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Thursday, 8 March 2018

Dr Strange Vol. 5 -Secret Empire and Zelma

Writer –Dennis Hopeless (#21-24)
Artist –Niko Henrichon (#21-24 & 26)
Writer – John Barber (#25)
Artists –Kevin Nowlan, Scott Hanna, Dexter Vines, Mark Morales, Terry Pallot, Tom Palmer and Dan Brown –“past sequence art”
Juan Frigeri and Java Tartaglia –“Present sequence art”
Paperback: 136 pages
Publisher: Marvel (January 23, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1302905899
ISBN-13: 978-1302905897

Collects Doctor Strange (2015) #21-26. The Sorcerer Supreme suffers SECRET EMPIRE! New York City is under attack by dark forces, and only Doctor Strange can save it — but it’s a long shot. And to have any hope at all, Strange and Spider-Woman must strike an uneasy alliance with Wilson Fisk, A.K.A. the Kingpin of Crime. Together, they’ll take the fight to Baron Mordo! But even if they win, are they ready for the Hydra-occupied America waiting outside of the Darkforce-domed Manhattan? Plus: A mysterious foe barely defeated in the past returns to haunt a much weaker Strange in the present! An evil like you’ve never seen — could this be the final house call for Doctor Strange and Zelma?

Hmm. Let's just say that I do not buy comics but I have been able to find very cheap trades and that comes in handy trying to follow what is happening with Dr. Strange -like the Sub-Mariner and Avengers I've been reading the good Doctor's adventures since the 1960s.

This newer series I have “hmmd” and “ahhd” about regarding the art and a few times about how the character was being depicted story and art-wise but it has grown on me. I think it’s a bloody cheek to say “The Sorcerer Supreme suffers Secret Empire” when the reader has that honour –in this case the character and readers both suffer.  Reading the conclusion to volume 4 I opened up volume 5 and asked “WTF is going on?” Ahh, the old Marvel cross-over of “You wanna know the whole story buy all the cross-over issues!” to which I respond “How do you feel about getting a marrow shoved up your arse?”

But I put that aside.  Yes, I am a true Gemini!  There were some aspects of the art I was not too keen on –the very scratchy look for one- but it was no big stumbling block since it seemed to work with the story.  What I found a big stumbling block is the depiction of Kingpin as a giant hulk-sized man.  Just W…T…F…is going on there? When did this happen? Ahem.  That aspect really stood out like Donald Trump at a Mexican street party (little bit of politics.  Little bit of satire).  But we read on…”We” –I said I was a Gemini, right?

The one thing that was irritating was the characterisation of Baron Mordo putting on a big bad front while acting like a wise-cracking hipster and constantly referring to his “cup o’ joe”. Did anyone really think this was funny other than the writer –I was going to ask a very stupid question like “Has he not read up on the Baron Mordo character?” but maintaining a character seems very un-hip these days. Daredevil sitting quietly was representing the masses I feel.

All together the story was okay and the art I got used to so not too bad an experience. I did keep asking where Zelma, the supposed new apprentice to Strange was but that was obviously me, as a reader being silly.

Suddenly, #25 –therrrrrrres Zelma! But another thing hit me and I had to go back and make sure that it was not my aging brain.  The way that Zelma was drawn and colouring of the character had me thinking that she was…what’s the current term? “African-American” yet here she looks far more European in features.  Something I will return to.

There was some very nice art here.  That writ, I need to say that it was a ***** mess!! Seriously, seven -7- “past sequence” artists with art thrown in between “present sequence” art….who is the editor?  Ah, Nick Lowe.  Mr. Lowe: do your job and produce a coherent book and if you insist on “old stylie” strip-work to be added get one artist. This is probably the worst put together comic I have seen and there is an “associate editor” –Darren Shan and two –count them –two!- assistant editors –Allison Stock and Kathleen Wisneski.  That is four editors and I assume this is a hangers-on entourage type thing because the quartet appear not to know what editing is (if they were drunk or on drugs #25 probably looked “great”.

Total waste and yet pages of very good art.

Henrichon returned with #26 and some very European style art (no, I have not bothered doing an internet search on him) which is a compliment so take it or leave it. The story began well with the Three Incorruptible Warriors and then Strange and Zelma enter the story and things pick up nicely. In fact, very good story and art all around.

Except for one thing.

You knew there had to be something, right?

You see, in this issue Zelma looks completely European and just does not look, physically, like the character as we have seen her since this run began. If you have three main characters in a book –in this case Strange, Zelma and Wong then it really should not be that hard to maintain what they look like and in the past n artist was either given character sheets (yeah, I’m old enough to remember when that was a thing to maintain –don’t panic now, it is only a word- continuity) or copies of the comic so they maintained the look. It is all very jarring.

Over-all, the book contained some nice art  but characterisation seemed odd at times (Mordo) as did character appearance (Hulk Kingpin and Zelma). It is very easy to blame the artists and writers for this but the problems lie 100% in the editor(s).  Issue 25 had great art.  Just so many different pages of art that it destroyed the story and reminded me of the time I tried to read a comic while suffering a migraine attack –something I never ever want to do again.

The editor(s) should make sure that character continuity is maintained –“these pages are fine but you need to re-draw Zelma” is the easiest thing to say unless you are a soppy twit who does not want to upset the artist’s feelings.  If that’s the case: quit being an editor –Quesada needs a new coffee person. Also, if the artist is just given free reign then, yes, things will go wrong. You need to have a backbone and remember what the job title “editor” entails.

All of the problems I have seen are ones that should have been sorted out at the editor(s) desk(s) –I’m guessing they have desks or chairs?

The rumour is that the new writer on the series will be Mark Waid. It will be interesting to see how he handles things, however, all the chat is that he is taking Strange into space to look for new sources of magic.  I read that once and dismissed it as stupid.  I read it a second time and dismissed it again.  I heard video bloggers refer to this –check out Ghost Critic and his last video, link on the blog roll).

The whole point of Strange is that he is the Sorcerer Supreme and his job is to protect our Earth from mystical/magical threats.  He is the Earth’s safeguard. Sending him into space would be the dumbest idea since jokingly giving your 86 year old grandmother Cannabis cookies (I speak from experience as taking 5 hours to talk down a naked old lady dancing on your roof in front of neighbours, police and news people is very very embarrassing). Unless it’s a dumb-ass idea to draw Strange into meeting up with the –yawn- Guardians of the Galaxy (not the real ones either)? Or will he detect “The Force” and be drawn into some kind of rebellion against an evil oppressive empire in some kind of star wars?

But with this volume ignore #25.

Looking at the variant covers all I see are that 99% of them are not good and just a waste of paper –unless you are the sucker buys every variant cover?  You need help!, see, that is Dr Strange.

I really do not want to comment on this cover.   BWeeuuuuuurgh!!!

Hercules needs a big gun in today's it seems does Dr Strange. Awful.

Oh, Zelma -you are a mystery!

Below: remember this is from a scene in a darkened tunnel.  Well, she could be suffering from vitiligo?

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