Review by Karl Verhoven
The way Mark Waid achieves it is in no way intrusive, but over the opening pages of Across the Universe he deftly introduces Doctor Strange, the level of power he has, the accessories at his disposal, and what they can do. It’s a smart piece of old school comics writing giving a crash course to anyone who’s never read a Doctor Strange graphic novel before. It’s followed by an imagining of possibilities against the worst possible background of Doctor Strange having completely lost all magical ability and persuaded by Tony Stark that there must be alien magicians, so why not consult them?
A few logical flaws nag, such as Doctor Strange not knowing alien magicians already, and the absence of some emergency form of contact with Earth once he departs, but considering Waid is trying a never before attempted infusion of SF into Doctor Strange, let’s gloss those over. It’s something different for the character, and so welcome. From the start Waid blurs the lines between magic and science, Stark noting “stop calling your teleportation trick ‘magic’! It’s an applied use of dipole-to-dipole van der Waals force”. That difference of opinion is reinforced by the appearance of alien technomancer Kanna, when the cost of magic eventually becomes a greater issue.
Whatever adjectives have been applied to the titles of Spider-Man comics in the past also apply to the art Jesús Saiz supplies. Whether on Earth or on an alien planet, dealing with magic or technology, or humans or aliens, Saiz not only provides complete credibility, he does it in an attractive style making each page a visual treat.
Waid’s originality doesn’t just apply to the workings of magic as he reconfigures several items and races known to Marvel readers, some just in passing, unlocking the possibilities in a conceptually dense outing. Better still, a powerless Doctor Strange isn’t a story dragged on beyond its natural lifespan. Waid has other matters on the agenda awaiting in Remittance, but for what follows to work a Doctor Strange with greater awareness is required, and that’s what Across the Universe thrillingly gives us. It redefines the requirements of magic, which may sit uneasily with long-term fans, but as not every question is answered here isn’t it worth the change to see where the mysteries go?