Archive for Dr. Strange

Carnival Arcane


The Goon: Theatre Bizarre

Well, the Goon didn’t stay gone very long at all! He’s already back for this early Halloween special. He, Franky, and Roscoe, the orphaned kid-werewolf, are working as roadies for a carnival. They get lost and end up in the Theatre Bizarre, an ancient carnival of monsters, endlessly corrupt and malign and decadent, run by a monstrous death’s-head clown called Zombo. Of course, to Roscoe, it’s just a really cool Halloween party, and to Franky, it’s an excuse to look for hoochie-coochie girls. And to Roxi D’Lite, a real-life burlesque star who’s previously guest-starred in this series, their visit is her opportunity to trick Franky into taking her place at this Carnival of the Damned. Will anyone escape, or will Zombo own their souls for eternity?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A return to the madcap, hilariously offensive Goon comics we’ve all come to love, and a bit of a hint of where the series will go after this. Plus John Dunivant’s amazing artwork for the Theatre Bizarre (the Theatre is actually one of Dunivant’s art projects) is stunningly beautiful and spooky. Go pick it up for some Halloween fun.


Lumberjanes: Beyond Bay Leaf #1

While the girls are out for a late-night stargazing outing with Jen, Ripley runs off chasing a ghost pony. The rest of the main cast loses her but runs into an ominous ogre masquerading as a primitive hunter. She says her name is Sola and she’s chasing after the ghost pony because it’s the only one she hasn’t captured yet — and she notes that without Ripley, the Lumberjanes are “not a complete set.” What is Sola’s plan? Can Ripley help the ghost pony escape? Or will Sola imprison all of them for the rest of time?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a wonderfully creepy story with wonderful, fun art and a ton of wonderful humor. There are a bunch of outstanding character moments, too. Plus, hey, double-sized Lumberjanes annual — I know you want to make sure you got this one.


The Wicked + the Divine #15

Our focus character in this issue is Amaterasu, the British girl with the power of a Japanese sun goddess. Everyone’s just discovered Tara’s death, everyone’s upset, and Urdr is not real accepting that, in her view, a British girl is cosplaying as one of the most important Shinto deities. Amaterasu takes Urdr to Japan, where they yell at each other, then have a heart-to-heart talk, and finally Amaterasu returns to her secret duty — prayers for the souls of the dead and dying — which includes all of the reborn gods…

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nice story about a character we’ve never gotten to see much of, with some great dialogue and nice art by Stephanie Hans. Also, read the letters — they’re pretty good this time.


Doctor Strange #1

Marvel makes yet another try for an ongoing Doc Strange comic, this time written by Jason Aaron and illustrated by Chris Bachalo. This one does a fantastic job of going into the day-to-day crises of Strange’s life — he doesn’t just fight Dormammu, he takes on simple battles on behalf of individual people, expelling a tribe of soul-eaters from a young boy’s body and patrolling the city for the few harmful parasites infesting New Yorkers’ souls. He pays a visit to the mystical Bar with No Doors to meet with his fellow sorcerers. Something big and terrible may be coming, and no one will be ready for it…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Great writing and art, and I love Strange as a more personal superhero, fighting invisible battles and looking like a weirdo, but still able to be an action hero. Still haven’t decided whether I want to pick up more of this series, but the first issue is quite good.

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Stray Cat Strut

Secret Six #22

There’s a lot of stuff happening in this one — Black Alice and Scandal Savage fight each other, then bond with each other; Catman remembers his awful childhood, his terrible father, and how he took his first steps into adulthood; and Catman takes care of the last people who kidnapped his son, making one more colossal sacrifice to keep his child safe.

Verdict: Thumbs up. There’s not a single bad moment in this issue. The whole thing is just spectacular and awesome and brilliant. I hope Gail Simone never leaves this title.

Spider-Man: Fever #3

Spider-Man is still stuck in the spirit world, being influenced by a spider spirit that claims it gave him his powers. The Sorror-Fly, a fly spirit that used to be a human, is trying to help Peter and give him some context for the strange stuff he sees, but it’s not doing a lot of good. A magical dart fired by the dog spirits a couple issues back finally hits its mark, destroying the malign spider demon trying to influence Peter, but Spider-Man is still poisoned and dying. At last, Dr. Strange finally arrives on the scene and both drains the poison and turns the Sorror-Fly back into a human being. But can the heroes figure out a way to stop the rest of the spider demons before they decide to invade Earth?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Seriously head-trippy stuff. I don’t know that Steve Ditko could have come up with something this wild and weird, but I do think he’da managed something really close to it.

