Quick Review: Doctor Strange No. 169
Poor Doctor Stephen Strange. Despite the fact that he is a cult icon of the 1960’s Marvel Universe, he never has any luck holding a monthly comic book. In 1968, Strange was given another chance in an ongoing series He had previously shared the pages of Strange Tales with Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (just imagine how awesome that series would be today!), but interest waned. In a desperate attempt to save Doctor Strange, he was given complete run of the 22 page series.
As the first issue in a revived series, issue 169 is basically a slower retelling of Doctor Strange’s origin allowing for more beats in which he can more firmly establish his character. It must have looked odd at the time, but these days it results in a multi-part mini-series with numerous publishing delays.
In 1968, it resulted in Roy Thomas and Dan Adkins putting together their ‘A Game’ resulting in a very impressive and stylish revisit to the mystic’s first appearance. The artwork is so crisp and powerful that I was dumbstruck by its bold quality. Of course I should not have been surprised by this as the art was provided by Dan Adkins who had worked with Wally Wood on the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents amongst other stellar titles. The sense of mood really comes through in this first issue, making what is basically a retread of previously published material seem bright and new.
The comic is in good hands with Roy Thomas as writer. After making a name for himself in the pages of the Avengers and other titles, Thomas was in rare form. You can just sense his enthusiasm in these pages as he breaths new life into a character that many other creators were dumbfounded by.
Bother by a recent conflict, Strange uncharacteristically sparks up a cigarette and muses over the bizarre path his life had taken… shirtless.
The arrogant and selfish Stephen Strange was a gifted surgeon who only used his talents for personal gain. So brash is Strange that he smokes (again) in the operating room! After cannily finagling a business deal out of what should have been pro bono work, Strange is involved in a horrible car accident that robs him of his talented hands. Refusing to be anything but a brilliant surgeon, Strange spends all of his money foolishly attempting to heal his hands with no success. Strange ends up a vagrant, hopelessly wandering the streets until he hears of the ‘Ancient One’ who may hold some solution in Tibet.
Strange manages to find his way to the far off land and also to the home of the Ancient One but still has not learned humility. In the home of the wise seer, he meets the Ancient One’s pupil, Baron Mordo… who is definitely evil. Mordo has plans for the Ancient One that will result in him stealing the old man’s power from him, leaving Mordo as the Sorcerer Supreme. Strange elects to stay on in order to somehow stop Mordo.
Somehow Strange side-steps learning humility to discovering that the energy fueling his immense ego can instead be transferred to something akin to courage. Which is handy.
The first in a series of a revamped version of Dr. Strange, this is a great issue. I was thinking that in re-reading these issues I would be bored and want skip ahead to the Gene Colon issues where Dr. Strange gets his ‘new look,’ but instead I found myself enjoying this slower paced return to basics with a new touch.
I understand that there is yet another Dr Strange revamp in the works at Marvel, so I strongly recommend a glance at issue 169 in preparation.