Doctor Strange #10
The Ancient One himself has been plucked from the Astral Plane and made vulnerable and in a stark reversal of positions is on his knees before Strange, begging for help. Strange investigates and finds himself in a mysterious accounting office headed up by a certain T. Hothran, who we know to have been watching him for some time. Strange then discovers the mysterious manipulator behind his recent troubles has also imprisoned those closest to him. After a scuffle to free them, Hothran explains they were simply collateral, in case he didn’t show up and goes on ask if Strange is aware what the price of magic truly entails.
After revealing it was he who cut Strange off from magic for his own safety, he then drops the final bombshell. Bureaucratic magical accountants are the least of his problems. Dormammu has finally come to collect and has brought the rest of the Faltine to take the Earth as payment. And following on from that cliffhanger we then delve into the past with a tale of the rescue of a boy from the clutches of a mystical artefact, as well as another relating the origin of the enmity between Strange and Mordo. And if that wasn’t enough, after a pin up highlighting Strange through the decades, we finish off with a revelatory tale of a battle of wills between Strange and Nightmare.
Remittance: Mark Waid & Jesús Saiz. What a cliffhanger of a finish. If the Faltine are here, can Clea be far behind? After the last arc in space this is a suitable follow up, giving us a solid bump back to Earth, even as we are in the midst of magical affairs. Finally the manipulator behind the scenes is revealed as the truth comes home to roost, which has been in the background for nine issues now. Looking quite mundane, he deftly and effortlessly manages to turn Strange’s own Cloak of Levitation against him. No mean feat and a simple visual that has significant impact.
Points deducted from house Waid though, as Tao is born of the city of Kamar-Taj not Tamir-Kaj. Tut-tut. An error Waid self corrects in the following story, so it’s odd that it is even made in the first place as Tao is made victim to Hothran. However, points earned back moments later for mention of Cinnibus, which was once mentioned way back in Doctor Strange vol 2 #34… forty years ago now… as a spell invoking the seven suns of Cinnibus against Nightmare, more on him later. Either he has a distinctly encyclopedic memory or does his research very well. Either way, it’s impressive and reassuring.
As the unassuming looking T. Hothran is revealed as the villain we clearly see threats can come from the most surprising of places. And even Cory Petit gets in on the action brilliantly, with the lettering affecting the spell casting physically, clearly showing the depletion and waning of Strange’s power in the face of the office manager. But it does tend to bring home the statement that the true enemy is not a super powered individual but the minutia of red tape, small details and administration.
Not for the first time has the world of the Office Of Officiousness been shown as the truly insufferable and insidious nemesis that it is. For instance Excalibur #14 had the memorable Cross Time Caper, where they not only tangled with administration in the Baxter Building but also met Daleks! The bizarre visual of the office itself also put me in mind of the 1985 Terry Gilliam movie Brazil, or even Gringotts Bank of the Harry Potter series. The style of Jesus is similarly out of this world when Strange explains his understanding of the price of magic surrounded by mind boggling and spectacularly colored visuals of what I can only assume are magical deities. And even makes the most boring office surroundings and white collar alien beings look pretty damn epic.
House Call: Mark Waid & Butch Guice. Colors by Carlos Lopez. And here is where Mark gets the name of Yao’s home right, so those lost points can also be redeemed for house Waid. And even as a filler story it still manages to inform a little about his character, as he deftly and without any hesitation dives in to do what is right. The story itself begins with distinctly calm, earthbound surroundings and Carlos helps with the change in color palette as we switch from the bright safety of Xi’an as the nightmarish domain of the wild demon dogs takes over. Butch’s style also effortlessly flips to the undefined dimension as Strange embarks on his mission to rescue the lost child and back again.
The Lever: Mark Waid & Kevin Nowlan. Colors by Jim Campbell. Another seeming filler story that actually cleverly manages to insert the Ancient One, for those who may not have known much about him. As we jump back into the distant past and the origin of the enmity between Strange and Mordo it is doubly handy\ given that he too was recently reintroduced during Casey’s story.
Perchance: Mark Waid & Daniel Acuña. And finally the masterful tale of a duel between Strange and Nightmare. Stories of Strange and Nightmare have done the rounds several times before, but this one has a distinct difference. In a rare reversal of fortune, Strange effortlessly makes Nightmare’s home his own playground and as Waid gives Strange the kudos of skilfully turning the tables, giving him a taste of his own medicine. Daniel shows his own mind bending ability to perfectly depict an unimaginable realm. Something that is never easy, but he seems to make it look so, with a panoramic view of a bleak and horrific world that is epic in scope, yet at the same time terrifyingly claustrophobic.
These greatly different and yet intrinsically important tales of the Sorcerer Supreme are also topped off by another stunningly cinematic cover by Jesus (I will miss him when he goes to just doing covers) and also a truly trippy pin up by Tom Palmer. An important addition here, as Tom’s first work for Marvel was as penciler within the pages of Doctor Strange, but he soon evolved to become inker for Gene Colan on the title. And on one page he showcases some of the movers and shakers in the life story of Strange, that encompass pretty much the entirety of Strange’s history. And to me the inclusion of Clea yet again hints at possible future inclusion…maybe? Please?
With four tales and one pin up from some of the most iconic artists of the title, all gathered from the past and present of Doctor Strange, the result is a fitting celebration of 400 issues of Doctor Strange in 40 pages. Multi faceted snapshots of the man who became the magical protector of the Marvel universe.
Doctor Strange #10: Always Read the Small Print for the Hidden Price
- Writing - 9/109/10
- Storyline - 9/109/10
- Art - 8/108/10
- Color - 9/109/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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