Friday, 22 October 2010

Review - Doctor Strange: The Oath TPB

This book collects the five-issue ‘Doctor Strange: The Oath’ mini-series from 2006 / 2007, plus a short strip that had previously only appeared in a comic that came with a Doctor Strange animated DVD. It is written by Brian K. Vaughan (Y The Last Man, Ex Machina), who is rather good, and drawn by Marcos Martin (Amazing Spider-Man, Batgirl Year One), who is great.

I have not read that many Doctor Strange comics before – not even the Lee / Ditko issues, which is a mistake I intend to rectify as soon as I manage to find a cheap copy of the forthcoming Marvel Masterworks Doctor Strange Vol.1 softcover – but the ones I have read have generally been pretty dull. I have a low tolerance for magic – although I do tend to like supernatural horror, which doesn’t make sense at all – and endless panels of some dreary git floating around in another dimension battling demons just doesn’t appeal to me at all. I prefer my superheroes to be a bit more down to earth and have a sense of humour. Thankfully, though, Vaughan’s Strange spends very little time battling demons in magical realms and does have a sense of humour.

The story starts in the clinic of the Night Nurse, physician of choice for New York’s superhero community, where Doctor Strange arrives, supported by Wong, his faithful manservant, having been shot with a silver bullet fired from Hitler’s handgun. This assassination attempt was carried out by a villain named Brigand, who has been hired by a pharmaceutical company to steal a magical cure for cancer (and all other diseases) that Doctor Strange has found while seeking a cure for Wong, who has a terminal brain tumour. I won’t be giving anything away if I say that Strange recovers from his gunshot wound quickly, as it would be a rather short and/or dull series if he didn’t. He then teams up with the Night Nurse – I love the way that Martin draws the Night Nurse! – to recover the magical elixir, which leads to a fist fight with someone from his pre-occult past and romance, among other things.

This is certainly not the best comic I have ever read and it’s not even the best Brian K. Vaughan comic I have ever read. Introducing a magical cure for all diseases into the Marvel Universe and then only using it to cure one person – of course Wong gets cured! – raises all sorts of moral questions which the ending of the book fails to answer satisfactorily. However, Vaughan’s witty script and Martin’s fantastic art combined do make this the best Doctor Strange story I have read.

Martin is probably my favourite modern superhero artist – as I have said before, think Steve Ditko meets Darwyn Cooke meets Tim Sale. I must admit that I think I prefer his more recent work on the Amazing Spider-Man and his earlier work on Batgirl Year One to his work on this series, but his work here is still really bloody good. A few more stand-out pages and this could easily have fallen into the friggin’ awesome category, and it’s still better than the work of most other artists working for Marvel or DC at the moment.

Overall, this was a quick but enjoyable read with great art. It also wasn’t that expensive. I bought this new from the Book Depository for £6.73 (it’s gone up to £7.14 since then but that still isn’t too bad) including postage. I tend to favour the Book Depository over Amazon these days as they are usually a bit cheaper (this is £9.45 on Amazon right now) and let you pay by PayPal, which means that any money I get from selling stuff on eBay can now be used to buy graphic novels right away, instead of getting used to pay bills, etc.


  1. There are some Doctor Strange stories from the eighties drawn by Marshall Rogers which are pretty tasty. If they're reprinted anywhere, I recommend them, but purely on flakey memory.

  2. I love Marcos Martin too, like you he's probably my favourite modern superhero artist. Ditko's Dr. Strange is worth reading in the softcover MMW - I've got the Essentials, but they really need to be seen in colour. I've already ordered my copy. They're utterly mental.

  3. The problem with the MMW version is that there are about four Ditko Dr Starnge strips missing from the end, which is very annying to me.

  4. I will definitely be buying a copy of the Doc Strange Masterworks when it comes out, if only for the Ditko art. I have a feeling that the stories will be a bit dull, but I will be happy to be proven wrong.