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Off The Rack Comic Review: Dr. Strange – Damnation

August 2, 2020 | Posted by Rob Stewart
Dr. Strange - Damnation
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Off The Rack Comic Review: Dr. Strange – Damnation  

My house now has a steel cage, and that’s kind of neat.

In our eternal quest to make sure our cats can leads their best lives, my wife decided to buy some weird fence kind of material and cage in our front and back porches. Now that kitties can go outside with actually being able to GO anywhere.

It’s kind of weird looking, I’ll be honest. It looks like someone is imprisoning us in our home home. But I do also kind of want to go out and start dramatically raking someone’s head against it.

The cats, for what it’s worth, are evenly split. One is terrified of outside and won’t even entertain the idea of going to the porch. One loves it and will spend all day out there. The other enjoys it sometimes, but not very often.

You take what you can get.

TITLE: Dr. Strange: Damnation

Writer and Artist: Nick Spencer, Donny Cates, Rod Reis, and Szymon Kudranski

Publisher: Marvel

Protagonists: Dr Strange, Wong, Bats, Iron Fist, Moon Knight, Blade, Ghost Rider, Ben Reilly, Elsa Bloodstone, Man-Thing, Brother Voodoo.

Antagonists: Mephisto

Dr. Strange: Damnation takes place in the wake of Secret Empire—after Captain America was returned from the Cosmic Cube shard and Marvel’s heroes were trying to put the pieces all back together.

One of the “lasting effects” of Secret Empire (such as comics have lasting effects) was that Hydra Cap had destroyed Las Vegas, eradicating the city from the map and killing millions of innocents. Dr. Strange, not being a fan of “lasting effects” in the face of his vast magic, unilaterally decided to do something about that.

Apparently the good doctor had recently received a power boost in his own books. Full of his own righteous might, he saw no reason he couldn’t return the Nevada city AND its entire population.

A quick spell later, and it works! Lives and city restored, Stephen had saved the day.

Unfortunately, Vegas did not return alone. It brought literal hell with it.

Apparently after its demise, the entire city found itself in Mephisto’s Hell… and the king made it his new home. So when it came to Earth, Mephisto was along for the ride.

Emboldened by the power of sin city, Mephisto corrupted the Avengers present and went to war with Strange… a war he won.

With his influence spreading and Dr. Strange in great peril, it fell upon Strange’s former assistant, Wong, to step in and save the day. He forms a new Midnight Sons team of heroes who are used to conquering their own internal darkness and sets out to Vegas with a plan to defeat the devil.

For a four issues mini-series (though… more on that in a bit), there is a lot of talent involved. Both Nick Spencer and Donny Cates handle writing chores to start. Let’s talk about Spencer first. I’m typically a fan. Almost everything I’ve read of his, I have liked. His current tenure on Amazing Spider-Man has restored that title to greatness after years of being Slotted down. Superior Foes of Spider-Man was an A+ book. Secret Empire is wildly underrated. The Fix is a fun indie title.

There are definite moments in this series you know are Spencer’s. Blade and Elsa arguing over how successful Blade is (“I kill monsters. I don’t see a lot of vampires out there” “And you’re welcome for that”). Moon Knight has some great moments that you can tell are all Spencer. The guy is great at mixing stakes with humor, and I always appreciate that.

Cates meanwhile… I’ve never been too impressed by. He just feels like the median comic writer. Nothing is particularly memorable, either for bad or good. Guardians of the Galaxy was “meh”. Absolute Carnage was “meh”. In his most noteworthy book that I have read—Silver Surfer: Black—the art of Tradd Moore drastically overshadowed the writing. Cates seems to write serviceable and forgettable superhero books.

You know what I can definitively say I appreciate about Cates’ work on Damnation, though? There is no shoe-horning in of Cates’ pet project, Knull. I’m entirely bored of Generic Very Old And Evil Just Because Cosmic Villain #28 showing up in every single thing Cates writes. Can’t wait until Marvel has a whole event based around him in a few months. Ugh. But let’s not focus on that; no Knull here!

The art in Damnation was good. The problem was that Rod Reis only handled the first and final volumes; his art was terrific. I touched on this last week with Dean Ormston and Black Hammer, but Reis had a style that blended with the story brilliantly.

Kudranski wasn’t “bad” by any stretch, but I consistently wished Reis was doing the whole run. If Kudranski handled every issue, I would have been perfectly okay with that, but… don’t tease me by going back-and-forth, book!

My biggest complaint is that the damn title isn’t self-contained! There is a four issue Damnation series, but to get the “whole picture”, you need to also read Ben Reilly’s book, Ghost Rider’s book, Thor’s book, etc. What junk! I hate buying one title, opening the first few pages of a follow-up issue, and seeing that I have missed things by not buying another book I didn’t want. This crops up less and less since the 1990’s, but it still occasionally rears its ugly head.

Damnation does a solid job head-faking. It’s not REALLY a Dr. Strange book; it’s a Wong book. You get more characterization of Stephen’s long-suffering and perpetually-ignored sidekick, and we see him actually outperform his teacher. Add in the collection of under appreciated misfit heroes, and this is a decent mini.

Talking Point: I feel like people forget Wong exists half the time, even if the MCU has done right by him, at last. Who are some of the other sidekicks and apprentices in comics who don’t get their due?

That’s enough homework, though. If you liked this article, check out Ghosts of the Stratosphere. That’s my website where others and I write comic book and pop culture articles every day. Comics, Wrestling, TV, Movies… it’s all there.

You can also follow us on Twitter, @gotstratosphere for updates! Mostly I tweet about food.

The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
The art is great, except when it’s just good. Spencer’s influence is easy to see and I adored it. The story focuses on some lesser heroes and especially shines a spotlight on poor Wong. So why the average score? Well while it’s fun, it’s not amazing. Oh, and I HATE BEING BAIT-AND-SWITCHED. Tell a complete story in one title, Marvel! I’m not buying all of these other issues just to fill in the blanks.

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Off the Rack, Rob Stewart