By Frank Barbiere & Marco Rudy
New Avengers Annual #1 functions as a standard one-shot Annual issue normally does. This Annual focuses on one of the members of the New Avenger’s cast, the Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Strange. The story follows a young Stephen Strange attempting to save a man’s life through a dangerous surgery in conjunction with a present day Strange trying to exercise a demon from a young princess. Barbiere brings an impressive amount of depth to Strange in just one issue. Barbiere brings to life a young brash Strange as well as a wise and authoritative Sorcerer Supreme all in the same issue. Young Strange’s experiences inform the choices Strange makes in the future, gifting the reader with a better understanding of what drives Strange.
Barbiere ties the theme of Hickman’s New Avenger run into his characterization of Strange. Barbiere explores the price that Strange is willing to pay in order to saves others. This idea has permeated through Hickman’s use of heroes doing un-heroic things to save their world. Where often many Annuals lack any real connection to main series, this issue personifies the struggle faced by Hickman’s New Avengers.
Barbiere’s cerebral writing is matched by Marco Rudy’s mastery of the artistic medium. Rudy’s layout work is nothing short of breathtaking. Rudy’s artwork tells its own beautiful story on every page. Rudy gracefully moves in between artistic styles. It may take a second read through to catch everything put on the page by Rudy who effectively uses every ounce of space available to him. Rudy’s presentation of younger Strange’s story is warmer and poetic. Present day Strange by Rudy is chaotic, furious action spattered with brighter colors. Each page in New Avengers Annual would be the best page in another comic.
It does not take possessing the Eye of Agamotto to see how outstanding New Avengers Annual #1 is. Barbiere and Rudy craft an Annual that is a must buy for Strange fans and a must read for fans of what Hickman is doing in New Avengers.