Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Review- MARVEL MASTERWORKS: DOCTOR STRANGE VOL. 2



MARVEL MASTERWORKS: DOCTOR STRANGE VOL. 2 (Marvel, First Printing, 2013; Softcover)

Collects the Doctor Strange stories from Strange Tales #142-168 (cover dates March, 1966- May, 1968)

Writers: Stan Lee, Denny O'Neil, Roy Thomas, Raymond Marias, Jim Lawrence, and Dan Adkins with plots by Steve Ditko (#142-146)

Artists: Steve Ditko, Bill Everett, Marie Severin, and Dan Adkins, with Penciling by George Tuska and Inking by Herb Trimpe



Steve Ditko's legendary run on this title draws to a close in grand fashion four issues into this book, with the Dread Dormammu fighting Eternity. One could end their marathon there (as the recent Doctor Strange Omnibus does), but then you'd be missing out on some real treats. This was my first time reading this material and, dare I say it, the series actually improves once Ditko leaves the fold. All of his original concepts and designs are expanded on.

Bill Everett takes over the art with #147, and this is among his finest work. Everett is a legend who created the Sub-Mariner back in the late 1930s but is largely a footnote to modern comic fans. Kaluu looks like something out his Sub-Mariner run, and the follow up villain, Dormammu's sister Umar, could have come out of his 1950s Atlas Heroes revival.

Marie Severin takes over the art chores with #153, and while she is legendary for being the colorist for EC Comics and that iconic Hulk Annual cover (you know the one...), her artwork leaves me cold. To defeat Umar, Doctor Strange must release Zom, a ridiculous looking, supposedly unstoppable demon whose Achilles heel is embarrassingly easy for Doctor Strange to find. The Living Tribunal arrives at the end of issue 157. Herb Trimpe's inking helps save Severin's artwork beginning with that same issue and running through 160.



158 is where things really get cooking. Roy Thomas has arrived with thesaurus in hand to turn comic books into purple prose Shakespeare. The psychedelic elements are continually ramped up from one issue to the next, and it's easy to see why all of the 'heads loved this series in the '60s. Thomas brings back Baron Mordo, but it's Jim Lawrence who puts a cork in this arc with a battle between The Living Tribunal and yet another cosmic entity, Nebulos.

Dan Adkins arrives with #163, and he has a real wide angle psychedelic lens. Adkins out Ditkos Ditko. +covers face to shield self from stream of rocks and tomatoes+ I love the battle with Yandroth, Scientist Supreme, who uses advanced technology to battle Doctor Strange. I really love his robot, Voltorr (renamed Voltorg one issue later for no reason), because robots rule. And science meets magic resulting in a battle with a robot rules even more.

Since Strange Tales was a split book featuring two headliners, this strip is limited to 10 pages per issue. The shortened page count keeps things moving briskly, albeit in the same dense, meaty fashion that you'd expect from a Silver Age comic book.

Bill Everett rules. 


The entirety of this book has a sort of soap opera element with the Ancient One and Clea. Doctor Strange braves untold dangers across untold dimensions for this bird, and I hope that she's worth it. Doc's spent all 304 pages looking for her for crying out loud!
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.

The OCD zone- Softcover Masterworks are wider than a standard trade paperback. I was all over this line when it came out, buying everything that I had passed over in hardcover. Now the Epic line of books has filled that gap.
Linework and Color restoration: Marvel Masterworks are the Criterion Blu-Rays of collected editions, with top shelf restoration and a color palette faithful to the original comic books. Romanticists yearn for Ben Day dots and off register printing, but these were never artistic considerations, folks. They were charming byproducts of the limits of printing technology of the day. The original art (and by extension, film used on these books) didn't look like that. It's a real philosophical debate amongst collected edition sorts, and it's shaken out like this: If it's Marvel or DC you get full blown restoration. Expensive and time consuming but worth preserving history correctly. Dark Horse was in the game but has gotten out for the most part. Everyone else uses scans with varying degrees of tinkering. I'm done arguing about it. It all boils down to preference, and there are benefits and drawbacks to both presentations. Given the choice I'll stick with full blown restoration though.
Paper stock: Matte coated stock, the paper used in these books (as well as Epics) is my favorite.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover. 

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