|DOCTOR STRANGE No. 5, April 2016|
It is evident from his narrative for Issue Five of “Doctor Strange” that Jason Aaron has some very strong views as to the price magic user’s must ordinarily pay for the use of their supernatural abilities within the ‘Marvel Universe’. Indeed almost the entirety of this twenty-page periodical’s opening half is dedicated to reinforcing the Sorcerer Supreme’s realisation that “every punch comes with a cost” when he is forced to use Atlantean Black Magic in order to stop the dread Dormammu “a few years ago” and subsequently suffers the grisly ‘sight’ of having his eyes bleed; “Oh. Okay. That’s new.”
However, the Alabama-born writer’s belief that this mystical tab would eventually lead to the manservant of Steve Ditko’s co-creation covertly setting up a Himalayan-based “Secret Disciples of Strange” simply to spread the mutilating side-effects of the former surgeon’s conjuring across more than “a dozen monks” must have baffled many of this comic book’s 47,933 readers, and is arguably taking the magic-users need to persistently barter away his “soul and sanity”, a “price he can’t possibly pay on his own”, a step too far. It’s certainly somewhat dispiriting to believe that without these human “batteries to be used up and tossed away” the New Avenger would have died from over-exerting his magical abilities many years ago…
Fortunately the American author does eventually follow up this rather heavy-handed “Pound Of Flesh” sub-plot with a tense, if not somewhat short, action sequence concerning a pack of Witchfinder Wolves ambushing Strange in the Temple of Watoomb. Somewhat comical in its depiction of the Doctor’s “dwindling number of [magical] tools”, and disorientating failure to cast “the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak” and “Mystic Mists of Munnopor”. The claustrophobic confrontation does at least allow the mighty magician to once again demonstrate the power of his famous “Eye of Agamotto”.
Tasked with illustrating such an arguably lack-lustre script, Chris Bachalo certainly produces plenty of well-detailed breakdowns with which to catch any disillusioned bibliophile’s eyes. In particular the Canadian artist seems to enjoy populating his panels with occasional nods to the New York-based publisher’s rich history, such as his Jack Kirby-inspired Wundagore architecture and his hidden glimpse of the red-eyed Man-Thing deep within the Florida Everglades.
|The variant cover art of "DOCTOR STRANGE" No. 5 by Michael Cho|