Doctor Strange #17 // Review
Doctor Strange has to repair the entirety of the Marvel Universe. He’s doing so with the express permission of Eternity and the Living Tribunal: possibly the two most powerful entities in the whole of the Marvel Universe. They’ll be watching him as he goes to work. So...y’know...no pressure or anything like that. Writer Mark Waid continues to wind down the final issues of the current Doctor Strange series with an absurdly cosmic story drawn by Barry Kitson. The fate of the universe and Doctor Strange’s own life hang in the balance of the most dangerous bit of surgery he’s ever performed in a largely satisfying issue.
Recent events have popped Doctor Strange outside of the Marvel Universe. The whole of the Marvel Universe has, for lack of a better word, “crashed.” When a fundamental piece of the architecture known as Galactus got infected with magic, everything...crashed. And now Doctor Strange must petition the Living Tribunal itself to grant him the power to patch everything together. The whole of history needs to be patched together. Tempted though he might be to make things better, he cannot afford to, or hew will risk a dangerous instability. And then there’s the small matter of the devil who got him to where he was outside of everything and a certain debt that needs to be paid...
Cosmic stories of overwhelming importance to the whole of the universe are really, really difficult to pull off. They happen so often that it’s kind of weird that Marvel is still trying to pretend like the continuity is even important. In spite of this, Mark Waid manages to tell a really, really well-rendered story. About one surgeon performing an operation on the Marvel Universe that actually kind of feels every bit as monumental as it needs to. It’s a slow and well-executed story that has an emotional gravity to it. There’s very little innovation here, though. This sort of story has been told many, many times before over the past 50+ years in the Marvel Universe. Waid carries the tradition admirably in a story that doesn’t try to do too much.
Kitson finds a way to stage the monumental in clean, iconic symmetry. There are a few moments of genuine dramatic tension that are framed with care and precision, but it’s absurdly difficult to try to frame the cosmic scope of a story like this. A chapter largely set in an endless white void outside the Marvel Universe could have turned out very, very visually dull. While Kitson doesn’t exactly capture the full intensity of the ridiculous scale of the cosmic nature of what’s going on here. He brings it to the page with a clear sense of power and drama that capably carries the chapter from beginning to end.
Doctor Strange is beginning to settle down into the background of the Marvel Universe again. He’s had his series, and like the others before them, this one too will come to an end. This issue feels like a really solid ending to the current series. There are still three issues left in the run. It will be interesting to see how dramatic momentum moves in a final three Installments after the overwhelmingly cosmic events of this issue