Doctor Stephen Strange was once a vain and snobbish neurosurgeon. He believed that he was incapable of failure and paid the price for his hubris when he lost control of his sports car one evening. He survived the crash, but the nerves in his hands were permanently damaged. He would never operate again. Taking to the streets, he was a lost soul until he found his way to Tibet where he hoped a guru known only as the Ancient One would heal him. Instead of regaining his skill as a physician, Doctor Strange became a sorcerer and protector of the human race against ethereal threats from eldritch realms.
Since he has taken on the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme (after the passing of his mentor, the Ancient One), Dr. Strange has been a Defender, an Avenger and much more. After a fall from grace, he as sacrificed much in recent years to regain his stature and this stand-alone tale reestablishes the majesty and sheer spookiness of the character.
In the classic Strange Tales in which the good Doctor first appeared, the stories were creepy suspenseful yarns straight out of the pulps and Steve Ditko’s otherworldly artwork took readers on a psychedelic journey to a world that could exist only in the mind. It is a hard act to follow though many have tried. Marvel has had some trouble in finding a home for Doctor Strange in their stable of heroes and he has actually found a much better sole as a supporting cast member in the Avengers books rather than the star of his own monthly series.
‘Self Surgery’ is a call back to the days of Bizarre Adventures when readers could explore the darker recesses of the Marvel Universe in lushly painted tales that stood on their own. The wonderfully weird and unsettling lush paintwork of Marco Rudy modernizes the look and feel of Doctor Strange as very few artists could (though it bares some resemblance to David Mack’s work, I doubt if even he could have pulled this off). The script by Frankie Barvbiere is a pulp-ish story that restores Doctor Strange to his rightful place as a unique and horror-fueled character.
Doctor Strange has been called back to Tibet where the assembled monks have pierced the veil of reality using magic and technology only to unleash a demon that wishes to destroy all in its path. Trapped in the vessel of a princess, the danger is held at bay, but only for a short time. Taking leave of his physical body, Strange enters the astral plane where the monks are hard at work battling the demon to no avail. What transpires is a thrilling and marvelous magical battle between magician and monster.
Throughout the adventure, the reader is given a glimpse into Strange’s past, in the early days of his time as a surgeon when he believed nothing was outside of his power. In the present, he shows his fellow monks and the reader alike that he is far more powerful than they had imagined and while he can do almost anything… it all comes with a price.
I picked this book up on a whim (and because of the attractive cover) but am glad that I did. If you are a fan of Doctor Strange, you should pick this up. As the feature film was recently announced as being in production by Marvel, expect Doctor Strange to become the next superstar of the cinematic comic book world.
“By the hoary hosts of Hoggoth!” get thee a copy today!
New Avengers 2014 Annual #1- Doctor Strange in ‘Self Surgery’
Written by Frankie Barbiere, drawn by Marco Rudy