Doctor Strange is getting a reboot of sorts, or at the very least a new #1 to go with a brand new direction for the character. Appropriately dubbed the “Surgeon Supreme” on the cover, Stephen Strange can now get back into the hospital and perform surgeries. This changes his life exponentially, but can he juggle protecting Earth from evil magic and save lives with a scalpel? We’ll find out in Mark Waid and Kev Walker’s new series.
I was a huge fan of Waid’s new direction for Doctor Strange back in the summer of 2018 and it’s exciting to see him redirect the character again here. We already know Waid has a strong handle on the character and it’s immediately obvious in the opening of this issue. Through captions and crazy-good monster visuals, we see Strange’s life as a doctor is anything but normal. He can see creatures invisible to humans hanging over them to eat their grief or continue to poison them with disease. It’s an effective way to show this character hasn’t stepped out of the extraordinary supernatural world. A few pages in we’re given details on how being a doctor has changed his life and it’s abundantly clear this may be the hardest the character has ever worked.
It’s interesting to see how a new job changes him and it’s quite clever to see the combo. In fact, I’m surprised we’ve never seen a combination of magic and surgery before as there’s so much there to mine for stories. This issue isn’t all in the hospital though, as Doctor Strange must take his skills outside of it to determine why dozens of people are being admitted during a crisis. This leads to a superhero vs. supervillain showdown with an additional twist. Waid is very good at defying your expectations, adding new layers to characters we already know, and making the old new again. This is proof of that.
Walker does an excellent job with the monsters in this issue. We’ve seen how good he can be on Star Wars books like Doctor Aphra, and it’s quite clear he’s only getting better. The human characters, in particular, look more realistic than is the norm for Walker, although there’s still that unmistakable style that makes it his own. Walker is backed up by color artist Java Tartaglia and letterer Cory Petit. Tartaglia does an exceptional job making the monsters pop in the opening pages and the coloring on the magical powers is quite good later in the issue too. I particularly liked the choice to cast a human character and background in a monotone gray on the opening splash (see below) as it makes this creature stand out even more.
This is a good first issue establishing the new status quo for the character while also reminding us how we got here if you’re going in fresh. Longtime readers of Doctor Strange are going to instantly like this new direction as it feels so new and there are so many fresh ideas at work here. The only downside really is this is a setup issue with little to hang your hat on as a standalone issue.
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