Sunday, April 10, 2005

Strange #5 - 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

Dr. Stephen Strange has been having a rough time of it. Crippled by an accident that made him unable to continue his career as a plastic surgeon, he went searching the world for a cure to his condition. Since then, he has been on a whirlwind trip, chased by beings who want to kill him, found out his best friend is a servant of the dark forces that call for his blood and that he is the believed to be the next person who will stand as the guardian between our world and the other realms, where dwell evil things that make the creatures in the writings of Lovecraft look like Scooby Doo villains.

It is in this issue that Stephen truly begins his training under The Ancient One- a mystic of some power who he first encountered as a beginning med student in the first issue of this mini-series. He proves to be the slowest student in the class alongside Wong, Cleo and Baron Mordo. This last student, a familiar name to long-time Strange fans, is introduced only to quickly betray The Ancient One and summon forth one of the most dreaded of the outer-wordly beings; Dormammu.

It is funny how an issue can be so slow-paced and feel rushed at the same time. And yet, this issue actually manages the feat. We are introduced to Baron Mordo for the first time and his subsequent betrayal of his teacher and summoning of what amounts to a Deep Old One are crammed into half an issue. The other half is devoted to long conversations about the nature of responsibility and the use of magic powers that even the most long-winded lecture about The Force from Episode II was exciting. It is, in short, your typical penultimate chapter of any story. All set-up, no action.

Thankfully, while the contents of the story aren’t very riveting, Petersen’s artwork is able to disguise this fact. His revival of all the characters is well-done. And even in the lackluster action scenes (such as Mordo’s “no-contest” battle with The Ancient One)the artwork is vibrant and gorgeous. As an old construction teacher of mine once said, pretty paint cannot disguise rotten wood. Well, the wood of the story is far from rotten but neither is it freshly cut.

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