Friday, January 12, 2007

The once and future Queen - Part Two : The bad

Now it´s back to comics again. I don´t know if I will do an all video post again. I thought it would take less time but as it turned out that took just as long as a normal post about comics. So if I ever do another one depends on your comments ( you know that you can post comments, right ? ) or if I ever feel like it.

In my first post about Green Arrow I started to rant a little and I didn´t get to say all the things I wanted to say. So before we come to the ugly part of the Green Arrow series there are a few things I have to get of my chest about Mike Grell´s series. First of one of the best things in the series was the relationship between Green Arrow and Black Canary. Or more between Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance. Because Black Canary does not appear in the series for a very long time. Judging by the readers response a few readers thought that it took Dinah too long to get back to her alter ego. For my taste it takes her just long enough. When a person has a traumatic experience like Dinah had during LONGBOW HUNTERS it just takes time before they become comfortable again going around doing their superheroing thing. The transition from not being able to cope with it at all to the point where she becomes confident again was done very gradually and efficiently.

There are also some people who complain about the intimate scenes between Ollie and Dinah but this is a normal, adult relationship. Maybe there was a time where it was not possible to show what happens between a man and woman but that is definitely in the past. As long as it´s in good taste and not just there as reader service. Speaking about good taste : one of the most difficult tasks in comics is talking about important political or environmentally issues without becoming preachy and pointing fingers. Not so on this book. Mike Grell pulls it off with such ease it´s amazing. Not for one moment you have the feeling of some guy preaching on his soapbox.

Another underlying theme of the series ( beside the Robin Hood mythology ) is the art of archery and what makes a hunter. While the esoteric side of archery are more explored in the issues that continue the story of Shado the theme of Oliver being more a hunter than a normal superhero who is just reactive makes up some of the best issues. Because Mike Grell ( who to my understanding has some experience with archery ) sees the potential in this uniqueness and plays off it with scenes where Oliver uses his knowledge as a hunter to catch his prey - which for the most part is human. So intead of waiting for his opponent to strike he starts by studying him. Finding out what he hunts and why. Finding out where he hunts and when. And then finding out where he eats and sleeps. And then he just lays a trap and waits for his prey to get caught. Which not only makes total sense but when you begin to think about it you ask yourself : why has nobody ever thought of this before ? And this is how you recognise pure genius.

Speaking of Shado : her story is one of the best part of the book not only because of the story itself. But also because of the interaction between her and Green Arrow, her becoming the Ying to his Yang. They have really different approaches to shooting arrows which in turn shows how much philosophy can be behind it. The only thing that bugs me is that I never found out what happened to the child Shado and Ollie have.

So if you find any of this issues in the dollarbin just do what I did : grab as much of them as you can find. It´s totally worth it. This series has carte blanche in my book. It´s all good.

But, like we learned on Star Trek : Next Generation, all good things must end. Case in point : Mike Grell´s tenure as writer on Green Arrow. And let me tell you this : after Mike Grell leaves, the series turns into a complete different beast. Although Jim Aparo took over the art chores the stories were not of the same quality as before. The low point of the whole series was that terrible story that killed of Green Arrow. Now, I don´t possess the particular issues but to my knowledge Ollie was strapped to a bomb on an airplane. And the only way Superman could have saved him would have been to cut one of his arm off the bomb with his heat vision. Which for Green Arrow seemingly was a far worse fate than death. Because life would be too depressing for an one armed archer. So the plane exploded and that was the end of Green Arrow.

Is it just me or do superhero archers die in the worst and most ridiculous manner ? Okay, let´s take a closer look.

Hawkeye : when the Avengers have their worst day ever because the Scarlett Witch has a mental breakdown, who turns out to not possess the mutant power to affect probabilities but much rather the mutant power to rearrange reality because suddenly Dr. Strange destroys years of continuity proclaiming chaos magic as a total sham, a lot of Avengers bite the dust and Hawkeye flies to an alien spaceship that explodes because his quiver is on fire igniting all his explosive arrows and he is just to stupid to take the damn thing off to save his life.

Green Arrow : when terrorists manage to attach Oliver Queen to a bomb on an airplane, rather than getting his arm cut of Ollie goes down in a blaze of glory.

