Doctor Strange #10 // Review
Doctor Stephen Strange: He’s the Master of the Mystic Arts. He’s the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth’s Dimension. He’s defeated the Dread Dormammu. He was the first character in the Marvel Universe ever to be directly contacted by Eternity Itself. He’s one of the most powerful characters in any universe. And he’s in debt. (Magically speaking.) Dr. Strange begins to delve into that debt in the tenth issue of his current series, which is being billed as Issue 400. (A fact which is kind of a long story in and of itself.) The central story is written by Mark Waid with art by Jesus Saiz, Butch Guice, Kevin Nowlan and Tom Palmer and Daniel Acuna.
The 400th issue anniversary celebration of Steve Ditko’s Doctor Strange features four stories written by Mark Waid. There are some fairly good stories in the quartet. Butch Guice draws on animalistic shadows to relay a story of the good doctor aiding a child in finding light even when things get very, very dark. Kevin Nowlan offers-up a visual rendering of some of the classic elements of Dr. Strange’s origin in an 8-page story called “The Lever.” Daniel Acune is allowed plenty of space to deliver the fantasy of dark dream in and encounter with Nightmare called, “Perchance.” The single best story in the issue, though, is the main feature, “Remittance.”
The twenty-page main feature by Waid and Jesus Saiz opens with Strange being greeted by The Ancient One...the one who ushered him into a world of magic. Formerly one of the most powerful sorcerers of all time, The Ancient One has lost all of his power due to an assault by a mysterious Magic Accountant. Strange must journey to the Head Accountant’s realm if he is to aid his former mentor and make things right.
Though there is a fair amount of emotional charge in seeing Strange teach a magically crippled Ancient One, Waid’s concept for the villain is the single most striking thing in the issue. Magic accountancy is a brilliantly playful concept for officious, bureaucratic villainy. Waid’s sense of the surreal in “Remittance” is absolutely delicious. It’s also very practical. Sorcerers in the Marvel Universe don’t generally wield their own power...they borrow it from powerful entities. The idea that there might be some budgetary power deficit between sorcerer and powerful entities is a very clever one. Waid is telling a fantastic story in the drudgery of a surreally infinite office space. It’s sparklingly witty AND fantastic at the same time.
Saiz renders the drama of the old master being taught again by the old student. It’s fairly powerful stuff, but the real magic lies in the accountant’s realm. The initial reveal of an endless sea of squid-like data processors in white shirts and blue ties at 1970s-style computer workstations could be made into a fairly satisfying poster. The interaction with Head Accountant T. Hothran mixes lofty eldritch magics with an appealingly visceral brutality.
With the big 400th issue celebration out of the way, Waid and Saiz are now free to send Strange chasing after an old villain with a history that goes all the way back to Strange’s earliest adventures between the covers of Strange Tales. Waid and Saiz make an excellent team. Hopefully Waid will have a similarly satisfying collaboration with British artist Barry Kitson when he takes over the art for issue #12.