The newf Doctor Strange goes on the warpath, looking to make the Blasphemy Cartel pay for the attack on the Shrouded Bazaar. Making a pit stop at the offices of the crime boss the Rose, she proves herself more than his equal and he gives her the location of her prey. After dishing out some penance and discovering their stash, Clea returns home to discuss things with Wong while preparing dinner. However her mother has other meal plans and the leader of the Cartel also has some plans of his own to dish out some vengeance.
So far in having Clea face off against first Dr Doom then the Harvestman, Jed MacKay proves that she is easily a worthy recipient of the title of Sorcerer Supreme. After the previous two instalments there is also a lot to unpack this issue and Jed manages to make it fit well in terms of pacing and plot. Firstly an appearance by the Rose, who is not someone we have seen in quite a few years, but seems to be popping up generally in other places too recently. And given we’ve just had the occurrence of Devil’s Reign it would be too much to hope that the Kingpin himself would make an appearance. I’m beginning to see the sense of the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme being passed to Clea. Albeit obviously a temporary measure and she is just guarding it until he returns, or there is a contest set by the Vishanti to decide the new Sorcerer Supreme. But until that happens I am enjoying Mrs Strange taking the role, it is a decidedly refreshing angle. As such her meeting with the crime boss and turning his henchmen into snakes and threatening to do the same to him was a good indicator of Clea’s ambiguous moral compass in comparison to that of Strange himself. On top of the Rose’s complete underestimation of her as a threat.
And then in the battle with the Blasphemy Cartel she also makes short work of the them and once again name drops her family heritage, after the surviving agents seem to have believed they defeated her and intended to get her genetic material for their science team. And I love that one minute she is hip deep in discarded bullet casings, yet on a hairpin in the throes of helping Wong prepare dinner. A clear indication that they weren’t that much of a threat and she barely had to pause for breath. And I had to stifle a chuckle at her reaction to a message from her mother. But most importantly we finally see the face… or to be more accurate the mask… of the Cartel head Director None. What troubles me is the gap in Wong’s memory at the appearance of the ward. I’m not sure if this has been covered already or the flashback is a new crease in the proceedings and something we have yet to discover.
Speaking of memory wipes I’m relieved that the one Strange performed on Clea has been removed and she is now fully aware of her love for Stephen. Because this combined with her Faltine heritage is what makes her the perfect guardian of the position. Despite her previous history as apprentice to Dr Strange, where she was considered not as tenacious or resilient as she is appearing to be now, she is proving to be just as capable in the role of Earth’s magical protector. And Wong is also doing an excellent job as her adviser and we have already seen him remind her she has to attend to the affairs of the Strange Academy. Hopefully she will have need to go there soon, for whatever reason. I’m also pleased as hell that Bats is back as well. He was one of my favourite additions to Donny Cates run and his offhand comments add the humor needed to keep the Sorcerer Supreme of the Dark Dimension becoming too dark. He and Wong are just what the Warlord of the Faltine need to keep her grounded.
This arc clearly promises to be something really interesting, especially as next issue combines a battle with the Cartel and dinner with her mother. All in her own Sanctum Santorum no less. And what’s that I see on the cover of the next issue? Moon Knight? I am giddy with anticipation. However I wasn’t so blown away by the art this issue. Granted we do see some striking images, for instance holding back the bullets when casting the Sands of Nisanti spell. And her flaming features giving her opponents something to think about. Aside from these dramatic visuals at the battle of Oath Broken site and her commanding entrance in the office of the Rose, I was a little underwhelmed at the visuals of Clea herself. Facially speaking. The constantly changing features and hairstyle from panel to panel is a little distracting to say the least. While she did look perfectly menacing in her confrontation with the Rose, there was also a hint of ‘Old Lady Clea’ rather than the usual depiction. And each consecutive panel fails to give a consistent rendition of her features. Which is also something I find a bit strange. No pun intended. But I AM loving the way she wears the Cloak of Levitation, as this gives her the appearance of having horns!!! Here at least Marcelo Ferreira, Roberto Poggi and Don Ho manage to make her intimidating and perfectly believable as the Locum Doctor.
And another saving grace is the Björn Barends cover, which I have to say utilised the horns imagery to perfection, and showed Clea in front of a horde of demons and clearly disregarding them. Giving her the appearance as a full on threat to anyone thinking of messing with magic in the Earthly realm. However I’m wondering if the way they are drawing her now is to make her more in keeping with the appearance of Charlize Theron in the movies. A worrying trend of the comics compared to the MCU. Also another slight niggle about the art is the depiction of the Cartel using clips in an AR15, instead of 100 round drum, especially on full auto fire. And story wise I’m sure there will be some comeback for the Rose for betraying her to the Cartel, but I’d rather Clea just stated here it will happen. Otherwise it seems we may have to backtrack and deal with him later? Not a good idea when the pacing is going so well.
Overall story wise this issue holds its own as well as the previous two. The pacing is solid and the balance between peril and humor worked well. Especially in the offhand scene where Clea is cooking in the kitchen with Wong and gets a message from Mommy Dearest. And as a counterpoint the background threat of the Cartel also sets up more foreboding times ahead. This run is beginning to seem like a memorable start for the new Sorcerer Supreme and the irreverent way that it deals with the threats. Which is something that Strange himself has not done for several years. It just needs the art to up its game to match the storytelling.
Strange #3: Let None Underestimate the Warlord of the Faltine!
- Writing - 8/108/10
- Storyline - 8/108/10
- Art - 5/105/10
- Color - 8/108/10
- Cover Art - 9/109/10