Every now and again a comic book will come along that is a definitive statement on a character. A book that is rich in history as well as progression, that is both an homage to the source material yet modern in feeling. Doctor Strange the Oath is one of these comics. Written by Brian K. Vaughn with art by Marcos Martin Doctor Strange the Oath is one of the finest takes on Doctor Strange since the character was conceived by Steve Ditko and then given life by Ditko and Stan Lee in 1963.
Doctor Strange is not an easy character to write. I find the conundrum of the character to be that you can’t write him as a straight up superhero nor can you write him as strict fantasy. A happy medium of the two is ideal and I have found in my 30 plus years of reading comics that only a few writers have gotten this right. It should come as no surprise that Brian K. Vaughn is a writer who accomplishes this feat. At this point in his career I’m convinced that there isn’t anything he can’t write.
Joining Vaughn on Doctor Strange the Oath is his frequent collaborator Marcos Martin and he was the perfect choice to draw this mini-series. Anyone who has read the original Doctor Strange appearances in the pages of Strange Tales can appreciate how talented Steve Ditko was and how ahead of its time his art was. Marcos Martin is able to channel Ditko in the Oath yet not loose any of his distinct style. The five issues that comprise the mini-series are gorgeous books. The combination of the art and colors create a moody tale that entrances the reader so much so that you’ll not want to put the book down.
Doctor Strange the Oath has is a little bit of everything thrown into it. It’s a mystery, it’s a fantasy, a morality tale, a commentary on the pharmaceutical industry, a buddy comedy, and there’s even a bit of a love story. The premise is simple; to what lengths will you go to save your best friends life? Wong, Doctor Strange’s manservant, is sick with terminal brain cancer and Stephen Strange refuses to accept that there is nothing he can do about it. Stephen’s quest for a cure takes him to the darkest depths of the netherworld where he acquires an elixir that can cure any ailment. This is where the tale begins.
The love and respect Doctor Strange shows to Wong is beautifully written. What had become a stereotypical trope over the years is revaluated here as a partnership and a lasting friendship is reimagined. The elixir is stolen while Doctor Strange is shot and he is need of the Night Nurse to fix him up. Then the game is afoot as Wong, the Night Nurse, and Doctor Strange investigate who stole the elixir and why. This draws them into conflict with a super-burglar, a dark magician, a demon from a hell dimension, and probably the scariest of all, the board of a pharmaceutical company. While the present day tale occurs the story flashes back to when Stephen Strange was a pompous surgeon and how he lost the use of his hands. We see his search for the Ancient One and how he went on to become the Sorcerer Supreme. This book does an incredible job on two fronts. First it is a love letter to the character to be read by long time fans. It is also an introductory origin story that new readers can consume and walk away with an understanding of who Doctor Strange is and hopefully look for more stories of the good Doctor’s adventures.
Doctor Strange the Oath is a wonderful read as well as an incredible introduction to the character. With the MCU version of Doctor Strange being released today this book is a must read for anyone walking out of the movie and wanting more adventures of the Sorcerer Supreme. Not only will it reveal the characters past but also exemplifies the stature and gravitas that Doctor Strange has as Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme.