Doctor Strange #26



DoctorStrange26Devotees of Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson’s fantasy tabletop role-playing game “Dungeons & Dragons” doubtless had plenty to enjoy with John Barber’s marvellously claustrophobic narrative for Issue Twenty-Six of “Doctor Strange”, with both the titular character and Zelma Stanton making “what may well be their last house-call” deep inside the long abandoned 76th Street subway station and subsequently facing a foe seemingly snatched straight from Tom Moldvay’s module “The Lost City”. Indeed, this twenty-page periodical’s opening sequence, which depicts Dwarven Mage Varkath accompanying an ill-fated expedition desperately trying to flee the underground lair of an unseen shambling horror “eons ago”, would arguably have been perfect itself as the introductory scenario for one of “Tactical Studies Rules” early Seventies’ adventure supplements.

Fortunately however, those bibliophiles within this comic’s 24,001-strong audience who didn’t have a comprehensive understanding of “the best-known and best-selling role-playing game” shouldn’t have felt that they had been put at any particular disadvantage due to the freelance writer utilising the Sorcerer Supreme’s mentoring of his apprentice as an appropriate vehicle to explain to the reader just what is taking place; “Which points to possession, or some sort of soul corruption. The Thaumaturge Trivium were legends… in certain circles, mostly in Tibet.” In addition, despite its strong dungeon-based ‘dice-rolling’ flavour, beautifully conveyed by Niko Henrichon’s pencilling, the “long-time editor of Marvel’s Ultimate line” slowly morphs his narrative into a seemingly much more straightforward story of ‘Cat and Mouse’ between a truly sinister, all-pervading evil and a disconcertingly weaponless Master of the Mystic Arts.

Intriguingly though, at some indiscernible point this terrific tale also shies away from being a fright-fest involving murderous ghoulish ghosts stalking a modern-day world not of their making and instead provides a fascinating focus upon Strange’s past misdoings, which ultimately culminates with the former preeminent surgeon’s dark soul actually overpowering the ancient entity’s malevolence due to it being “a long time since anyone accused” him of being “pure of heart.” This contamination of an “evil thing poking at my soul”, alongside Stephen’s admission that he has occasionally bent “right towards wrong” really does raise some interesting questions as to the magic-user’s past, and the implication that the good Doctor and his librarian will at some point brave further into the dustily decrepit world buried beneath New York City in order to hunt “for [more] remnants of power” bodes well for even more murky revelations to come…

This article is the opinion of the author and does not represent the views of the site owner.


Reviewed by
For the past forty or so years I have been collecting American comics… To begin with they were predominantly black and white British reprints of “Marvel Comics Group” titles such as “Spider-Man Comics Weekly”, “The Mighty World of Marvel” and “Star Wars Weekly”; all six to ten pence editions I could store away under my bed in a large cardboard box. As a result though I was introduced to the teenage angst of Peter Parker, the discovery of a frozen Captain America by Earth's Mightiest Heroes, witnessed the dreadful rage of Doctor Bruce Banner, and even travelled to a galaxy far far away... Later I would be able to afford actual America colour comic books and supplemented my collection of “Marvel” titles such as “Conan the Barbarian”, “Howard the Duck” and “Captain America” with some “DC Comics” issues of “Batman”, “Green Lantern” and “Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew”. There would even be time for Independent publications such as “Wildcats”, “Spawn” and “The Authority”. These days however I must admit to yearning back to the simpler times of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, back to when both artwork and storylines were straightforward, easy to follow and super-heroes were just starting out on their adventures. A time when no-one had yet to be resurrected from the dead for the fourth time. I've written over seven hundred comic book reviews on my blog over the past few years, with them usually following my latest purchases, all wrapped up in a large brown paper bag, as well as occasional ‘flashbacks’ to some of the classic "Golden Age" issues I already own…

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