By Will Corona Pilgrim, Andrea Di Vito, Laura Villari, and Travis Lanham
Doctor Strange has been a staple in Marvel comics for decades, but there is renewed interest in this character with the theatrical release coming up. The first issue of Doctor Strange: Mystic Apprentice goes all-in explaining the origin and early sorcery training of our beloved Master of the Mystic Arts. This issue is divided up between one large story of new content from the team of Pilgrim, Di Vito, Villari, and Lanham, but this issue also features two classic stories of Doctor Strange from comic legends Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Sam Rosen, and Terry Szenics. It’s unclear from the issue alone if this series will ever venture into modern story arcs featuring Doctor Strange, but it is interesting to see the Sorcerer Supreme as a student and the trials and tribulations that he faced.
This story is a nice reminder that even Doctor Strange started somewhere before he became a master, but it does not do a whole lot to add to our character we know and love. Pilgrim does succeed in creating a story one could imagine a parent sharing with a child new to comics. This story is completely family friendly, with a main story that is centered on Doctor Strange failing to learn and execute a successful astral form. Which is kind of funny to witness this part of his learning, because the majority of Doctor Strange stories usually feature him seamlessly projecting his astral form at some point. Watching Doctor Strange train in weapon combat, study ancient texts, and seek out help from masters of the mystic arts is vastly different from the usual assured and confident Doctor Strange we know. There is some deeper context filtered into this story from Pilgrim, where Strange’s past is continuing to cause him to lose focus and lose faith in himself.
Maybe family friendly does not translate into a good Doctor Strange comic, or at least one that builds on and adds to his character. Sure, we got some more pieces to add into his origin and help show his hidden insecurities about his past, but this could have been so much more. Keeping a T+ rating on a comic does not necessarily mean that it has to lose all depth to the characters and story. Pilgrim does a valiant effort to try to appease readers of all ages and comic knowledge, but it was more fulfilling to reread some of the old stories from Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
The art in this book is really refreshing, it has the feel of a Saturday morning cartoon. We get art from Di Vito, colors from Villari, and letters from Lanham. The character design of a young Doctor Strange is really interesting because part of the character design of the current character is that he is older, and mature. The younger version still has the grey side patches, but has a face without the age and worry we usually find on Doctor Strange. The pages are full of characters and facial expressions with bright backgrounds. There is great details in the pages and panels of the library, the books and colors really help create a richness that help create the mystic aura.
Doctor Strange is a well-respected character that has a vast history in Marvel comics; he was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko after all. As we now await his cinema debut, we can expect the mountain of comic titles and crossovers to begin once his popularity takes off. This series promises to be the calm before the storm, the required reading for comic fans to say they liked Doctor Strange ‘before it was cool.’ Doctor Strange: Mystic Apprentice #1 is a nice romp through the early days of Doctor Strange before he learned how to master the mystic arts. There may have been some high expectations regarding this title, but this is a story that can appease readers of all ages and comic exposure, and may not have been intended for the more mature Doctor Strange readers. This is a great diving board for new comic readers for a starting point of Doctor Strange and it also is a must read for die-hard Doctor Strange fans who want to know all aspects of his origin.