playing favorites, centers Strange in it all, and steps back. There’s more to the story, but it is crystal clear this is just the beginning. Hopefully readers will be given the opportunity to meet the half-dozen new Sorcerers in greater detail as the series progresses.

In Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #1, we learn their names, get a glimpse of their personalities, and observe some hints of their interpersonal relationships. Some have greater familiarity to one another (and to seasoned readers) but at no point does it become prohibitive to a new reader.

With the big-screen premiere of Doctor Strange just days away, the Marvel Marketing Machine is in full throttle, and the fact that Thompson, Rodriguez, López, Bellaire, and Caramagna are adding to the shadowy, mystical corners of the Marvel Universe in Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme #1 just amplifies the anticipation. Granted, very little is going to be found in common between this comic and the movie (save for Stephen Strange) but this is a wonderful companion piece for curious readers looking to learn more about magic and magic wielders in the Marvel Universe.

The Verdict: 9.5/10



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