Doctor Strange: Herald

Doctor Strange: Herald
Doctor Strange Herald review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Marvel - 978-1-3029-1457-8
  • Volume No.: 3
  • Release date: 2020
  • UPC: 9781302914578
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no
  • CATEGORIES: Superhero, Supernatural

A new element Mark Waid has brought to Doctor Strange is that just as he’s the most powerful wielder of magic on Earth, there are plenty of alien civilisations whose sorcerers are also very adept. One of them arrives on Earth because his planet is under threat from Galactus. They’ve divined Galactus remains away from Earth, and have falsely assumed the only possible reason is down to the magical skills of Doctor Strange. It opens another interesting door. Until now the planetary threat of Galactus has always been seen off by superheroes, primarily the Fantastic Four, so why wouldn’t magic be equally effective? It’s a question not entirely answered as Waid and Barry Kitson show precisely why one magical method is disastrous.

“I am Zoloz the mighty”, screams the alien somewhat bomastically, “and with this spell I forever exile you from this universe and into the depths of the Mystic Realms”. And so begins an existence-threatening problem. As Doctor Strange explains, Zoloz’s solution is worse than the difficulty. As an embodiment of science on a massively powerful scale, the presence of Galactus in the Mystic Realms is catastrophic.

When used in Doctor Strange, the Mystic Realms are generally a catch-all magical universe wherein various recurring nuisances dwell. Waid and Kitson are co-credited as storytellers, so perhaps Kitson has some input into a more solid definition that develops in Herald. It’s not that the area is mapped out, but there’s a greater sense of coherency, individual kingdoms and power struggles. As Strange travels from place to place, Kitson designs multiple new mystical threats only seen in passing, and his worn Galactus is notable. Scott Koblish is credited for finishes rather than inks, so contributes more than usual to the art.

By midway Waid and Kitson have shown us a range of no-goodnick mystical schemers, all delighted at the chaos caused by Galactus. Dormammu appeared last time round in Remittance, but is more engaging here. The overall effect is a modern version of Steve Ditko’s Doctor Strange where he flits from one mighty being to another, always out of his depth, but always heroically working for the greater good, although the lies he tells may have later repercussions.

Unfortunately, for all the wonder of what Doctor Strange achieves in the conclusion, the mortality rate in the chapter beforehand indicates a rabbit is to be pulled from the hat, and it is. The actual finale is unsatisfactory for an encounter that plays out one way, when it could have gone several, which doesn’t represent Waid’s usual watertight plotting. Throughout Herald Strange has worried about lying for the greater good, yet seems too accepting when it counts personally, plus the result echoes what Waid started his run with. The way the title is eventually clarified is a nice touch, though. Onwards to The Choice.