Doctor Strange is a new man. Following the climax to the Empirikul story line Stephen Strange is cut off from the powers of magic, left with only a trickle of energy and a small arsenal of magical weapons. This is a Sorcerer Supreme unlike anything we’ve seen before. Strange is forced to become a cunning methodical warrior instead of a character that can simply wave his hand and let the magic do the work. Jason Aaron is striping away all of the frills to the mystic and what we are seeing, maybe for the first time is the brilliant man who lies within.
It wouldn’t be a story if Strange was just allowed to recuperate until he had solved his problems, and the creative team does what every great story-teller should do with a down and out character; and that is start kicking the crap out of them. It’s time to start really testing the mettle of Strange. It’s time to find out what Stephen is made of and what better ways to do that then bring back an old foe? Enter Baron Mordo.
Mordo is wielding some heavy-duty firepower thanks to a deal he has made with a Dr. Strange staple and villain; Dormmamu. So the stage is set. A fully loaded villain is chasing down a weakened doctor. That’s the build up for a majority of the issue and then BAM! The rug is pulled out from under the reader with a deft tug. We watch as Strange’s situation goes from bad to worse as he is teleported, via magic cloak, to the dream realm of the villain known as Nightmare. Out of the frying pan and into the fire is the saying. Stephen Strange is about to have a really bad day.
I’ve been a huge fan of Jason Aaron’s work on this title. He has approached Strange with a sense of humor and an oddball look into the world of mysticism. He has been able to present a unique and different side to the character that has added depth and dimension, fleshing out what has been; up to this point, an over-powered demi-god like being. That version of Strange is not relatable. He’s not a character that you want to get to know because there are no flaws… but here, in this story Aaron focuses on the flaws and creates new ones that shape Strange into a man who you not only root for, but one you want to share a beer with after the fight is over.
Chris Bachalo is the artist on this issue and my opinion reflects what has traditionally been said about Bachalo’s artwork. There are panels and pages where the design and composition are stunning genius, and then there are other panels and pages where the art seems so muddled and complex that it is impossible to decipher what you are looking at. That same line of thinking can be said about this issue and this entire run. For every page of brilliance is a page of confusion. There are moments that the art hamstrings the issue, but then you have moments like the reveal of Dormammu, where the design of the character is unlike anything we have seen before and it’s creepy and beautiful.
Final Thoughts: This is a series that has solidified Strange as a man as well as a magician. I fully believe that this current run will be the new measuring stick that is used to judge Doc Strange for decades. The rules of Stephen Strange are being rewritten as we speak and it’s one hell of a thrill ride.
Final Grade: 4 stars
Doctor Strange #12
Story: Jason Aaron
Art: Chris Bachalo
Inkers: Tim Townsend, Richard Friend, Al Vey, Victor Olazaba, and John Livesay
Colors: Antonio Fabela
Letters: VC’s Cory Petit