Sunday, 22 April 2018

Doctor Strange [2015] #14 - Marvel Comics

DOCTOR STRANGE No. 14, January 2017
Despite containing an abundance of the zaniness this title’s 39,390 strong audience would almost certainly have anticipated from a twenty page-periodical featuring “the primary protector of Earth against magical and mystical threats”, Jason Aaron’s script for Issue Fourteen of “Doctor Strange” probably still perturbed plenty of its readers with its central plot revoltingly revolving around people repeatedly vomiting up a portion of “bacon-wrapped bacon” which “comes from swine that was possessed by demons for 400 days.” In fact, it’s hard to imagine a more grotesque narrative for a “kid-friendly” “Marvel Worldwide” publication than the one the Alabama-born author presents within the covers of “A Gut Full Of Hell”, and certainly at its time of printing must have caused some of its followers to yearn back for the more serious sorcery of his earlier story-arc “The Last Days Of Magic”.

Of course, that isn’t to say that this third instalment to “Blood In The Aether” doesn’t contain any peril or threat to the former “preeminent” surgeon’s life. Far from it, as Satana’s “half-digested slab of hell bacon” not only causes Stephen to literally sweat blood, but, once it has “worked its way through... [his] delicate, mortal digestive system”, will actually kill him and give his soul to the devil’s daughter. However, any tension or scintillating suspense which such a harrowing plot would ordinarily create is worryingly dispelled by all the frustrating, tongue-in-cheek shenanigans which disappointingly accompany it; “Okay, but... I’m definitely writing your diner a strongly worded Yelp review.”

Foremost of these disconcerting distractions is the Harvey Award recipient’s treatment of Master Pandemonium. A major foe of the West Coast Avengers in the Mid-Eighties and able to “summon demons” after unwisely making a pact with Mephisto, this “master of the demon Riglevio” and holder of the Amulet of Azmodeus is rather ungraciously utilised as little more than a comic-relief cook whose arms persistently verbally abuse him. Indeed, one of this book’s most bemusing disappointments is how disrespectfully Martin Preston’s formidable alter-ego is ultimately defeated, courtesy of Doctor Strange simply being ludicrously sick all over him...

Equally as poorly treated and trivialised is the sister of Damion Hellstrom, Satana. “Groomed by... [her] father to be evil” and able to gain “strength by touching weapons that killed people”, it’s hard to take the succubus seriously when Aaron portrays her as little more than the seductively sultry owner of a devil-infested diner; even if it is supposedly her “all-new, all-different Hell.” Admittedly, “the daughter of Marduk Kurious” is as viciously spiteful and violent as any perusing bibliophile familiar with her fictional biography might expect. Yet, even her willingness to savagely stab the Sorcerer Supreme in the hand with a fork and malevolently threaten to feed him his “own eyeballs” for dessert disappointingly lacks any truly meaningful aura of genuine jeopardy.

‘First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer: Jason Aaron, Artist: Chris Bachalo, and Letters: VC's Cory Petit

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