Monday, April 26, 2010
Thoughts on Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 4
Essential Doctor Strange Volume 4.
Having never read many issues of Doctor Strange me reviewing this collection is a bit like if I watched a random episode of Deadwood or the Wire or any other program with an ongoing plot I’m unfamiliar with; I can comment on what I saw, but I don’t know the background. So, if I’ve made wrong assumptions please forgive me.
The first thing up for discussion is magic according to the marvel universe. It just seems to be rather uniform. Every spell and counter spell is written in the Book of Vishanti. I’d say that’s pretty convenient. Can’t a learned sorcerer make up new spells? Also, I do not understand why the Vishanti are the most powerful Gods. Doctor Strange in this volume fights Nightmare, the Dweller-in-Darkness and the N’garai, but Strange wins because the Vishanti whom he draws power from just happen to be the most powerful force in all universes and realities. It doesn’t matter if Strange goes through a black mirror and into another dimension or if he travels into Dormammu’s Dark Dimension or Nightmare’s realm, the magic of the Vishanti prevails.
In fact, the magic of the Vishanti appears to be the only magic anywhere. Clea, Strange’s lover, who was the “firstborn of Orini, who is Suzerein to the dread Dormammu, ruler of my home dimension.” (Doctor Strange #45) My assumption would be that being from a dark dimension she would have some kick-ass black magic. I don’t want her to be evil or even a bad person, but it would just open up so many great storylines. Here is my idea: Clea was a bad person in her dimension. It’s not her fault she grew up in the dark dimension and had a skewed moral lessons. When Doctor Strange first came to her dimension and fought Dormammu she had a change of heart. Suddenly here was a man who believed in her and her potential for good when no one else would. She betrays Dormammu, helps Doctor Strange defeat him and then travels with Doctor Strange to his dimension. On Earth, Clea begins to train herself to use her black magic for good. She has powerful spells that she must use carefully in order to not permanently injure opponents. Since Doctor Strange is not familiar with black magic except for counter spells, Clea has much to teach him and in return Strange teaches Clea the magic of the Vishanti.
This idea is unfortunately not the reality of the comics I read, instead Clea is a novice sorceress who is mentoring with Strange. He calls her his protégé even though she seems at times to be a bit of a hopeless case. When she admits that she lacks any self-confidence in her abilities Doctor Strange says he’s never been more sure that she should be his protégé. Strange seems to me to be blinded by his love for her, he’d be better off with almost anyone else as his protégé: what about Illyana Rasputin (aka Magik) Colossus’ sister or heck with his astral projection skills I think Charles Xavier would be a better candidate for Strange’s protégé.
Later in that same issue Strange makes the more obvious attempt to boost Clea’s confidence. He is fighting a N’Garai, an Elder Demon God from another dimension in his basement. The demon has made Wong and two others into his servants and they are attacking Strange and Clea. Strange says “I know of a spell that can defeat this guy, it’s in the Book of Vishanti, I’ll go get it in astral form. You protect my body.” Okay, he is in his basement. All he and Clea have to do is make a strategic retreat upstairs. How is astral form any quicker? It’s not like he’s going to run into rush hour traffic trying to get upstairs in his body. And staying in his body has the advantage of not leaving his body completely helpless. It isn’t as if he knew Clea could handle Wong and the two other, on the page before he was having trouble fighting them. He recklessly risked his own life, his friends lives and probably the whole dimension just because his girlfriend was feeling a little down on herself.
Okay, moving along, so Clea doesn’t have any magic different from the Vishanti, but surely evil sorcerers and sorceresses in other dimensions have some different spells. Nope. When Doctor Strange fights Shialmar ( the self-appointed sorceress supreme in another dimension (issue 44) she throws crystals of Cyndriarr at Strange and he thinks wow that spell is so powerful I haven’t used it, but it’s obviously in the Book of Vishanti because he knows the counter spell. Aren’t there different branches of magic, so that maybe one sorcerer specializes in healing magic and another in dark magic? No, in the Marvel Universe everyone knows every spell because it’s all written in one book.
Speaking of different dimensions why is it that no matter what dimension or realm Doctor Strange finds himself in, the laws of physics are also a constant. I mean I understand that one of the theories of alternate dimensions postulates that the laws of physics would be a constant throughout every dimension in the multiverse and I can accept that. But you’re telling me that the realm of Nightmare or the realm of the Dweller-in-Darkness are basically no different than Earth? That’s boring! I want to see Strange walking or astral projecting through realms beyond my imagination. I want him exploring an M.C. Escher or Salvador Dali inspired world where up is down and down is up. And when he tries to cast Flames of Faltine it causes roses to appear in the hands of his opponents and so he has to cast a spell for roses and then the flames appear.
I know it’s just a comic and it was written for a young adult audience, but doesn’t Doctor Strange make it look insanely easy to be Sorcerer Supreme. He has all the answers in one book. If I’d only had to read one book in order to get my Master’s Degree in Library Science, that would have been sort of fishy right? You’d wonder if I’d be able to perform all my duties. And I’m just a librarian; Doctor Strange is the protector of the Universe!
The other thing that leads me to the conclusion that his job is easy is that he only ever uses a handful of spells. It doesn’t matter if he’s fighting a monster, another sorcerer, or some sort of God like entity, the same couple of spells will always get the job done. Here they are, I bet you can list them with me:
Crimson Bands of Cytorrak
Flames of Faltine
Cloak of Levitation
Agamotto’s Light of Truth
Bolt of Bedevilment
Images of Ikonn
Shield of Seraphim
Despite my complaints, I did enjoy these issues and I’ll try to keep it more positive if and when I comment on individual issues and storylines.