Review: Essential Doctor Strange Vol.3

Doctor Strange is the best character in superhero comics that no one has been able to figure out what to do with, and that unfortunate tradition continues in this volume.

There are a number of reasons the Strange has proven a difficult character to work with.  First of all magic based characters have always been a problem in superhero comics (for further proof see Dr. Fate, Captain Marvel, Zatanna, the Demon, etc…).  Their abilities are too ill-defined and they don’t mesh well with the science based universes they exist in.  To compound the issue in Strange’s case he’s a character that is linked so strongly to his original portrayal under Stan Lee and Steve Ditko that no one (with the possible exception of the recent Brian K Vaughan/Marcos Martin mini-series) has been willing to modernize him.  Which is a total disservice to the character considering that he’s thus been linked to 60’s psychadelia for 40 years.

Which at last brings me to this volume that collects Strange’s late 70’s appearances.  The majority of this book is by Steve Englehart (who is a perfect match for writing the traditional Strange) and the normally great Gene Colan, who is a bit miscast here on art.  The Colan issues tend to take Strange away from the other-dimensional odysseys he usually goes on and instead pits him against foes like Dracula and Satan.  These are by far the weakest stories here.  On the other end of the spectrum you have adventures in which the Universe is destroyed, the history of America is examined, and Strange’s girlfriend Clea has an affair with Ben Franklin (yes really).

The book isn’t bad, but if you want a classic Doctor Strange book, stick with the Lee/Ditko issues.

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