Yup, looks like not only DO writers hate archers, their demise always include pretty stupid stories, superheroes behaving totally out of character and flying things blowing up. And in the case of Green Arrow insult is added to injury because it´s Superman letting Ollie die. And that´s something I will never buy in a million years. Especially Superman would not let Ollie die. I mean we´re talking about the big blue, the one who cherishes life like no other. If he really could not have argued Green Arrow to let him be saved ( which I really doubt ) he would have saved him from himself. Because sometimes things look so bleak that the person in question doesn´t see a way out. And if you are a real friend you prevent that person from doing something really stupid. Like getting blown up by a bomb. Which Superman would have done.

And what about Ollie himself ? Somehow I can´t believe he would throw away everything he has - his friends, his relationship with Dinah and his whole life - just because he may never be able to shoot an arrow again. What about his sons ? What about Roy Harper ? There are other things in life even for a guy like Oliver. And it´s not like there are not other characters in the DC universe with artificial limbs, body parts or whole bodies. I mean, what about Cyborg from the Teen Titans ? You are bitching about loosing an arm ? One lousy arm ? Cyborg has two mechanical arms, two mechanical, that dude is missing half of his face...half of his brain now that I think about it. You never heard him going : dude, that´s just too much. Pull the plug, man, I´m just no use to anyone.

There are a lot of people who have lost a limb or two. Like soldiers or cancer patients or people who just had some sort of traffic accident. It´s not the end of the world and it is not the end of life. The whole idea just sounds so stupid to me. Like some people who think that they will not be granted access to the afterlife if they are missing body parts. It´s just another example that comics can be fantastic but when they are bad they can be really bad.

And yes, if you haven´t guessed it already we have now gotten to the " bad " part of the Green Arrow series. Because dying was not the end of the Green Arrow title. It seems that at that time a few superheroes were replaced by hollow, boring pretenders who only seem to have in common that they were younger than the originals. So like Kyle Rayner replaced Hal Jordan the same thing happened on the Green Arrow book where Oliver Queen was replaced by Connor Hawke. Who I always thought was the son of Green Arrow and Shado. Turns out that is not true and besides Dinah and Shado there was ( at least ) a third woman Green Arrow has exchanged body fluids with. Damn, this Oliver Queen fellow should have been called Horny King instead. Who knows how many illegitime children of him are on the planet right now ?

Connor Hawke grew up in a monastery ( probably to ensure he does not turn out like his old man ) and took over the mantle of Green Arrow when he got news of Ollies death. I never read many of the books, mostly because that sounded too much like ARCHER & ARMSTRONG from Valiant comics - only without Armstrong. The whole " naive young and innocent guy who grew up in a monastery where he became a martial arts master gets out in the real world and all the ladies fawn over him because of his boyish charms " spiel has been done to death in this series. So it didn´t make much sense to me to buy a comic that does the same thing - without Barry Windsor Smith doing the art. In my opinion you can skip the whole part with Connor Hawke and get right to the next highlight : Kevin Smith.

Known for cool indie movies and huge deadline problems on series like Daredevil and Spider - Man / Black Cat Kevin Smith resurrected the whole Green Arrow franchise. He brought Oliver Queen back from the death and rescued the comic book from comic limbo. The first two storylines by Kevin Smith are pure comic gold. Even with Phil Hester´s art. But to make up for this we got beautiful covers by Matt Wagner. Of course that could also not last for long. After Kevin Smith left Brian Meltzer took over who obviously has a deep love for Green Arrow despite the fact that I didn´t enjoy his issues much. To me the first story for Green Arrow by Brad Meltzer was just a nice roadmovie in comic book format with a really annoying ending. I don´t want to spoil too much ( yeah, good luck with that. the issues came out five years ago ) but when I read a long story only to find out in the end that the main character is a dick I feel cheated. That is not what I want to hear. Sorry.

So after that the stories became worse, the art became worse and I left the book. Until ONE YEAR LATER. Normally my younger brother is the one who buys all the comics by Scott McDaniel and I get to read his copies. But after the last three stints of McDaniel have become shorter and shorter he just felt it wasn´t worth the trouble so I got the issues because the story really intrigued me.