The Unwritten #14

The new Tommy Taylor novel is a forgery, written to be as bad a chunk of writing as possible in order to lure Wilson Taylor, the original author, out of hiding so he can be killed. Tom Taylor, Wilson’s son, and his friends have their own troubles to worry about. Lizzie Hexam’s method of secretly communicating with Wilson through books has been detected by the literary conspiracy controlling the world, and Savoy has been bitten by the supposedly fictional vampire Count Ambrosio, giving the vengeful bloodsucker an unwitting spy into Tom Taylor’s life. And the assassin Pullman is on the scene, too. Once the conspiracy picks up Lizzie, can Tom and Savoy save her and get back underground?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The net is tightening around our heroes — heck, multiple nets are closing in fast. No idea how or if they’re all going to get away from all this. But the ongoing mystery is still enthralling and still very fun to read.

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Muy Bueno!

Hellboy in Mexico

A cool little tale of Hellboy’s past, released by Dark Horse in time for Cinco de Mayo — back in 1956, he was assigned to travel to Mexico to track down a force that was causing vampires, witches, and monsters to attack and murder whole villages of innocent people. He runs into some allies — three brothers, all luchadore wrestlers, who had a vision in which the Virgin Mary commanded them to go forth and fight evil. They team up with Hellboy, and all four spend their days destroying monsters and their nights partying hard. Hellboy gets along especially well with the youngest brother, Esteban. But they get sloppy one night, and Esteban gets taken by dark forces. Days of searching turns up nothing, no matter how many vampires they torture, until they find a poster advertising a new rudo luchadore, Camazotz — and a scrawled note demanding Hellboy meet him for a wrestling match from hell. Does Hellboy stand a chance against his former friend?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Numerous thumbs up. Multitudinous thumbs up. Combining Hellboy with luchadores and vampires and zombies is something that’s been hinted at from time to time — the character Lobster Johnson’s history includes a number of old Mexican luchadore movies made in his name — but this is just beyond awesome. It’s a little surprising that we haven’t seen stuff like this more often — we’ve followed Hellboy into just about every other corner of the world already. It really does combine the two genres — Mignola-style pulp horror and luchadore fiction — perfectly — part scary, part heartbreaking, part pure kaboom-blasting-brilliant. I want more of this stuff so very, very much.

Detective Comics #864

Looks like our focus is now going to pass from Batwoman back to Batman — this time, we’re getting a story about Dr. Jeremiah Arkham, former director of Arkham Asylum. He’s now an inmate of his asylum, despised by his former inmates but still ultimately ruling over them because he’s such a remorseless psycho badass and because he used to be the mad mob boss Black Mask. But Arkham still has some big plots in place — he’s attached a bomb to the chest of a stockbroker to get him to sabotage the stock of every corporation in Gotham. Batman has a plan to get Arkham to reveal the codes to disarm the bomb — he gives him access to his three secret patients — three emotionally damaged people who Arkham has kept hidden in cells deep in the asylum’s depths — but is Arkham prepared for the strange transformations his patients have undergone?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Weird, weird, weird. Disorienting and skewed, brutal and mad. Just perfect for a story set inside a madhouse.

Spider-Man: Fever #2

Spidey’s soul has been captured by a bunch of interdimensional spider-demons. They plan to eat him, but they perceive that he’s part spider and part human. So they give him a test — travel into the world of the flies and capture something called the Sorror-Fly. Meanwhile, Dr. Strange travels the mad magical dimensions trying to track Spider-Man down. He gets help from some dog creatures and from an Australian sorceress on walkabout. He travels down a magical river in a mystic swan-boat, meets up with sentient matchsticks (“I’m sorry,” he says. “I don’t speak Match.”), and makes his way through one bizarre world after another. Will he be able to save Spider-Man? And how close is Spidey’s relationship to the spider-demons?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Lots of awesomely weird stuff. Brendan McCarthy really unleashes his imagination here, with an incredibly mad plot and fantastic, crazed artwork. Spidey’s costume as he journeys into the desert is really cool, and almost every page is just beautifully rendered. It may not always make perfect sense, but it’s turning into an outstanding ride.

