Doctor Strange #11
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Kevin Nowlan, Leonardo Romero and Jordie Bellaire
Letters by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Jason Aaron takes a low-fi approach to magic this week in Doctor Strange #11. In the aftermath of “The Last Days of Magic,” Stephen Strange finds himself ruminating on his rough and tumble origins while attempting to restore the world of magic that the Empirikul razed. Aaron’s wry voice for Strange is still very much intact in this eleventh installment, but his spell-slinging plotting has been replaced with a John Constantine-like tactility that is a welcome change of pace for the title.
As for the art, monster comic book mainstay Kevin Nowlan re-joins the title to add a lanky, Mike Mignola-esque look to the flashbacks that stand as an interesting contrast to the Chris Samnee-by-way-of-Fransesco Francavilla like pencils of Leonardo Romero; both of which are tied together by the rich colors of Jordie Bellaire. Though the world of magic has become a much darker place since the Empirikul’s crusade, Doctor Strange #11 still stands a fun beacon of weirdness.
We open on Stephen Strange at rock bottom. Starting years ago, right after the accident that took his hands, Jason Aaron takes a gritty, Irvine Welsh-like look at Strange before his fateful trip to Tibet. Desperate for a quick fix, he shoots up mutant growth hormone in a back alley only to end up half dead in a dumpster. Cutting to the present day, Aaron gives us a different, more hopeful kind of rock bottom for Strange, as he, Wong, and Zelma find themselves at the forefront of a new world of magic, one they have to build from the ground up.
As far as plots go, its refreshingly small after the dizzying heights of “The Last Days of Magic.” This downshift also allows Aaron to not only engage in some much needed table setting as to the state of Strange and magic after the previous arc, but also gives him an opportunity to allow a sort of soft reset of Strange for new readers. With the flashbacks to his origins and his conflict with Mordo as well as his new street level take on facing magical threats, which gives #11 one of the funniest and most badass panels of his tenure, Strange becomes a character that is much more malleable then he’s been in years while still keeping in tone with the wry, dogged magician that he started the title with. Though the aloof, self-important mage might still be the first thing readers think of when they think of Doctor Strange, Jason Aaron’s bat wielding, sharp tongued magus is quickly becoming the far more entertaining norm.
While Jason Aaron delivers a plot that details both Strange’s past and present, artists Kevin Nowlan and Leonardo Romero lean into the shifting time frames to deliver an interesting visual contrast. Nowlan, an artist known for his beautifully grotesque style, handles the past and acquits himself admirably to the grimy streets and to the arcane heights of the Himalayas, his lithe and expressive character models shining throughout.
In the present, Leonardo Romero’s intimate, almost realist style reigns as Strange tries to get through his day and face threats with a more melee style. While not as specifically stylish as Nowlan, Romero’s mixing of down to earth visuals and heady phantasmagoria seen through Strange’s third eye is a nice mixing of the normal and the weird; something that will always be welcome in a title like Doctor Strange. Both artists’ pages are bolstered by the on point colors of Jordie Bellaire, who continues to deliver bold choices that keep in line with the tone of whatever scene she is rendering, giving Doctor Strange #11 a wide array of prismatic depth.
Even if you didn’t catch the epic “Last Days of Magic”, Doctor Strange #11 still offers a fun and engaging entry point into the world of the fallen Sorcerer Supreme. Armed with wit and a magic ball bat, Jason Aaron provides an engaging dual look at the magician and sets the title up to head in more interesting directions after going big and bold with the first arc. Artists Kevin Nowlan and Leonardo Romero, along with Jordie Bellaire, bring Aaron’s double-tracked plot to life with their own stylish duality and sharp color palette. The road ahead will be hard for Stephen Strange, but he still invites us to walk it with him, one spell at a time.