Recent Dorkiness

Countdown to Halloween, Day 8: Strange

Taking a short break from the Halloween mixtape tonight to return to the thing we’re kind of known for here on the nerd farm: funnybook reviews. Or A funnybook review, anyway; I’m still spending sufficient time on the mixtape that I can’t launch into one of my usual long-winded treatises on Stuff I Like. It’ll be a Halloween-themed funnybook, as well, because the Countdown is a harsh mistress, and demands all manner of creepy stuff…

Bachalo Dr Strange 1

Dr. Strange 1
by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo

So I almost didn’t buy this comic. They wanted five bucks for it, and as regular readers know, it takes an awful lot to get me to pay five bucks for a funnybook. Especially for what looks and feels like a regular-sized funnybook. But a quick page-count revealed that, no, it in fact features 32 pages of story, which made me feel a little bit better about it.

But it’s also a new book featuring one of my all-time favorite funnybook characters, written by one of the few writers I like in work-for-hire comics, and drawn by an artist whose work is so stylish and pretty that I like him in spite of his shortcomings as a storyteller. So I broke down and bought it. Paid my money and took my chances. And initially…

Bachalo Strange Parasite Girl

click to embiggen

…I didn’t care for it. That’s a beautiful, creepy, weird page to be sure. But Dr. Strange is not a character, I felt, who should ever use phrases like “she’s into me.” Nor should he refer to hordes of extra-dimensional parasites as “guys.” And he most definitely shouldn’t be written, overall, like some horny hipster-bro, a reprobate who can barely remember his spells under pressure. As modern reinterpretations of classic characters go, this was not the sort of thing I wanted to see.

And yet…

Bachalo Strange Bar

click to embiggen

…through cool concepts and arresting visuals…

Bachalo Strange Magic Vision

click to embiggen

…Aaron and Bachalo slowly won me over. In part, they did it with their fresh and very engaging reinvention of the magical world. It surrounds us, invisible, all the time, its practitioners able to see things the rest of us can’t. I like that idea in particular. It makes magic part of the mundane world, something always sitting just outside the range of our senses. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s all pixie dust and unicorn farts. ‘Cause there’s some malignant shit out there we don’t know anything about.

Bachalo Strange Thing

click to… ah, you know the drill.

Dr. Strange does, though, and that’s his job: protecting us from nasty things that will eat us from the inside out. This establishes another aspect of the new take that I’m glad to see return: Dr. Strange as consulting detective, the doctor of the supernatural. This was a big part of the original character concept, but it was quickly swept aside in favor of grand mystical battles and sweeping epics of other-dimensional warfare. Which is not to knock that stuff; those stories are where the original Lee/Ditko Dr. Strange really takes off.

But later creative teams, who perhaps lacked that Lee/Ditko flair, didn’t deliver on the drama and spectacle of those sorts of conflicts as well, and that’s when the human element of Strange helping ordinary people was especially missed. So it’s nice to see this new take launching with Strange evicting some parasites out of the head of a little possessed boy, and then moving on to help a young woman whose scalp rash has grown eyes and teeth.

Bachalo Strange Rash

one last time with the embiggening

It’s especially nice to see that sort of thing during the Halloween season. Because, creepy. And, yay. I mean, admittedly, it’s a fun, day-glo, Tim Burtonish sort of creepy, rather than anything actively scary. But that stuff has its place. Plus, if that giant leech-slug thing up there didn’t at least make you pause a second and feel a bit queasy about what it was doing to that old man just a tiny bit… I think maybe you’re missing the point.

Grade: B

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About Mark Brett (432 Articles)
Shaved Yeti. Alien. Writer of stuff. Read my fiction at http://reportsfromthefieldblog.wordpress.com/. Read my thoughts on comic books and other dork culture ephemera at https://dorkforty.wordpress.com/.

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