My brother really likes his art but for only six or five issues it´s just not worth it to put it on the pull list and then to put it off the pull list. Well, life is what happens while you are making other plans. So far Scott McDaniel has drawn 10 issues and the newest issue in Previews also announces art by him. Which would be more than a whole year. Yepp, just to spite my brother. But that will be part three of the big Green Arrow retrospective and I will cover that in my next post.

As a verdict the Green Arrow issues by Kevin Smith are required reading for any Green Arrow fan, the issues by Brad Meltzer are more of a hit and miss thing so you should check them out and see if you like them.

Now if you don´t want to have gaps in your collection you can buy the following issues but I cannot recommend them. The issues I read I can´t recommend because they are just too bad and the ones I didn´t read I can´t recommend because I just don´t know if they are any good. Maybe I missed some pretty intruiging stories with the return of Dr. Light to his old status and wanting revenge but who knows ? The covers by Mr. Jeanes look pretty cool - that´s for sure.

The Connor Hawke issues on the other hand have only interest for Green Arrow completionists.

So that´s all for today. In the next post we will examine what happens when superheroes tread on really dangerous ground : politics.

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    Saturday, January 06, 2007

    The once and future Queen - Part One : The good

    Public service announcement : It seems the pictures to the post from yesterday look kind of wonky if you are using internet explorer. Just open them up in a new window and they should show all right. Since Yesterday´s post was a little short I´m writing about a longer topic Today.

    I´m still catching up on my reading material. One of the things I just read is the new GREEN ARROW storyline in particular issues 60 to 68. Which has something to do the fact that on the last few comic conventions I frequented I found some of the issues from Mike Grell´s GREEN ARROW series. After reading GREEN ARROW - LONGBOW HUNTER I always wondered why DC never made an ongoing series with that much potential. Well, it looks like there WAS a series but it never reached Germany. So I found over 40 issues in a dollarbin in Erlangen and have been hunting for more issues on every comic convention since. Reading so much of this old series brought up the question if comics are better now - or not. But because I wanted to compare the old series with the new series it has taken quite some time to get to the new issues. But luckyly I made some notes I can work from because this post has been in the works for a lot of time. So let´s start and hope I can cram all of it in one post.

    It is a common statement that comics now are better both storywise and artwise than before. I´ve heard it since I started going on message boards and I´m still hearing it today. I have never beeen one who buys into this whole " nostalgia " argument that declares that people, who like the older series better than the new series, do only because of the " nostalgia factor". Because that´s what they grew up with and what they associate with the happy times of their childhood. And that is the main reason why they liked the old series better - not the fact that they were INDEED better.

    Another thing I noticed is that a lot of comic writers or comic artists seem to be ashamed to work in comics. Not on a conscious level but more on a subconscious level and this manifests itself in the way that they rather try to imitate movies than to use the strenghts of comic books uniqueness. They don´t want to use soundwords, they don´t want to use thought balloons, they don´t want to use captions. Yes, it´s right that in bad comics there was dialogue that was redundant and only there to give the readers necessary information. But most of the time that only happened in bad comics. And that should really not be the standard for comic book pros. Yes, if you use soundeffects wrong or too much it distracts from the reading experience. But if you use it right it can give better results than any movie could give you. Because no other medium can make you SEE sound. It´s another way of graphic expression and can add as much - if not more - to the mood of a comic than the pictures. Just study the great masters like Will Eisner, Frank Miller or Walt Simonson and see what they could do with it. The same goes for the captions that under a master of his craft can elevate a simple comic book to a form of prose. They are not only there for giving the readers information.

