Magic and monsters collide in Doctor Strange/Monsters Unleashed #1! Okay, that makes this issue sound much more exciting than it was. At most, monsters and magic kind of… hold hands or high five or something. Chip Zdarsky’s tie-in to Monsters Unleashed is definitely not as cool as it could have been. It mostly comes down to a mediocre team up, especially because of Strange’s de-powered status quo. If you’re heading into this book expecting the Eye of Agamotto to light shit up, some sweet Strange battle axe action or monstrous smackdowns, you’ll be a disappointed.
Doctor Strange #1.MU (Marvel Comics)
The tie-in opens on a fight between the Avengers, Strange and monsters called Leviathans, who, according to the recap page, are the bad guys in Monsters Unleashed. Strange is doing what he can with his axe and a satchel full of magic “trinkets,” and he seems pretty out of his depth. Targeting the same monster, and equally out of their depths, are Goom and Googam, two good (maybe? I’m unfamiliar) monsters from the 60’s. The three are finally able to stop one of the Leviathans (thanks to a well-timed magic teleportation arrow from Strange), but with a few bruised egos. A few days later, Googam and Strange form a tenuous alliance to find the teleported monster and stop it for good. This takes them to the Arctic, where they fight the monster some more, eat magic mushrooms, and win, wrapping up the issue.
So yeah, it was fine. I think my biggest problem was teaming Strange up with Goom and Googam. I’m not familiar with them, but they just seem kind of… boring. On the opening page, Fing Fang Foom is in the background breathing fire, and I thought “alright, off to a good start with the monsters.” Then the book focuses on Goom and Googam. I was willing to roll with it as they punched things, but then they just keep punching, not doing anything interesting or really monster-y at all. Honestly, they could have been removed from the book and I’m not sure it would have made much of a difference.
Strange, on the other hand, was significantly more interesting. Zdarsky seems to have a pretty good grip on the character, nicely contrasting Strange’s confident exterior with his shaken interior monologue. The magic he does have access to is small and unpredictable, adding a bit of excitement to whatever he pulls out of his satchel. Obviously Zdarsky has to work with Jason Aaron’s take on the character in the main book, but I think he does an OK job.
Like the rest of the book, the art was fine. For all the action, most of it felt pretty stiff. And for a book about monsters, their renderings were not very monstrous, but I chalk that up more to the tie-in nature of the book. I doubt Julian Lopez had much wiggle room for any of these designs. Overall, the art doesn’t save the middling quality of the script.