Comic Review: Doctor Strange by Donny Cates

Published: April 17th, 2019
Written by: Donny Cates, Nick Spencer
Art by: Niko Henrichon, Frazer Irving, Szymon Kudranski, Rod Reis, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Mike Del Mundo (cover)

Marvel Comics, 341 Pages

Review:

This collection of Donny Cates’ Doctor Strange run started off with a bang but then it did what most Donny Cates comics do, it went too big, too fast and became a bloated, over-the-top spectacle. But he’s even admitted that everything he writes needs to be big and epic. He’s also pointed out that he’s always trying to top the last thing he wrote.

The problem with that is that he can tell pretty good human stories with a lot of emotion that gets the reader invested. But then he Michael Bay the fucks out of everything and then has to wedge in a large amount of characters because if it’s a Cates’ story, he’s gotta blow up the universe.

Big, over-the-top spectacles aren’t necessarily a bad thing but when it’s done as much as Cates does it, he becomes a one trick pony that negatively impacts the better sides of his creative work. The spectacle ends up overshadowing the real story and you sort of get lost in it all. And after a while, it becomes ineffective, as you expect everything to reach ludicrous spreed.

When I first started reading Cates’ work, I enjoyed the grandiose-ness. However, it didn’t take long to realize that larger-than-life Armageddon scenarios were his modus operandi. And with that, he has to keep trying to top what he did before. Everything just gets bigger, faster, crazier and the next thing you know, you’re reading the Marvel Comics version of Fast & Furious 14 where it’s just stunts, speed, CGI, action, yelling and then the end credits after characters refer to each other as “family” 97 times between explosions.

I think that this formula has worked so well for Cates that he’s kind of stuck doing it now. While this Doctor Strange stuff came out before his more recent work, I might have had a very different take on it had I read it when it was current.

The problem though, is this kind of shows me where that formula started. Well, at least with his more prominent Marvel work.

As I stated in the beginning, this started out really strong and I was invested. But then everything went ape shit crazy and then it was over. It may have read better if Cates stuck around and actually wrote about the fallout from this story. But I guess he had to move on to the next thing and give us more mega-event level chaos.

This initially created a foundation for something truly great. After the first story arc, however, it immediately went to a Hell-on-Earth scenario with two dozen characters involved. Whatever emotional investment I had, disappeared, as I kept reading and it never quite circled back around to the great character work and found a way to use that within the chaotic spectacle that followed.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Donny Cates comics by Marvel.

Comic Review: Civil War II

Published: February 1st, 2017
Written by: Brian Michael Bendis
Art by: Jim Cheung, Oliver Coipel, David Marquez, Marko Djurdjevic (cover)

Marvel Comics, 317 Pages

Review:

Man, this was bewilderingly bad.

Historically, I’ve been pretty 50/50 on Brian Michael Bendis’ writing but man, it’s like when he did this, he already knew he was leaving Marvel. It also reads like he was given orders to use certain characters and he was begrudgingly forced to work them in. Granted, he’s also created some of the terrible modern characters.

While I’ve been well aware of the criticism that the Captain Marvel character gets in modern times, I always liked her when she was Ms. Marvel. But this new, short-haired, suddenly pushed into a leadership role Carol Danvers is not even the same character, remotely.

Based off of how she’s written here, as a self-righteous, fascist, tyrant bitch, I totally see why fans can’t stand her. If this story is an accurate portrayal of how she is post-2015 or so, I have no interest in following her character unless she’s actually made into a permanent villain. But even then, there are so many better villains I’d rather read about.

And I’m not really sure how I’m supposed to interpret her character. Is she supposed to be psychotic, god-powered, tyrannical piece of shit? Or am I supposed to empathize with her point-of-view?

What made the first Civil War so great was that you could emphasize and relate to both points-of-view and it made for a compelling read. Civil War II just made me hate Carol and every character that so easily sided with her. These characters aren’t heroes, as their actions in this story crossed the line into villainy.

Whatever. Fuck this comic. Fuck Bendis. Fuck post-2015 Marvel. But at least the art was really good.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: all the other Civil War II crossover tie-in trade paperbacks.

Comic Review: Moon Knight – Epic Collection, Vol. 2: Shadows of the Moon

Published: October 21st, 2015
Written by: Doug Moench, Jack Harris, Alan Zelenetz
Art by: Bill Sienkiewicz, Denys Cowan, Greg Larocque

Marvel Comics, 505 Pages

Review:

Man, I didn’t know if the coolness of the first Moon Knight – Epic Collection could be topped but it was topped with this immediate followup that picks things up where that volume left off.

This installment all takes place within the original Moon Knight comic title, so it is much more fluid and less chaotic feeling than the previous book, which jumped around from multiple comic book titles, covering the earliest Moon Knight stories before he had his own series.

The vast majority of this is written by Doug Moench with the art handled by Bill Sienkiewicz. They were really the dream team for early Moon Knight and frankly, this is still my favorite era for the character in regards to story, tone and the incredible art by Sienkiewicz.

In fact, over these fifteen or twenty issues, you really see Sienkiewicz’s art evolve. He has the same sort of style but it develops more character and its own uniqueness that is very much Sienkiewicz.

Moon Knight was one hell of a dark comic for the time, being born out of the heyday of Marvel’s horror era of the ’70s and moving it forward into the ’80s.

My only real complaint about Moon Knight, as a character, is that his regular life was too complex in the earliest stories. Apart from the Moon Knight persona, he had three other identities. It’s kind of tedious and I think it created more problems than it needed to with narrative flow.

Regardless of that, this series, especially in this era, comes alive when our hero is in full Moon Knight garb, fighting some sort of monster or occult themed villain. And since this has a lot of that, it’s pretty f’n awesome.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the other Moon Knight – Epic Collection volumes, as well as other late ’70s/early ’80s Marvel comics focused on street level crime, magic or horror.

Comic Review: Doctor Strange, Vol. 1: The Way of the Weird

Published: April 27th, 2016
Written by: Jason Aaron
Art by: Chris Bachalo

Marvel Comics, 115 Pages

Review:

It’s been awhile since I’ve read Doctor Strange. I used to love picking up back issues of stuff from the ’70s and ’80s when I was a kid. But I didn’t like much of the late ’90s or ’00s stuff. But I heard good things about Jason Aaron’s run, so I figured I’d start at the beginning and give it a shot.

This was a pretty fun read and it’s creative, as well as interesting. I also really liked the art style.

My only real complaint is that this Doctor Strange doesn’t seem like the same character I enjoyed in his classic stories. He’s lacking the sense of authority one got from him in the ’70s and ’80s and here he is just kind of quirky and goofy.

Despite that, it’s not a big distraction, it’s just that the character feels off. It’s also very salvageable moving forward and it doesn’t deter me from reading more from Aaron. Hopefully, he finds his footing a bit more after this first story arc.

The threat here also doesn’t feel as big as the story makes it out to be. I guess I’ll have to see what’s next but knowing what Doctor Strange has faced before, this threat seemed lame and unconvincing. Sure, all other Sorcerer Supremes from other realms and worlds are gone but the story still feels thin and is missing the weight of that.

I’ll give the second volume a shot in the very near future, so I hope that sort of rights the ship.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Jason Aaron’s other Doctor Strange stories.