How do you kill someone who can dance between realities? In fact, how do you even threaten him?
Whereas Captain America may dabble with terrorists and Tony Stark might fend off another metal clad madman, Doctor Strange doesn’t concern himself about any of that. His focus is on grander things, so these little skirmishes look like playground frolics.
Strange worries about things such as reality collapsing. Old Gods who fracture multiple dimensions because they simply can. The cosmic order of existence breaking. Bigger fish if you will. With this in mind, how do you kill someone who also has an absurdly high power ceiling? He waves his hands about in circles, says something thespian such as “By the ____ of _____” and the problem gets solved. Magic is the ultimate plot device. This is the crux of Doctor Strange. As fantastic as he is, it’s easy to dismiss him as, well, boring.
With a character this powerful it would easy to dismiss him as boring. What is the point of following a story if the main character can’t get challenged by a threat? The mandarin can be mind-wiped and teleported to an island somewhere. The Red Skull could be banished to another dimension to put a halt to his Nazi escapades. Thanos? Crush him to the size of a cube and launch him into the sun of a forgotten dimension that’s populated with stars that feast on purple prune faced maniacs.
So it’s pretty surprising to learn that from the get go, this was taken into account. Platinum Doctor Strange puts us right at the beginning, with a tale that takes Strange into the ethereal, astral projecting himself whilst his body comes under threat with something no more complex than a lunatic with a knife. It’s clever storytelling that sets us up for the roller coaster of tales that soon follows and defies this preconception.
Platinum Doctor Strange is a best of collection. We get the whole spectrum of artists and writers who have tackled the him over the decades, with most replicating Ditkos original, erratic and frankly delightful style. Everything that can be imagined, is and illustrated with painstaking detail and punching colouring, setting the bar for those who took subsequently took on the mantle.
To read Strange is to take to a roller coaster. It’s a ride that you simply have to accept you’re on and in accepting so you’ll gain enjoyment from it. If the crazy is too much, or you read it with an overly sceptical mind, it’ll fall apart quite quickly, degenerating into a nonsensical thespian mess. Rest assured, if you’re after simple, punchy and easy to follow tales, you’ll want to pass Doctor Strange. It won’t be your thing.
What’s particularly impressive in this collection is how it illustrates the torch being passed between the creative teams with most clearly treating the subject matter with upmost respect. Despite the outlandish, nothing seems out of place or story breaking. Flame headed dark god Domammu gets plenty of page time and it conveyed as an actual, tangible danger who could use Earth as his plaything if Strange wasn’t holding the line. Lovecraftian knockoff Shuma Gorath, arguably Strange’s greatest nemesis gets a look in as well, despite his build up being tragically cut from the collection, though still remains one of the highlights of the collection and he attempts to outwit Strange and succeeds. Mordo gets a look in. Everyone’s favourite neck biter Dracula gets a run, showing Strange’s famous tangle with him, including a cameo from Blade when he wasn’t clad in black leather. There’s a plethora to go through, a veritable who’s who of magic nasties.
Sadly there is a couple of downers to this weighty collection of all things mystical. The only inclusion of latter stories are of dubious quality. The Oath feels particularly lightweight in the art department despite being a strong, if a somewhat cliché tale of an obsessive rival. Additionally This Old House, which closes out the volume revolves around how Strange secured his Sanctum Sanctorum. Despite the premise being fairly basic, the art style is so jarring it offsets the rest of the volume, leaving it on a somewhat drab note. The bold, bright colours, angular lines and thick inking just doesn’t feel compatible when juxtaposed with the subtle detailing from everything previous.
Thankfully it’s not too much of a downer, leaving the collection as one enjoyable and well worth numerous read throughs. The chances are, if you gained an interest in Doctor Strange from the movie and are looking to jump into the comics side of things, you could do far worse than getting a copy.