Saturday, 9 February 2019

Doctor Strange #386 - Marvel Comics

DOCTOR STRANGE No. 386, April 2018
Containing little more than a skimpy summary of the titular character’s unsuccessful attempt to restore Las Vegas “back in[to] fighting shape” following the city’s total destruction at the hands of a squadron of Hydra Helicarriers in “Marvel Comics” 2017 crossover event “Secret Empire”, it is difficult to believe that many within this book’s 24,864-strong audience were particularly pleased with Donny Cates’ narrative for Issue Three Hundred and Eighty Six of “Doctor Strange”. True, the American author’s script does a reasonably good job of explaining the Master Of The Mystic Arts’ pivotal role during the proceedings of his “Damnation” mini-series, yet that arguably doesn’t help resolve the frustration surrounding just why so momentous a magical act as the Sorcerer Supreme trying to resurrect “the poor people who had passed away in the attack back from the dead” wasn’t depicted in detail within the the primary protector of Earth’s own ongoing series as opposed to a separately published “shocking misfire from the top-downwards” (“Bleeding Cool” 2018).

Instead, regular readers of Steve Ditko’s co-creation are forced to endure an incredibly word-heavy discourse between the Ancient One’s former protégé and Mephisto whilst the pair play a disturbing round of Brimstone Blackjack at one of Hotel Inferno’s gambling tables. This debatably sedentary sequence does contain a few fleeting moments of entertainment, predominantly in the form of Strange first being smacked in the mouth by a muscle-bound demon for uttering the words “hit me”, and secondly for depicting the beleaguered Illuminati momentarily besting his aghast opponent courtesy of a spell which causes the extra-dimensional devil to be (mis)dealt the losing card; “I wasn’t supposed to be next in the deck and then I got this weird magic key tingle all along my tongue and Boom! Here I am! I’m tellin’ ya boss. This guy’s a lousy card cheat!” However, these ‘laughs’ are few and far between amidst a storyline that generally seems to have been penned simply to pad out an entire edition which is disappointingly just ‘treading water’ alongside a dated “central premise [which] is [already] based on an event that occurred a year earlier.”

Questionably therefore, this twenty-page periodical’s sole success can only be found within some of Niko Henrichon’s well-pencilled panels, and dishearteningly, even these are not as many as some bibliophiles would have hoped due to the Canadian illustrator’s far too satanically smiley interpretation of Strange’s red-skinned, fang-toothed nemesis. The former member of the Six-Fingered Hand has always been portrayed as an arrogant, overly confident manipulator of men, and in many ways a Machiavellian match for Loki, the God of Mischief. But during this opening instalment to “Bleeding Neon” the demon seems to be enjoying himself far more than one might have expected for so sinisterly serious a "perennial villain in the Marvel Universe."

First published on the "Dawn of Comics" website.'
Writer: Donny Cates, Artist: Niko Henrichon, and Colour Assistant: Laurent Grossat

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