Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Longbox: Mystic Hands written by Magic Fingers, it only sounds dirty...

The Mystic Hands Of Doctor Strange
issue: 1
writer: Various
artist: Various
publisher: Marvel
Doctor Strange is one of my favorite Marvel Universe characters even though it seems like writers often have a hard time with him.  Most time there is too much of a focus placed on the power and not so much on the man that wields them.  A few years back, Brian K. Vaugn showed us what a Doctor Strange story should be with his miniseries The Oath.  In the time since then, Strange has lost his Sorcerer Supreme title and has gone on to do a bit of soul searching.
While The Mystic Hands Of Doctor Strange sounds like the title of a low budget, high concept porn flick, the book is a fantastic collection of four throwback-type stories written with a modern sensibility and illustrated in “glorious black & white.”  A lot of what these stories do is contextualize Strange’s history, addressing cultural movements of the time as well as addressing just who Stephen Strange is at different stages of his life.
The first story, The Cure by Kieron Gillen and Frazer Irving shows the mystical machinations behind the counter culture of the 70s and how Strange brings it to a close.    Melancholia by Peter Milligan and Frank Brunner tells the story of Strange dealing with the effects of the work he does juxtaposed with the story of a man living with his real world regrets and how he seeks Stephen's magic to fix them.  So This Is How It Feels by writer/artist Ted McKeever gives us a down and out Strange who has hit rock bottom and how a run in with a demon and the counsel of half a floating head turn things around for him.
The best part of this collection for me was the Mike Carey penned Duel In The Dark Dimension with illustrations by the man I feel defined what a Strange book should look like in The Oath, Marcos Martin.  Duel is presented in the form of an entry from one of Strange’s journals and is an illustrated story as opposed to a straight up comic story.  Carey chronicles the adventure of a novice Stephen Strange, still under the tutelage of the Ancient One, as he wanders off on the astral plane and how his arrogance is almost his undoing.
This book is certainly a welcome entry into the canon of Doctor Strange material.  The recent miniseries Strange by Mark Waid was a bit of a let down to me both as a story and in its visual presentation.  The structure of the stories also lends itself well to the casual reader who might not have a knowledge of the character and makes for a collection of fine character stories.  Hopefully we’ll see more Strange stories of this quality in the future.