Review: DOCTOR STRANGE ANNUAL #1

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DOCTOR STRANGE ANNUAL #1
Written by Kathryn Immonen, Robbie Thompson
Art by Leonardo Romero, Jordie Bellaire, Cory Petit, Jonathan Marks Barravecchia, Lee Loughridge
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: September 28, 2016

The lead story is twenty pages, which is not in itself Annual worthy, but also contained in this issue is a ten-page prelude for Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme. Taken together, the two stories are more substantial, but still slender by terms of what Annuals can and should be. There’s no back matter of any sort in Doctor Strange Annual #1, just two stories that are both less about Doctor Stephen Strange and more about the people around him.

Clea makes her return in the lead story, which is written by Kathryn Immonen and drawn by Leonardo Romero. Like the current ongoing series written by Jason Aaron, Immonen’s story focuses on the shortcomings of Doctor Strange, magnified by the spectrum of the recently concluded “Last Days of Magic” story. The Sanctum Sanctorum is being remodeled following the destruction of Aaron’s epic, and Wong is handling the details of contracts Strange initiated.

Immonen weaves a magical assault into the story, giving it just a bit of humor, but focusing on the gravity of contracts in magic. She plays a nice parallel between Wong’s negotiations with the contractor and Strange’s own agreements with Clea. Then Immonen brings the two tales together and gives readers a new standard for future Doctor Strange adventures.

Leonardo Romero’s art is clean and sharp, intimately melded with Jordie Bellaire’s colors to give every panel in Doctor Strange Annual #1 a smooth appearance. With Bellaire’s collaborative contribution, Romero’s art trends towards what appears to be becoming a house style for Marvel Comics – thick lines, rich shadows, and collaborative coloring. Romero’s line quality is not unlike that of Chris Samnee, Doc Shaner, Veronica Fish, or Javier Rodriguez.

The lead tale is complete and effective, giving readers a concise rundown of the immediate, tight cast surrounding Doctor Strange, as well as an overview of some of the Sorcerer Supreme’s history. It fits nicely over to the side of the current series, enhancing the adventures of Stephen Strange without being demanding or overbearing.

The second story in Doctor Strange Annual #1 is less informative to the current series and more of a prelude or teaser for the upcoming Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme. Written by that series’ writer, Robbie Thompson, and drawn by Jonathan Marks Barravecchia, that story is titled, “Yao: the Not-Quite-Ancient One.” As you might expect, that story introduces readers to a CW-friendly version of Doctor Strange’s mentor, the Ancient One. It’s a quick story with a pair of scenes, but it is effective in opening up the Not-Quite-Ancient One’s voice for readers. It also establishes a bit of the early premise for the series, giving readers a cliffhanger to look forward to, as the new series will almost certainly open with action.

Loughridge’s colors are vibrant and bold, at times threatening to overpower Barravecchia’s lines. That isn’t the case throughout the book, but the art seems as though it is colored directly onto pencil work from Barravecchia. Thompson infuses the story with mystery and uncertainty, and Barravecchia’s art delivers. Details are present, but fuzzy. There are rich shadows and tight definitions to the characters, but the world around the action is rife with possibility.

Doctor Strange Annual #1 is can mostly be dismissed by the casual reader, but essential reading for the Doctor Strange devotee, be they burgeoning or established. There’s a lot to like here, but none of it is critical to Doctor Strange or the Marvel Universe. The issue itself simply falls short of being grand, and a little bit more in the extras department would help this Annual feel more like a true comic book Annual. Instead, it’s an ancillary one-shot with a pair of fun adventures that enhance the regular run. If that’s enough to entrance you, give it a look.

The Verdict: 8.0/10

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