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Spider-Man: Fever #1

It’s been quite a while since Brendan McCarthy had a new comic out, so this one has gotten quite a bit of interest. We start off with the Vulture attacking Spider-Man at the same time as Dr. Strange discovers that the new grimoire he just ordered was sabotaged with a magic signal from one of the more rotten corners of the magical multiverse. The trap creates a spectral spider that moves through New York City, snags Spidey, and actually steals his soul before Dr. Strange can stop it. The demon drags Spidey back through a hallucinatory fever-dream into the depths of the netherverse as an offering to its king, a horrific spider-monster who plans to enjoy a Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Snack…

Verdict: Thumbs up. A nicely weird book, somewhere between Steve Ditko, Vertigo Comics, and Richard Corben. The art and writing are simultaneously Silver-Age classic and acid-trip freaky. So far, it’s really interesting — go give it a look.

JSA All-Stars #5

While the JSA fights off the King of Tears with the timely assistance of a mysterious magic user named Anna Fortune, Stargirl and Atom-Smasher are stuck, powerless, in a magical sub-dimension called the Subtle Realms, trying to fight their way to freedom. Can they survive on their own? And if the rest of the JSA can follow them to the Subtle Realms, are they going to be any better off?

Verdict: Thumbs down. Still the worst art on any DC book. Just relentlessly distracting. It’s hard to focus on the story at all. I’m not real fond of the story either, but I really can’t tell if that’s because it’s not well done, or if it’s just absorbing some of the stink from the artwork. The second feature with Hourman and Liberty Belle is better illustrated, but it’s pretty spectacularly boring.

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Battle of the Sexes?

Girl Comics #1

A somewhat misleading title on this one — you may suspect it’s all stories about female characters, but it’s actually an anthology comic produced by female comics creators. There are plenty of stories here about male characters — G. Willow Wilson and Ming Doyle have a story about Nightcrawler in a German cabaret; Trina Robbins and Stephanie Buscema have a tale of the old Golden Age heroine Venus (the actual goddess of love) trying to fit into today’s fashion scene; Valerie D’Orazio and Nikki Cook have a story about the Punisher tracking a child predator; Lucy Knisley follows Dr. Octopus around the grocery store; Robin Furth and Agnes Garbowska have an adventure with Franklin and Valeria Richards; and Devin Grayson and Emma Rios have something with Jean Gray, Cyclops, and Wolverine. There are also a couple of biography spotlights on real-life Marvel mainstays Flo Steinberg and Marie Severin, not to mention a great introduction by Colleen Coover and that awesome cover by Amanda Conner.

Verdict: I’ll give it a thumbs up. The Amanda Conner cover, the Colleen Coover intro, and the Doc Ock story by Lucy Knisley are 100% great. The bios of Steinberg and Severin are also pretty cool. The rest of it isn’t bad… but it isn’t real good either. Most of it is just… mediocre. I’m still giving it a thumbs-up ’cause I enjoy anthologies, and I’m hoping they’ll knock the next two issues of this outta the park.

The Mystic Hands of Doctor Strange #1

Speaking of anthology comics, here’s a fairly cool one — 48 pages long, all in black-and-white, and all for four bucks — with stories about Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme by Kieron Gillen and Frazier Irving, Peter Milligan and Frank Brunner, Ted McKeever, and Mike Carey and Marcos Martin. The first story is the real standout — Doc Strange having himself committed to a mental hospital to battle an unethical psychiatrist who’s selling souls to Hell to try to make the world a better place. It also features the disturbingly awesome image of Strange’s wife Clea making wildly unexpected plans to rob a bank.

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a very cool project — like finding a bunch of undiscovered’70s-era Dr. Strange stories. Again, the first story is the best — a very good plot, excellent artwork, numerous mad, awesome images, and a very cool ethical/moral dilemma for Strange to puzzle out. The rest are a mixed bag — some good stories, some not-so-good stories, but on the whole, it’s more than worth the cover price. Go pick it up.

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Bat vs. Bat

Batman and Robin #8

We get a little flashback to begin with, showing us how Batwoman got captured — she was knocked out with narcotic soot (!) while fighting Satanic chimneysweeps (!!!) — before we get to this issue’s real problem: Batman has been raised from the dead by a Lazarus Pit and has gone temporarily insane. Except it’s not really Batman — it’s an evil clone of Batman created by Darkseid during the “Final Crisis” crossover. And it’s taking everything Dick Grayson, Batwoman, the Knight, and the Squire have just to slow him down. And one of the British crimelords on the surface plans to wipe them all out with explosives in the mine — and someone’s going to pay with their life. Meanwhile, Damian Wayne is recovering from spinal replacement surgery and is under strict orders not to exert himself — which could mean some serious trouble when the Batman clone comes calling…

Verdict: Thumbs up. Action, intrigue, suspense, and superheroics, all in a single issue — this is great stuff. And it’s got a two excellent cliffhangers, too.


