Comic Review – “Essential Dr. Strange Vol. 1”

I swear by the hoary hosts of Hoggoth that the review shall
be found below!

General Information

Title: Essential Dr. Strange Vol. 1

Credited to: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko & Friends.

Original Publication Date: 2002 reprint of material first
from 1963-1968.

ISBN: 0-7851-0816-5

Cover Price: $15.95 US, $23.95 Can

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Stephen Strange’s career as a doctor is ruined, so he
seeks mystic
help and finds a lot more than he expected.

High Point

The hero’s realistic behaviour. He’ll help people all that he
but if a crowd is blocking his path, he’ll knock them out of
the way.
He’s just far more believable, without going “over the top”
as the
characters often do in Millar’s Ultimates.

Low Point

Why is total world domination the goal of every villain? (I
do have
to give the guys credit, though; this is the only 1960’s era
book I can think of that didn’t use communists for the
villains at
least once.)

The Issues

This contains the Dr. Strange portions of Strange Tales
issues 110,
111, 114-168.

The Scores

This hero feels original; he didn’t stumble into
his powers
through a lab accident, nor did he stumble into heroism.
He was a
doctor by trade, and a callous one at that. An accident
damaged his
hands, so he tried mysticism to restore them and get back
to his old
life. That failed, but he chose to spend years studying the
dark arts
to become a hero. His origin was also told months after
his first
appearance, which allowed Lee and Ditko to use an
established villain
as a key part of his origin. This may be one of the best
stories in Marvel comics. You don’t get the overwrought
heroism, you
don’t get the cheap villains, and the hero can make
mistakes. It’s a
great set that shows a maturity not present in many of the
Marvel titles of the era. It doesn’t feel like anything else
that period, nor does it feel a lot like what’s coming out
today. I
give it 5 out of 6.

The artwork suffers in the Gene Colan issues,
but that’s a
half a dozen issues out of the 57 reproduced here. Some
of this looks
fantastic, even in black and white. I give it 5 out of 6.

The stories told here are solid adventures.
They’ve got
mysticism, mystery, variety, suspence, and pacing. Early
issues are
one-shots, while the later issues take on a serial nature.
This may
be blasphemy to some, but I believe that Stan Lee and
Steve Ditko
produced better material than Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
did. The
writers and artists who follow their lead do so well, and
they really
help to form a unique character. (There was only one
cross-over to
the main Marvel universe, in which Loki tried to manipulate
Dr. Strange into helping him defeat Thor.) I give it 5 out of

The characterization is excellent. Dr. Strange
is a hero
because he has the means, and because it’s the right thing
to do. He
doesn’t always like the people he saves, and he doesn’t go
too far out
of his way to save the lives of the villains he faces, but he’ll
anything to save an innocent. He has honour and nobility
without the
soapbox of Captain America or Thor. Baron Mordo,
Dormammu, and the
other villains are still of the “I have the power to take over
world, but first I must defeat Dr. Strange!” variety. I give it
4 out
of 6.

The emotional response this produced was
very positive. This
character is much more interesting than I had given him
credit for,
and I am now eagerly awaiting the Dr. Strange miniseries
J. Michael Strazcynski wants to write. He’s got a lot of
and his more believable nature makes it much easier to
identify with
him and his plights. I give it 4 out of 6.

The flow within a story was always good,
although the flow
from one issue to the next was a bit choppy at first. When
the serial
nature came in, this was corrected. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, this is a great read, and one of the
Essential volumes. I’d very much like to see a volume 2. I
give it 5
out of 6.

In total, Essential Dr. Strange Vol 1 receives
32 out of 42.

Additional Notes and Comments

There’s been a request for Essential Howard the
Duck Vol. 1
so that’ll be the next Essential I buy (unless Essential
Torch Vol. 1
arrives first, that being a new release
due on
August 20.)