Doctor Strange #63-68
Writer(s): Carl Potts, Ann Nocenti, Roger Stern
Artist(s): Carl Potts, Tony Salmons, Paul Smith, Steve Leialoha, and Terry Austin
The bi-monthly Doctor Strange title was quite good in the mid-1980s and in particular in 1983 through to 1985.
Carl Potts took a break from his editing chores to write and draw issue #63, “Cry of the Spirit”. He delivered a decent story, although it’s a bit predictable and should have avoided the cliché ending. The art was good, except for a few rough panels and the overuse of shadows.
Ann Nocenti stepped up to the bat as guest writer for Dr. Strange #64, “Art Rage”, and was joined by Tony Salmons, put out a great issue. This story was well-paced and pleasant to read. Nocenti’s Strange seems a bit out of character and not his usual stern and serious self. His lighter side is a nice change and worked well with the story. Tony Salmons art usually doesn’t appeal to me as his penciled art always seemed incomplete and looked like he tried to finish the art through his inks. I did, however, really like his work this issue. Strange’s facial expressions and the variety and shapes of his panels all worked well.
Roger Stern returned in issue #65, “Charlatan”, as the regular writer and was joined by Paul Smith, who had recently drawn the Uncanny X-Men. Smith immediately delivered with a wonderful splash page. He inked his own art in this issue and it isn’t as sharp and clean as Terry Austin's inks (who inked issue #66).
Stern penned one of my favorite Dr. Strange story in issue #66, “The Chosen One”. In this issue, Dr. Strange helped the monks of an Eastern holy order find their reincarnated master. Their master is reincarnated in the body of an American golf greens keeper and of course, this reincarnation caught the monks off guard. One of them attempts to kill him to remove the taint of Western culture, but the master revealed that his Western influence was the precise purpose of this incarnation.
Terry Austin’s thin line inks did a marvelous job complementing Paul Smith’s detailed penciled art. Stern captured Strange’s character and showed us why he’s one of Marvel’s best writers in the 1980s. Stern’s Doctor Strange is composed, intelligent, and carries himself with an air of humble authority. Smith and Austin also did an incredible job on the detailed backgrounds this issue. An all-around outstanding issue.
Steve Leialoha stepped in as guest artist for issue #67, “Private Eyes”. I find Leialoha’s art awkward in the same way I find Carmine Infantino’s art awkward. Leialoha’s work tends to become more distorted when he inks his own art, like in this issue. Dr. Strange helps out private investigator Hannibal King to track down and stop and attempt by the Cult of the Darkhold to bring in an extra-dimensional vampire to Earth. Roger Stern’s script and plot are good, but the art just didn’t complement the story.
The Dr. Strange that I identify with stands at the edge of the mystical world as the Earth’s sorcerer supreme and keeps things in order. In issue #68, “Sword and Sorcery”, Dr. Strange makes a house call at Castle Garett to check up on Dane Whitman, the Black Knight, who has been restored to life in the 20th century (see Avengers #226).
Unfortunately, the Ebony Blade's curse catches up with him and overrides his reasoning. Dr. Strange battles Dane and manages to exorcise the Ebony Blade's bloodlust curse. Once again, Smith’s pencil art and Austin’s inks are spectacular. ‘Nuff Said! Stern, through the Avengers and this issue, puts Dane Whitman’s life back together. The Black Knight rejoins the Avengers in Avengers #251. And not to be missed was Doctor Strange #69 featuring a great team up of Doctor Strange and the Black Knight that lead into the Dark Dimension storyline that would keep Strange busy for the next year.