Doctor Strange: Damnation #1
Writers: Nick Spencer & Donny Cates
Artist/Colors: Rod Reis
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy’s Travis Lanham
Cover artists: Reis (regular); Phil Noto; Ron Lim; Javier Garron; Greg Smallwood; and John Tyler Christopher, Alan Davis & Mark Farmer (variants)
Editor: Nick Lowe
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Price: $4.99 US
It was the cover and interior artwork that drew my attention to this four-part limited series. The number of Marvel titles I’ve been reading has diminished since the publisher stopped including digital download codes for the same copy in each title, but it’s since reinstated them. I decided to peruse the pages of this book, knowing nothing of the premise. I wish I hadn’t bothered. Writers Nick Spencer and Donny Cates offer a story delving Into the aftermath of the Secret Empire crossover event; it’s a puzzling move on Marvel’s part, given how unpopular Secret Empire was. Some of the ideas in this followup plot are interesting, but the execution is lacking and clumsy. The visuals are lovely but lacking in clarity as well.
When Hydra, led by an altered Captain America, conquered the United States, the biggest casualty of the war was the entire populace and landscape of Las Vegas. Joining several other heroes in the ruins all that once colorful city, Dr. Strange sets out to right that incredible wrong. He employs his powerful magic to resurrect the entire city and its people, but as the other heroes warn Strange, such sorcery comes at a high cost. Arriving to collect on that spiritual debt is none other than Mephisto, lord of the Underworld.
Easily the greatest strength of this comic book is the artwork of Rod Reis. His work here strikes me as a cross between the styles of Daniel Acuna and Phil Noto. The infernal color palette that dominates the latter part of the issue is incredibly effective at conveying the dire and otherworldly tone of developments, And I like the suit-clad design the artist developed for Mephisto as well. However, when it comes to the various methods of torment that Mephisto and his demons inflict on the people of Las Vegas, it’s often difficult to discern what’s going on.
What’s frustrating about this comic book is how the titular hero is portrayed as completely clueless. That Dr. Strange is surprised that his miraculous spell comes at a devilish price flies in the face of what we’ve seen the character espouse in the past. The non-magical heroes show appropriate concern and ethical qualms about Strange’s plans while the sorcerer seems to treat it like no big thing. Furthermore, granting strange the almost casual ability to resurrect an entire city and hundreds of thousands of people seems like a poor storytelling choice in the larger context of the Marvel Universe. The effect of this complete resurrection wouldn’t be limited to Las Vegas; it would transform the entire world. Structures of faith would crumble, and everyone who would ever lost anyone close to them would turn to Strange for a similar miracle. If Strange can bring an entire city back, he can do anything. I understand the purpose here is to clean up the mess of Secret Empire and restore the Marvel Universe back to a status quo, but doing so on the full view of the world defies credibility, even in the universe full of the impossible.
Another issue with the script and plot is the fact that they’re far too drawn out. Things play oout predictably, so the higher page count (and accompanying higher price) is completely unnecessary.
At first, I thought this was a major super-hero story that would be confined to this limited series, an approach of which I approve – an event that wasn’t a crossover. I was led to believe this by the fact that Dr. Strange held the sole top billing on the title,but at the end of the issue, I saw that Damnation will cross over into various other Marvel titles as well. Why Marvel chose to follow up an unpopular event book with another (albeit more limited in scope) event book is beyond me. 4/10