Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Strange #2 - A Review

Written by: J. Michael Straczynski & Sara Barnes
Penciled by: Brandon Peterson
Inked by: Brandon Peterson
Colored by: Justin Ponsor
Lettered by: Randy Gentile
Editor: Axel Alonso
Publisher: Marvel Comics

With all the bru-hah-hah over J. Michael Straczynski’s work on Amazing Spider-Man of late, I’m amazed that the same purists aren’t all a tizzy over his other title with Marvel. The fact is that this new book, which is currently retelling the origins of Doctor Stephen Strange, master magician and sorcerer supreme, has made some changes on par with those regarding the past of Gwen Stacy.

Straczynski has expanded upon the specifics of Strange’s background, which has been vague in some respects. While we’ve always known that he was something of an arrogant jerk and a respected surgeon before a serious accident, we’ve seen very little of his formative years. And while some of the fine details of his history are changed here, the changes either change little or make a good deal of sense. For instance, it matters very little whether Dr. Strange was a neurosurgeon or a plastic surgeon… but given his old money-grubbing ways, being a plastic surgeon makes a good deal more sense. Likewise, the accident (which we see the aftermath of at the start of this issue) is changed from a car-crash to a skiing accident, but the end result is the same: Stephen Strange’s hands are damaged to the point that he will never be able to hold a scalpel again.

Refusing to accept that he will never be able to work in his chosen field again, Strange travels the world seeking second, third and ninth opinions from the greatest experts in the world. Eventually, he makes his way back to Tibet, where he interned for a summer, seeking a young man named Wong. Wong, whose arm he fixed during his internship, has apparently been inspired by Strange’s example during his more idealistic days and gone on to become an alternative medicine man as well as the greatest hand expert in the field…

These changes further ground the idea that a respected surgeon would turn to a magical healer in Tibet for help as well as expanding upon the character of Stephen Wong (yes, he has a first name!), who started out as little more than a poor man’s Kato. I can’t wait to see how the rest of this series reworks Strange’s cluttered past.

About the artwork, I have only the kindest words. Brandon Peterson has an eye for showing great detail without cluttering up a single panel. His style is like that of Ultimate Spider-Man’s Mark Bagley, but with a much darker edge that is perfect for the world of this title. All of the characters, even the nurses and bar patrons in the background, have an individual and distinct look that marks every individual as just that.

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