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: 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.

Comic Review: Infinity Wars: Sleepwalker

Published: October 3rd, 2018 – December 12th, 2018
Written by: Chad Bowers, Chris Sims
Art by: Todd Nauck

Marvel Comics, 90 Pages

Review:

Sleepwalker was a comic book series that I was a big fan of in the early ’90s. I know that most people didn’t read it and a lot of people I have brought it up to over the years barely remember it. But I was always fond of the character and thought that the lack of his appearances over the last twenty years or so, has been a wasted opportunity by Marvel.

That being said, while I haven’t cared much for the Infinity Wars mega crossover event that is going on, I had to add a new Sleepwalker book to my pull list. And I really hope that this leads to the character being used more often, even though I’m pretty sure that this comic’s sales are far from great.

This ties in directly to the events of Infinity Wars but you also don’t need to read that in order to follow this. The only thing you probably need to know is that instead of Thanos wiping out half of the life in the universe, this time his daughter has the power of the Gauntlet and has mashed up all living beings so that two people are now merged into one. I guess it doesn’t really kill anybody but it still makes the population of the universe half of what it was. It’s a weird concept and I don’t like it but it has created some mashup heroes like Ghost Panther, Iron Hammer, Solider Supreme and Weapon Hex, just to name a few. In this Sleepwalker series we do get a cool mashup of Fin Fang Foom and Man-Thing.

Anyway, this deals with Sleepwalker trying to save his human host Rick Sheridan from being merged with Nick Fury. This sees Sleepwalker trying to fix things from the Mindscape, the dimension he usually inhabits when not on Earth.

The story was enjoyable and I certainly liked it more than the actual Infinity Wars event but I felt like it could have been fleshed out more and expanded on over more than four issues. But being that this is part of a crossover event, it is just one spoke in a wheel and that wheel has to keep rolling. Still, this miniseries could be a decent jumping off point for more Sleepwalker comics in the future. At the very least, maybe we could see him join a larger ensemble.

I thought the art was pretty good and better than a typical Marvel book in 2018.

But really, all this did was whet my palate and then it was over. I hope I don’t have to wait another ten to twenty years for one of my favorite ’90s creations to return.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the ongoing Infinity Wars mega event, as well as the ’90s Sleepwalker series.