    Which brings us to the absurd effects it has when writers put too much effort to avoid soundeffect, thought ballons or captions. I don´t know, but for me it´s not more realistic to have a character say : " Oh, the phone is ringing. " than to show it with a soundeffect - especially if he is all alone. Because I never say that and I´ve never seen anyone else do it. It only makes sense if the person is not alone. And even then it is not as effective as a storytelling tool to use dialogue than to use soundeffects. Imagine a scene where a person sits in a chair and says in every second panel : " The phone is ringing. " until at the end of the page the person jumps up in a fit of rage and shouts : " Dammit, won´t somebody answer the bloody phone already ? " In this scene we stay an impartial observer and can´t really take the place of the main character. But now imagine the same scene and instead of the dialogue the information that the phone is ringing is transported to the reader via soundeffects. At first the ring - ring of the phone is tiny and pretty normal looking but with each panel the letters get bigger and bigger, the letters are not so smooth and more jagged and spiked and the color changes from blue to violet to red. Now you as the reader are much more involved and you have the same feeling as the main character when he finally snaps and jumps up shouting. But this post is not about the use of soundeffects or captions so let´s get back to Green Arrow.

    Well, I have read both - the GREEN ARROW series by Mike Grell and the new GREEN ARROW by Judd Winnick and Scott McDaniel. So I thought it would be interesting to compare the two series and see if it is possible to find out which one is the better book. Before I start I want to stress to all the " nostalgia " preachers that this was my first exposure to the series by Mike Grell. Sorry, that´s not going to work so don´t even think about bringing that up. I read the GREEN ARROW LONGBOW HUNTERS miniseries ( which is a requirement for every superhero comic reader ) but during the flood of new titles the follow up series of GREEN ARROW never made it on my pull list. At that time I was just beginning to discover american comics and finding out how many books there really were and how many companies. Many who are not around anymore like FIRST, comico or Fleetway.

    So I can really take an objective look at the series because not only are all the isues totally new to me but I also was reading comics at the time they were coming out. So no second - hand experiences or speculations about the surroundings of the series. I lived through the times and can provide an first - hand account.

    Oliver Queen a.k.a. Green Arrow was always the one guy where everyone said : What´s this guy doing in the Justice League ? He´s not big in the power departement what´s he good for ? In a world with superfast scarlet speedsters, green galactic gladiators and alluring amazonian ambassadors it takes big cojones to say : I can do that with only a bow and some arrows. Oliver Queen was always more of the McGyver of the team ( although most Green Arrow fans were not so keen on his trick arrows ) and that part was never highlighted in the JLA stories. Most of the time the writers were too busy making Batman look good and he in the end was always the guy throwing some stuff together instead of the emerald archer.

    But when you really think about Oliver Queen he is a guy who survived on a desert island with only his two hands and whatever he could build with them - like a bow and arrows. The ultimate fixer who became one of the world´s best archers by teaching himself. Normally there should have been more scenes in the pages of Justice League that showed this side of Ollie. The scene I´m picturing would be like this : The Justice League is trapped. Jonn Jonnzz is surrounded by fire, Superman under green kryptonite or a red sun and Batman is drugged and unconscious and earth five minutes away from destruction. Green Lantern says : " I can´t get us out. Everything in here is yellow. We´re all going to die. "

    And then Green Arrow says : " Don´t worry. I ´ve got an arrow. " and he pulls a McGyver and saves all their asses.

    Another thing that shows the size of his balls is his " secret identity ". Which is virtually nonexistent. I mean, it´s not like anybody on the face of the earth can be fooled by the fact that Green Arrow and Oliver Queen have the same goatee, look like twins and just happen to live in the same city. Ollie just doesn´t cave. He´s like : " I´m not him. I am......somebody else. That´s my story and I´m going to stick to it. " though everybody knows he´s Green Arrow. I mean if you look at it all a hero with a secret identity CAN do is saying : " No, that´s not me. " and keep on denying it. Because if Oliver Queen really was Green Arrow wouldn´t he try to hide his features more when parading as a superhero ? Wouldn´t he wear more than a simple mask if it wasn´t just a one - in - a - million - coincidence that he just happens to look exactly like a certain bowslinging superhero ? So Oliver Queen has either the best or the worst secret identity ever. And he´s either the slyest bastard to roam god´s green earth or the most irreverent and carefree crimefighter. " Yeah, yeah, got your secret identity right here. Got myself a domino mask. Can we get on with the crime fighting ? " For all the shortcomings and squandered story possibilities the ONE redeeming quality of Green Arrow was his social awareness after he lost most of his fortune. Maybe that really was his superpower. Captain Mar - Vell was " cosmically aware " - Green Arrow was " socially aware " which let him stand out a little from the other heroes throwing around phrases like " capitalist fatcats " and " sticking it to the man " and such. That´s a big part of the success of the GREEN LANTERN / GREEN ARROW series by Denny O Neill and Neal Adams which cemented his character for all future generations. Like Hawkeye in the Avengers he´s always the one making trouble. Maybe it has something to do with archers always having a point.