Strange #4

The final issue of this very enjoyable miniseries. Magic has been broken, and the magic users of the world are getting their butts kicked every time they try to cast a spell. Even worse, it’s likely that the mystical backlash is going to tear the whole planet, if not the entire universe, apart. Dr. Strange has vastly decreased magical powers, but he still has the best chance to fix the situation — he’s going to use his surgical knowledge to try to repair the flow of magical energies through the universe. But his new apprentice, Casey, suffering from the loss of her soul last issue, is going to have to guard his body while he does so. But when an old enemy of Dr. Strange’s comes looking for him in the midst of all the chaos, does Casey have a chance of saving him?

Verdict: Thumbs up. This has been a really fun series — I wouldn’t mind reading more stuff about the de-powered Stephen Strange, and I hope someone at Marvel gives Mark Waid a chance to write about the former Sorcerer Supreme and his apprentice very soon.

B.P.R.D.: King of Fear #2

While Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman, and Andrew Devon explore the tunnels beneath Agartha, Kate Corrigan and her new beau Bruno have come to the infamous Hunte Castle in Austria to see if the ghost of crimefighter Lobster Johnson will release the spirit of ectoplasmic medium Johann Kraus.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The whole issue was just fine, but the final two pages combine to make it really awesome and cool.

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Walk through the Fire


The Unwritten #9

A secret strikeforce of assassins has invaded the prison where Tom Taylor is being held, killing everyone they can in an attempt to kick off a riot and assassinate Tom. An apparition of the literary knight Roland is roaming the prison grounds. Tom and Savoy are trying to get themselves out and help Lizzie Hexam get free before they’re all killed, with the aid of a winged cat and a magic doorknob, all while the warden and his two hyper-imaginative children run about the grounds. And it all ends tragically.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Beautifully written, beautifully illustrated. But man, what a kick in the gut that ending was.


Strange #3

Stephen Strange, almost-powerless former Sorcerer Supreme, and his new apprentice Casey, have been recruited by a demon named Larry to help foil a plot by a smarmy upstart demon named Virilian to steal souls by fixing a kiddie beauty pageant. While Dr. Strange and Larry travel to Hell to look up some of Virilian’s former clients, Casey is left behind disguised as one of the eight-year-old contestants to keep an eye on the proceedings. While she has to watch the all-too-human evil of the pageant mothers, she eventually realizes that Virilian has made a much more sinister bargain. Can Strange, Casey, and Larry fix everything in time?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Wow, all those crazed pageant mothers make some of the most awful villains of the year. Very nicely written by Mark Waid. Too bad this one is just a miniseries — it looks like the next one will be the final issue.

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Stories Around the World


Daytripper #1

This is a new series by Brazilian twin brothers Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon, who have done art chores for “The Umbrella Academy” and “Casanova,” along with other comics here and there. This one focuses on Brás de Oliva Domingos, a Brazilian man working as an editorial writer. His father is a famous writer, and Brás would like to be a writer, too, but outside of work, he’s plagued by writer’s block. On his birthday, he goes, somewhat unwillingly, to an event for his father, visits a bar for some smokes… and gets an unwelcome surprise.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Oooh, did I not have enough description up there? Was it all a bit vague? Too bad, perfesser — it’s got a nice shocker of a cliffhanger, and I don’t much wanna spoil it. But the art is beautiful, the dialogue and characterization are first-rate, and the whole thing is extraordinarily intriguing. I’m looking forward to seeing where this one will lead us.


The Unwritten #8

This one is actually something of a flashback to previous issues of this series, but this time, our focus is on Chadron, the warden of the French prison where Tom Taylor is being held — and in particular, on Chadron’s two children. Chadron is himself a huge fan of the Tommy Taylor fantasy novels and engages in a lot of imaginative roleplaying with young Cosi and Peter, but his wife is no fan of all the foolishness. She’s concerned that the children — Cosi especially — are dwelling too deeply in their fantasy world. Cosi draws magic symbols on the windows and attacks a couple of schoolmates while pretending to cast magic spells. A psychiatrist diagnoses her with a mild psychosis — she has trouble telling fantasy from reality. But can the children’s faith in the Tommy Taylor fantasy save their father and the real Tom Taylor?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I was kinda hoping we’d get to meet the warden’s family a bit more, as he’s developed into an unexpectedly fascinating character — part hard-nosed prison administrator, part doting, fantasy-loving father. The rest of the family seems equally interesting, from the children’s utter faith in the Tommy Taylor fiction, to their mother’s complete hostility about the fantasy lives that she can’t join.


