Singles Going Steady is Comics Bulletin’s weekly reviews roundup
Doctor Strange #10
(W) Jason Aaron (A) Chris Bachalo and various inkers (C) Chris Bachalo with Rain Beredo (L) Cory Petit
This week’s issue of Doctor Strange concludes writer Jason Aaron and artist Chris Bachalo’s first big story on the series, “The Last Days of Magic”. It has been an expansive tale pulling from Doctor Strange’s long history, using a wide array of other Marvel superheroes, and fundamentally altering how magic works (at least briefly). The finale of the story doesn’t feel especially big though.
The plotting and narration of Doctor Strange #10 informs readers of the importance of what is occurring, but none of it is grounded in tone or character. At his apparently bleakest moment, Strange moves between despairing dialogue and Spider-Man-esque banter. Nothing feels especially dark because the three characters central to the final conflict are largely undeveloped. Both the “Thing in the Basement” and Imperator are character types and their fates feel inconsequential. Those fates and much of the action seem to be based on contrivance and convenience; what needs to happen, rather than what inevitably must happen.
Bachalo’s work is every bit as good here as it has been throughout the current volume of Doctor Strange. The “Thing in the Basement” comes out in a big way this issue and shows off how well the artist utilizes both design and space. It is a truly monstrous entity and the manner in which its death mask is used is as chilling as anything you’ll encounter in superhero comics this year. Relative size of characters and the space (or lack thereof) they occupy gives a clear sense of power dynamics and the ebb and flow of action. Special attention should be paid to letterer Cory Petit who melds his own balloons seamlessly with the most twisted of Bachalo’s panels. The reading experience is as smooth as could be imagined with artwork and dialogue twisting into one another in a visually pleasing and not-too-noticeable manner.
And so Doctor Strange #10 is an effective entertainment. The monsters are scary and the action is enjoyable enough. It lacks in impact in spite of the many consequences explained at its conclusion. Everything is terrible, but it rests on the foundation of a story that never gives you very many reasons to care. Reading this comic might be a fine way to spend a little time, but it will flicker out of your skull as quickly as it entered.
— Chase Magnett
4001 A.D.: War Mother #1 (Valiant Entertainment)
(W) Fred Van Lente, (A) Tomas Giorello, (C) Brian Reber, (L) Dave Sharpe
4001 A.D.: War Mother #1 is less a tie-in to Valiant’s 4001 A.D. event, and more a launching pad for the publisher’s shiny new toy. For those invested in 4001 A.D., this issue does little to further that narrative. It does, however introduce readers to War Mother, who scavenges the desolate world of the year 4001 to provide for her community. If the goal is to diversify Valiant’s lineup with another strong, female character, the creative team of Fred Van Lente, Tomas Giorello, and Brian Reber appear to succeed, at least in this one-shot.
If there’s one thing Fred Van Lente excels at, its writing interesting characters. And lately, with titles such as Book of Death: Legends of the Geomancer and Ivar, Timewalker, he has proven more adept at writing strong, empowered women. Though War Mother [for now] lacks the charisma and emotional depth of Neela from Ivar, she carries herself with a level of strength and empowerment that is captivating.
What makes Van Lente’s depiction of War Mother work is that he does not attempt to write her as a strong female character, but rather as just a strong character. She is hardened by the world she inhabits and is not bogged down by a male writer’s underhanded attempt to inject femininity into her personality. Her interactions with Falco – a living rifle – provide the issue with necessary levity without compromising her serious nature. If anything, they serve to reinforce it, though it does on occasion muck up the pacing.
Admittedly, I was disappointed upon turning past the first page to realize that David Mack served only as the issue’s cover artist. His painterly artwork is beautiful and makes the issue stand out among this week’s new releases, at least it did at my comic shop. Inside, Tomas Giorello and Brian Reber give the issue an aesthetic much more in line with Valiant’s house style. It’s not by any means bad, as is the case for nearly all of the publisher’s titles. And while it does not diversify the look of Valiant’s titles, Giorello’s art is servicable in fleshing out these issue’s characters and their world. Reber’s colors reflect the decay and rebirth that the world is simultaneously experiencing. Both lush and muted shades of green in particular serve as notice to the reader of this flux.
With 4001 A.D.: War Mother #1, Valiant appears to have finally found their Turok replacement, as those Gold Key characters are likely never returning to this universe. And that’s perfectly fine, as War Mother and her world are at first glance more interesting than the former. Though the issue itself is rather simplistic in its storytelling, it lays the necessary groundwork for a character that has the potential to be the most interesting of any offered by Valiant thus far.