Doctor Strange puts the long-running character back in the comic book spotlight with The Way of the Weird.
As magical creatures from other dimensions start turning up on Earth in alarming numbers, Doctor Strange begins to suspect something may be amiss. When ancient sources of magic begin to dry up and he discovers the corpses of Sorcerers Supreme from other dimensions, victims of ritual killings, Strange warns the other practitioners of Earth that an extinction-level threat is headed their way. Just in time for the arrival of the Empirikul, a band of crusaders determined to exterminate magic from the multiverse.
Writer Jason Aaron takes a very interesting approach to Doctor Strange. He pulls back on the “stoic sufferer” persona that has characterized a lot of Stephen Strange’s stories the past few years and brings back a bit of the impish humor the character has shown in the past. It’s a welcome change, one that infuses the lead character with a more dynamic personality and makes it easier to root for him.
Aaron sets up an impressive threat in the Empirikul and explores how their mission truly tests Strange before he’s even aware of them. Seeing the Sorcerer Supreme having to struggle and use his wits is a nice change of pace for the character. It makes him more interesting and relatable than the “all-powerful wizard” approach.
The book shares a theme with the current Scarlet Witch series, exploring the cost of using magic. “Every punch comes at a cost” is the arc’s mantra and Aaron shows a lot of imagination in exploring the physical and spiritual toll on Strange of his use of mystic forces. Aaron also does a strong job with Wong, Strange’s right hand man, restoring some of his serenity but also infusing him with an agreeable level of agency, revealing a secret of the lengths to which Wong has gone to support Strange’s mission. An agreeable new edition is Zelma Stanton, a young librarian who comes to Strange for help and winds up volunteering as his archivist. Some of the Marvel Universe’s more prominent mystical characters show up in small roles, establishing a community that provides Strange with some needed peer support.
Penciler/colorist Chris Bachalo does some of the best work of his career on The Way of the Weird. His sensibility and offbeat design approach are almost ridiculously suited to Doctor Strange. Working with a team of blue chip inkers, Bachalo crafts imagination-packed pages, with inventive layouts, tons of impressive details and dynamic character work. Bachalo’s use of colored images superimposed over black and white scenes is a fairly ingenious way of dramatizing the “invisible” world of magic that co-exists with “normal” reality. Character and creature designs pack a lot of punch and Bachalo has lots of fun with the outlandish architectures and landscapes of the worlds the series visits. There’s a lot of thought behind these pages, but also an agreeable, offbeat energy. It’s the perfect balance and makes the book visually stunning.
The Way of the Weird will definitely satisfy long-time Doctor Strange fans, but is also very new reader-friendly. It’s a great jumping on point for one of the more interesting books in Marvel’s current line-up.