Strange #2

Last issue, Stephen Strange taught a minor vanishing spell to Casey and magicked up her glasses so they’d be able to see the capital-T Truth of anything she looked at. Now she’s trying to track Strange down again to see if he can teach her more magic, and in the process, she’s making a lot of stuff vanish — irritating cell phones, parking tickets, a moving van. She runs into a few people who claim they know who Stephen Strange is, but they’re all either con men or lunatics — or, in one case, a demonic monster who’s willing to eat her for asking the wrong questions. Luckily, Strange shows up to save her, and is surprised that Casey is still able to use the small spells that he meant to be temporary — but it turns out the vanishing spell doesn’t really make things vanish — it just sends them to another dimension. And the sole inhabitant of that dimension is tired of Casey using his dimension as a junkyard. Strange and Casey have to pay the interdimensional monster a visit to beg him not to kill them — but is he going to be willing to listen to a couple of mostly-powerless humans?

Verdict: Thumbs up. I’m still enjoying this much-more relaxed version of Dr. Strange, and the characterization for Casey — midway between a spoiled rich girl with abandonment issues and a quick-thinking magical neophyte who can’t plan more than two seconds ahead — is also a lot of fun.

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Strange Sports Stories


Strange #1

Stephen Strange is no longer the Sorcerer Supreme, but that gives him the freedom to go out an enjoy a baseball game. Well, by “enjoy,” I really mean “try to keep everyone in the ballpark from being sucked into Hell, thanks to a decades-old deal-with-a-demon and a bunch of demon-possessed baseball players.” And worse, Strange doesn’t have the towering mystic might he used to, forcing him to rely on Casey Kinmont, the granddaughter of the ballclub owner. Casey has some magical talent, but no training — can Strange talk her through the spells he needs her to cast? And if that isn’t enough, will he be able to score a home run against a bunch of demonic ballplayers?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s worth the price just for the image of Dr. Strange, decked out in a grubby jacket and ballcap, hair messed up, and a plate of nachos splattered all over his shirt, dishing out trash talk, and bellowing at the umps. Clearly, more superheroes should go to baseball games.


Batman and Robin #6

Well, I think that’s the most colorful cover I’ve ever seen on the cover of any Batman comic, except maybe for the old “Rainbow Batman” cover from the ’60s.

Well, the Red Hood (better known as Jason Todd) and his sidekick Scarlet have captured Batman and Robin, tied ’em up, stripped ’em to their skivvies, and set up a webcam to reveal their secret identities to the world. Unfortunately, that means Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne aren’t available to help when Red Hood and Scarlet get ambushed by a flamboyant and violently insane assassin named Eduardo Flamingo, who very easily trashes both of them. And even after Batman and Robin make their escape and join the battle, Flamingo still manages to pitch Batman off a building and shoot Robin several times in the back. How will they stop Flamingo? And is there any hope left for Jason and Scarlet?

Verdict: Mostly a thumbs up. The stakes are entertainingly raised with Damian’s gunshot wounds and possible paralysis — oh, we know it won’t be permanent, since Grant Morrison’s previous story about Damian’s future reveals that he sells his soul for healing powers. The possible end of Scarlet’s storyarc is very interesting, but I’m looking forward to hearing what actually becomes of her. Damian’s stupid gay slur about Flamingo’s costume is, well, stupid, in more ways than one. But if any kid deserved to get shot in the back multiple times after doing the “sneering homophobic teen buttwipe” thing, it’s definitely Damian.


Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels #5

Grey and the Captain have gone to Bedlam to seek the aid of a mad sorcerer named Martin Gilfryd to stop the rampage of the demonic horror terrorizing London. Gilfryd manages to use the monster’s ancient bones to give it back a physical body, meaning Sir Edward finally has a chance to kill the thing. But even with the creature destroyed, there are still many dangers and perils ahead. Can Sir Edward survive them all?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Good action, creepy magic, great suspense, and lots of weird stuff. A bit of a heartbreaking ending, but it’s a perfect fit for this overall grim story.

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