    The GREEN ARROW series written by Mike Grell with art by Ed Hannigan and various others started in 1987 and followed the hugely successfull GREEN ARROW LONGBOW HUNTERS three issue prestige format miniseries written and drawn by Mike Grell. If you are a Green Arrow fan you already know this comic and sing it´s praises on a daily basis. If you don´t know the comic.....stand up and get it RIGHT NOW ! What the hell are you doing reading the musings of this old comicgeek about two Green Arrow series when you still haven´t read the effing best Green Arrow story - EVER ? I mean how do you expect to set a standard for Green Arrow comics without the ultimate benchmark - the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be ? So stop reading my blog ( nooo, only for now !!! I need my three readers ! Come back ! ) go out and get LONGBOW HUNTERS. I´ll just wait....

    Okay. Now, wasn´t that just great ? Okay, back to topic. In the ongoing series Mike Grell was still writing but he was substituted by Ed Hannigan and a lot of others during the series. The approach to Green Arrow was a more realistic, urban kind of superhero which was influenced by the success of characters in the cinema at that time like Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry or Charles Bronson in Death Wish. Costumewise the sleek costume with the hat and the long gloves was dumped in favor of a hooded and more functional costume. The design clearly was influenced by the Robin Hood mythology which is something every good comic writer should use when working on the character. It´s the one guy in world literature he has the closest ties to. And there are some issues where Mike Grell does it excellently.

    In the beginning of the series Oliver and Dinah are still struggling with the fallout from Dinah´s torture and abuse ( not rape although that is what most readers instantly implied ) in LONGBOW HUNTERS. The fact that Dinah was tortured but not raped shows that the writer wanted to address the topic of violence against women without falling into the stereotype of rape. It IS one of the worst things that can happend to a woman but sadly it is not the only thing. So in order to deal with this problem they seek out a professional. And by that I don´t mean that they go on a spiritual walkabout with Jonn Jonnz or experience different possible futures via a psychomindreality machine or take up tantric sex lessions with Zatanna ( although that comic would have sold extremely well ! ). No, they do the reasonable thing and go to a psychatrist. Who as it turns out can identify with Dinah´s torment because a similar thing happened with her when she was a child. Turns out her attacker is about to be released from prison which turns into the first storyline about the differences of justice, vigilantism and the legal system. About where one thing ends and the next one starts, what are the uses and the flaws of them and what do you do when all of it just fails ? These things are recurring themes throughout the whole series and Oliver ( and other characters in the series ) has to deal with this issues constantly. He has to see different sides of him through Shado, the woman from LONGBOW HUNTERS, who is just like him in some aspects and very different in others or the assasin Eddie Fyres ( his name is spelled differently in a few occasions ) who crosses his paths a few times and is like a look through a black mirror showing what Oliver might turn into.

    A lot of the characters throughout the series are morally ambiguous and very difficult to define as good or bad. Like the cop who faked evidence to put a killer behind bars only to find out that another killer was never caught who has been killing ever since. Or in the story where a rapist is released from prison and everyone knows he´s going to do it again but nobody knows what to do to prevent him from committing further crimes. This series is about the hard topics and the tough choices and there are a few instances where Green Arrow is forced to take a life to save others. And it´s not easy for the reader to judge his actions because you don´t really know what you would have done in his situation, what you would do in the real world.

