Given how both heroes tend to fight things that go bump in the night it seems fitting Spider-Man and Doctor Strange would team up, but did you know they’ve teamed up many times over the years? Marvel recently collected the two characters’ many adventures some of which carried forward a storyline across decades.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
A saga of life, death and obsession decades in the telling! The sorcerer Xandu is desperate to restore the love of his life to the land of theliving – and he needs the Wand of Watoomb! But time and again, DoctorStrange and Spider-Man stand in his way. Xandu’s quest to revive hisbeloved will involve another arcane artifact — the Crystal of Kadavus –and even drag the Scarlet Witch into the action! But will Xandu’s planresult in all life as we know it crumbling into dusty death? Plus:Spider-Man/Strange team-ups throughout the years — in battle with theWraith, Silver Dagger, Baron Mordo and more!
Why does this book matter?
The writers on this title are master class and should get any avid comic fan more than willing to read it. From Stan Lee, to Steve Ditko, Frank Miller, Denny O’Neil, Len Wein, Chris Claremont, Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, Kurt Busiek, Roger Stern, and finally Mike W. Barr. Talk about a good writer lineup! Pencilers include Steve Ditko, Frank Miller, Sal Buscema, Jeff Aclin, and Howard Chaykin just to name a few. Reading this is basically getting a slice of comic greatness!
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The Xandu story goes from trippy 1964 to…
The comics collected in this book start in 1964 and go all the way up to 1998, which is a huge chunk of time and a cool way to see how these characters have changed. The 1964 tale–Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2— is written by Stan Lee with art by Steve Ditko and it’s quite a trip back to when comics were a bit more verbose and Stan Lee filled the captions with third person narration. The last issue collected is written by Kurt Busiek and tells a lost story between the two. While the art certainly changed greatly, the writing does too, and yet you can still see Spider-Man’s trademark humor never went away. First and foremost, this collection is a cool way to see how comics have changed over the years.
The longest story in this collection involves a villain named Xandu, an evil sorcerer clad in green, who was introduced way back in 1964. He’s no match for Doctor Strange, but gets the better of the heroes out of sheer will and luck. It’s a fun story that’s made even better by Ditko’s fantastic alternate dimension realm. It then jumps to the 1972 issue of Marvel Team-Up #21 written by Len Wein and drawn by Sal Buscema. It’s interesting to see how this story is basically a sequel to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s seeing as it’s 8 years later and it does a good job fleshing out Xandu and giving him more purpose. It’s revealed he was stealing Doctor Strange’s bauble of power to save his girlfriend. Poor soul. The story continues in Marvel Fanfare #2 which came out in 1982 and it weaves Scarlet Witch into the story. It’s a natural progression of the story in Marvel Team-Up (though one wonders how readers would remember what happened). It finally wraps up in the extra sized Spider-Man/Dr. Strange: The Way to Dusty Death book that came out in 1982 and for readers who had no idea what was going on it does a lot of recapping. It’s quite something Marvel kept adding sequels to a series long after chapters came out, as if editors loved the original and wanted to continue it out of sheer love since readers certainly wouldn’t have remembered what was going on with Xandu. It’s also fun to see how Stan Lee gave the story a light, done in one vibe that was overly dramatic and fun, but by the time the 1982 story comes out it’s very morose and dark. It’s also worth noting the 1982 story, drawn by Michael Bair, is quite heavy on the T&A and the entire narrative seemed to revolve around Xandu’s girlfriend laying around barely covered with her nipples poking through her dress!
…a story that attempts to make a woman nearly naked on every panel from 1982.
A little over half of the rest of this collection features two issue team ups between the heroes–and more often than not they fight for a bit–most of which are from Marvel Team-Up. Most of these are certainly nostalgic in how comics used to tell stories and they’re fun in a throwback kind of way. The final issue is by Kurt Busiek and drawn by Neil Vokes and it has an adventure where Mordo attacks Peter’s supporting cast, forces Spider-Man to fight off some monsters, and even has an appearance bo Dormammu. Again, another lighter done in one tale that’s just fun.
You gotta love Stan Lee’s narration.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Outside of the lengthy epic that is Xandu’s seemingly constant attacks on Doctor Strange and Spider-Man, much of this book has a take it or leave it feel. The stories are certainly fun, but there isn’t the type of character work or drama that make comics so damn addictive these days. The more verbose and old school writing style can also be trying on your patience, but that was the nature of older comics. The Xandu story has that too, but it’s particularly interesting to see how the writing style changes and each new creative team approaches the same character adding to him over the years.
Is It Good?
It’s not often you see a storyline continued once every decade starting in the 60’s and you can get that here. This may be a good collection of Doctor Strange/Spider-Man team-ups, but it’s also a fantastic look at how comics have evolved over the decades.