Doctor Strange was a somewhat busy guy during the last Secret Wars. He helped Doom form Battleworld, acted as the sheriff there for a few years, and then…died.
OK, so he got better and now he has his own series again. Written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Chris Bachalo, the first volume is subtitled The Way of the Weird.
“Way of the Weird” is right in many ways. Aaron and Bachalo use the character to show he lives in a perennially weird world. Often showcasing the odd stuff only Strange and other magicians can see in color while more mundane folks walk around in black-and-white, Strange is a doctor who makes house calls because if someone tracks him down, they really need help. The opening few pages show Strange battling what appears to be giant teddy bears in a bizarre landscape. What’s going on? Some mystical, parasitical creatures locked onto a little boy’s soul and could cause problems if Stephen doesn’t deal with them. He does so, and after defeating the parasites suggests they try the child murderer wing of the local prison.
The really odd thing to Stephen is, though, that these parasites don’t normally venture this far from their home dimension. There seems to be a lot of that sort of thing happening too. At one point, Strange wakes up in his astral form, with little magic at his disposal, stark naked, and surrounded by magic-eating slugs. It would seem something is driving all kinds of magical creatures far from their homes. What could it be?
The answer is a group called the Empirkul. They’re like a sort of Spanish Inquisition that has a thing against magic of any kind, and they use incredibly advanced technology to eliminate magic in the worlds they visit, torturing and killing the native Sorcerer Supremes of these different worlds. And now they have Stephen Strange and his world in their sites…
Jason Aaron has a good thing going here, emphasizing that Strange must live in balance. Using magic has a price, and if Strange doesn’t pay it right away, he will in other ways, like a running idea that he can’t eat normal food anymore and has to feed off disgusting tentacles that taste as good as they look (i.e. not at all). Bachalo’s artwork mostly works. I don’t think he can do a clear action sequence very well, but give the guy free reign to draw odd stuff and he’s doing fine. I’m still not sure what’s up with Strange carrying the axe on the cover, but it may come in handy down the line. Eight and a half spooked librarians out of ten.