I’ve always believed that Doctor Strange was Marvel’s most tragically underutilized character. Where most are tied down to the continuity of a single universe, here we have a massively powerful being whose mere will is the only thing holding our universe together. There were millions of stories that could be told with him, ranging from the dramatic to the horrific to the bizarrely surreal, but instead Marvel opted to constantly ignore his power and knowledge so that he would better fit into whatever mold they wanted him to fit into. By the point Strange lost his mantle to Brother Voodoo, it was mostly a mercy.
Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural takes some steps, at least, towards making the concept of Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme relevant again. Writer Rick Remender delivers a relatively solid issue of set-up introducing Earth’s new Sorcerer Supreme. Mixing voodoo terminology, monsters and culture together with the loosely-defined comic book mysticism of Doctor Strange is an interesting choice, but one that Remender makes work throughout the issue. The book’s biggest problem comes with Remender’s decision to completely forego anything like an explanation – having not read much Marvel lately, I had no idea when Voodoo got his doctorate, in what, or why… nor why Strange lost his mantle. And, more importantly to this issue, what’s the importance of the floating-ghost maybe-sorcerer?
Palo’s art is, for the most part, excellent. He handles the books multiple tones well, jumping ably between a horrific, voodoo-inspired monster and epic, dimensions spanning conflicts within a single issue. His designs are solid and imaginative, and he works well with colorist Beaulieu to create a few particularly striking images without resorting to over-posed figures that look clumsily traced. Perhaps his biggest flaw comes in his facial expressions: everyone in the issue looks either sad, angry, or transitioning from one to the other.
Overall, Doctor Voodoo, Avenger of the Supernatural is a promising opening issue. It glosses over it’s two main conflicts far more quickly than they deserve, and it does a terrible job of informing the new reader – which is doubly surprising given that it’s the first issue of a new series – but it is for the most part a solid, enjoyable issue of comics. The fact that Remender seems genuinely interested in mixing the epic mysticism of comic book magic with the earthy horror of voodoo bodes well for the book in terms of offering up fresh, inventive takes on characters and situations we’ve all seen before. A promising, if slightly flawed, start.
- Cal Cleary