    Politics and social issues are a big part of this series. If you are one of the comic readers who think that comic books are just uncomplicated escapism and that they should not deal with real life than this is definitely the wrong book for you. Because the Oliver Queen in this series is entrenched in realism. He´s flawed, he makes mistakes and when he´s been in a fight he has the bruises to prove it. And he ages. One of the things I liked best about this series was the fact that Oliver ages through the course of the series. Not all superheroics are done by young, impressionable teenagers. Some are done by cynical old farts who know every dirty trick in the book. Ollie starts just before becoming 40 and by the last issues I´ve read he has passed the 50s. So the comic takes place almost in real time - many years before SAVAGE DRAGON or 24.

    The topics that are explored in the series are terrorism ( like the IRA ), gay bashing, prison rape, AIDS, sexual assault and torture, poachers and the extinction of whole species for ivory, ecological disasters, corrupt government agencies, drug traffic, gang turf wars and the Yakuza - some of them too hot for todays comics. Being a " Suggested for Mature Readers " title the series doesn´t shy away from any topic or the graphic depiction thereof - without turning into exploitation. One of the big debates in the lettercolumns ( which help a great deal if there are gaps in your collection ) revolves about nudity and I have to say in the few instances I have seen it it was always done tastefully. You know it´s there to serve the story and not to give the reader a cheap thrill. No matter how much we may whish that more comic artists would go : " Screw that, I´m just going to draw 22 pages of naked booty. Because I can. " Or was that TAROT ?

    Another big topic in the letter pages are the trick arrows and some writers make good arguments for them and others against them. Which shows why good letter pages add to comic series and it was just plain stupid when the big two decided to get rid of them. Because it just broadens the reading experience. You can read intelligent discussions about the topics that are presented in the comics, you can read different opinions or read how someone more eloquently brings your thoughts to paper. Or you can see things or points of the comic you missed.

    Now on the art side I have to say that I was not very happy to find out that Mike Grell was not doing the interiors ( though he does provide some terrific covers ). But the artists that do the art are all good artists in their own right and thankfully don´t try to copy Mike Grell. The artists are Ed Hannigan, Dan Jurgens, Denis Cowan and some others. Ed Hannigan in particular develops into quite the master storyteller in these pages. It is quite a shock to realize how much the storytelling is the center and the main focus of this series compared to nowadays. There are often long passages whithout words that give the story room to breathe. While Dan Jurgens´ art in the issues clearly shows the improvement he has made in human anatomy over the years it is also evident that his composition has become formulaic and less innovative in the later part of his career. Dennis Cowan was never a favorite of mine but his work in the pages of this pages looks like a cross between Klaus Janson and Scott Eaton, combining the best of two worlds. One of my favorite issues artwise is issue 8 by fill - in artist Paris Cullins who draws the second part of the story taking place in Alaska with a clean style that reminds me of the BATMAN ADVENTURES. Most stories are done in two issues with a few three- or four - parters which gives the stories more room to breathe. Instead of the approach comic writers take nowadays to stretch all stories out to six issues because than they can be sold better as a trade Mike Grell takes the necessary issues to tell the stories. No matter if that is one issue, two or four which makes for a great reading experience. And better than many books on the stands today. By far the best GREEN ARROW I have read.

    If you want to read something more specific about the single issues and are not afraid of spoilers here are reviews of the first 12 issues from Jayme Lynn Blaschke´s Unofficial Green Arrow shrine

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  • That´s all we have time for today. Tomorrow I will add some comments to this post or begin with part two.

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    Friday, January 05, 2007

    The Doctor is IN

    Well, a happy new year to all readers of Tales from the Kryptonian.

    It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. Which means for this blog more problems because we switched the internet provider which was not without problems and left us without telephone and internet connection for more than one week.

    Which gave me some time to write and read although I didn´t catch up with my reading as much as I had hoped which means that for the foreseeable future you will not find the latest and hippest and newest reviews of comics. But that´s not why you come here anyway. You can find better and more up - to - date news on newsarama or comicbookresources. Since this blog is going more in the direction of particular storyarcs and away from the monthliy reading material I have decided to place the names of the creative teams on top of my comments as part pf the reader service. I hope it helps some. And I will try to post more often even if it means getting shorter posts. I´m thinking about doing one post purely with clips found on you tube and such but I´m still undecided. So let´s get right to today´s reading material :

