Doctor Strange: Surgeon Supreme #2
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Kev Walker and Java Tartaglia
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Given his pedigree as the most psychedelic of Steve Ditko’s co-creations, it’s easy for a character like Doctor Strange to fall victim to the same malaise that has affected many superhero stories - leaning harder and harder into cosmic spectacle at the cost of that emotional human hook to make the whole thing feel relevant.
Yet even though their street-level high concept might seem counterintuitive for someone who wields the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak, Mark Waid and Kev Walker weave some unexpected magic in their sophomore issue of Doctor Strange: Surgeon Supreme, providing some real accessibility and warmth as the Sorcerer Supreme reconnects with ordinary human concerns – not to mention some powered-up bad guys.
But in a lot of ways, Waid and Walker lock into that key ingredient that’s made esoteric Marvel heroes resonate with millions of moviegoers — getting audiences invested by making the characters seem real and relatable. At the end of the day, while having Stephen Strange battle an upgraded Wrecking Crew isn’t the newest idea in the world, not only is that a very easy idea to convey to readers, but the villains are almost beside the point right now — instead, Waid is able to weave in exposition alongside Stephen’s new status quo as a surgical pinch-hitter at McCarthy Medical. Between having a fanboy assistant and a chief of staff who happens to be Doctor Druid, there’s enough interpersonal soap opera to make Strange feel three-dimensional, thoughtful, and sometimes even funny.
Of course, it helps to have someone as talented as Walker on the artwork. While I’d say that Java Tartaglia’s coloring feels perhaps a bit too overly bright and traditionally superheroic for my tastes — lots of energy, but arguably at the cost of mood — it still fits the overall uncomplicated tone that Walker and Waid have established for their story. While people probably will think Walker’s horror-tinged Wrecking Crew are the highlights of the book — and they do look spectacular, with liberal amounts of shading making their faces look even more malevolent — I’d say that Walker also does some great understated work with the expressiveness of characters like Stephen and Doctor Druid. Druid in particular straddles that fine line between looking evil and merely being an uncomfortable reminder of Stephen’s past, but by and large, Walker is a truly underrated artist putting out terrific work.
Underrated might be a word that I’d use to describe this entire book. I’ll admit I was as skeptical as anyone with the concept of Doctor Strange: Surgeon Supreme, in part because the idea of bringing Strange back to an operating room is not exactly the kind of revolutionary idea that sets the world on fire. But I’m glad I gave this book a try — whereas some of Waid’s previously magical and cosmic-oriented Strange stories have faltered a bit, bringing Strange back to basics has helped matters immeasurably, as well as giving him a co-pilot as fun to watch as Walker. While this probably won’t be a run that will define the character, Doctor Strange: Surgeon Supreme is some good, old-fashioned meat-and-potatoes superhero comics, and done well to boot — and it’s that level of quality that helps this magical doctor cut through the superhero doldrums.