    Dr Strange The Oath 1 to 2

    Story : Brian K. Vaughan, Art : Marcos Martin, Inks : Alvaro Lopez

    Dr. Strange is one of the most popular and interesting characters in the Marvel Universe but it seems that most writers have problems writing him. It´s been ages since the sorcerer supreme has had a decent miniseries. There was one under the Marvel Knights banner with art by Tony Harris ( the last issues were done by Paul Chadwick ) that started good but fizzled at the end. The hope of comicfans was sparked when JMS announced a new miniseries who apparently was a big fan of the character judging by the many guest apperances he gave him during his Spider - Man run but the end result was a total failure almost as bad as Spider - Man : Chapter One. Despite the great art by Brandon Peterson all the series did was try to reimaging the origin of Dr. Strange and delivering a total carwreck of a story which was more complicated than the original - and less dramatic. Because let´s face it : the one thing that´s so great about the characters of the Marvel Universe is they have timeless origins that don´t need to be updated. In the case of Dr. Strange : the country´s greatest surgeon ( who is also an arrogant moneygrubbing bastard ) has a car accident that destroys his ability to operate forever. His life in shambles he tries every doctor, vodoo witch or quack on the planet to find a cure. When he finally hits bottom he follows the whispered rumor of the ancient one who supposedly lives in Tibet. What he finds instead is a new meaning for his life when he becomes the ancient one´s apprentice and finally the sorcerer supreme of this reality. Now that´s not exactly brain surgery, is it ?

    The tricky part is when it comes to an ongoing series or miniseries. For the most part Dr. Strange´s role in the Marvel Universe is to be the specialist for anything magic or as a deux ex maquina who arrives at the last moment and saves the day. Or he suddenly turns up at the Avengers door declaring that there is no such thing as Chaos Magic contradicting years of continuity and himself in the process. But what the heck, all´s fair if it helps us kill Hawkeye. With all the movies that are made now about Marvel Heroes I always wondered why there is not a DR. STRANGE - THE MOVIE being made. I mean if BUFFY, ANGEL or BEWITCHED has shown us something it is that today´s tv viewers like magic - or like it is called today : mystery. A Dr. Strange movie or tv series could be the biggest thing ever.

    Like I said Dr. Strange seems to suffer from the Superman syndrome - because he can do almost everything most writers don´t know what to do with him. Not so Brian K. Vaughan, who not only seems to be a connoiseur of Dr. Strange but who also has come up with an interesting story idea. He manage to write an appealing and entertaining story and additionally delivers the best Dr. Strange I´ve read in a long time - by concentrating on the man and not on the magician. And he manages to show the cool side of Wong who for most writers is more of a butler and servant but here turns into the Green Hornet´s Kato. Did I mention the comic has Night Nurse in it ? Seems she is popping up in more comic books lately after her appearance in Daredevil. Maybe Marvel HAS learned a thing or two in the last year and is not only spotlighting the most popular characters but also the ones with most potential.

    On the art we have Marcos Martin. The last series I read of him was BATGIRL : YEAR ONE one of the most brilliant miniseries of the last few years....despite the fact that Batgirl who was always bigger than Robin suddenly is to short to become a police officer - which may be okay for comic readers who have never read a Batman comic before. But if you´re a longtime reader it´s like the Joker getting a tan or Batman revealing he is Tim Taylor of home improvement. Wait, wasn´t that the punchline of NO MAN´S LAND ? Anyway, I like to call that series " The little Batgirl that could ". Despite this one little flaw it´s really one of the best series of the last few years featuring the OB ( original Batgirl ) and not this sorry excuse for a sidekick Cassandra that has been getting on everyones nerves. Marcos showed a great level of craftmanship and a real knack for solid and dynamic design paired with a good feeling for storytelling. And it seems he has improved since then.

    In this series Marcos manages to give the comic a contemporary look while keeping classic elements of the Dr. Strange comics by Steve Ditko and Gene Colan. He´s as good at drawing the magical, strange dimensions of magic than at depicting the suburban streetstyle underbelly of Greenwich Village. At least that´s what I think since I haven´t really been there myself.

    If you are a fan of Dr. Strange you should give this series a try. And if this is your first encounter with the good doctor you couldn´t have come to a better place.

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