Need to prepare for the “Surgeon Supreme” but don’t know where to start? Why pick up volume four of Mark Waid’s excellent Doctor Strange series! This collection offers my favorite single issue of 2019, a good explanation of how Stephen got his surgery ready hands back, and a fun annual too. Running 112 pages it’s on the shorter end of trade paperbacks, but it’s a good transitional read.
I gave issue #18, which opens this book, a 10 out of 10. This issue opens with two parents in Mynnatown, Kansas preparing for a surprise party for their daughter getting 2nd place for ice skating. The father is a plumber–that comes in later–and the two are very close to having the decorations and cake laid out perfectly. Enter Doctor Strange. His first words are, “My name is Doctor Strange. That is all the information you require.” He’s going in hot with a no-nonsense attitude and a deadly serious task at hand. The juxtaposition of his attitude and lack of details mixed with the parents’ complete surprise and shock is hilarious. It also works to keep your interest up as you ponder what it is Doctor Strange is after. By the end of this delightful issue we learn what it was he was after and the parents even help him save the day too. It’s satisfying and deeply rewarding.
The visuals by Saiz are astounding (he’s paired with VC’s Cory Petit on letters). Skin tones look realistic, the emotion and body language is spot on and Doctor Strange looks fabulous in his new costume too. Saiz’s style is very realistic from the decor to the family dog which heightens the reality of an otherwise tricky plot to pull off. Much of the issue revolves around Doctor Strange destroying this poor family’s stuff and Saiz keeps that interesting as we move around the house. His incredible lack of care for their stuff is hilarious and when things break you’ll feel their pain.
It’s also worth noting Waid’s dialogue is perfectly timed and well placed. At every impasse the family attempts to make sense of what is going on only to have Doctor Strange shout at them like the end of the world is about to happen. Given the scenario and setting the dialogue keeps you guessing but also laughing.
Following this is issue #19 which has Stephen forced to perform surgery on a boy in the pouring rain or he might die. Why is Stephen helping a mother and child on a quiet road in Midstate New York? A ghost or apparition spooked them into an accident of course! Soon Saiz and Waid are showing us Stephen making a deal with a very gross looking demon literally falling to pieces, and eventually saving the day. It’s a heroic chapter that I could see Marvel Studios using if they ever wanted to make Stephen Strange a surgeon again. Issue #20 offers a nice farewell to Stephen’s space-buddy Kanna as he needs her help. It sends him to space once again for a final adventure that’s quite exciting. Javier Pina draws this issue with Brian Reber on colors and they do well to capture the weirdness of space magic as well as the rules that come with it.
Closing out the collection is Doctor Strange Annual #1 written by Tini Howard and Pornsak Pichetshote. Howard effectively infuses a bit of Halloween into the Strange household wile Pichetshote goes all-in with body horror goodness. A fine way to end this run on Doctor Strange before he becomes a surgeon.
Overall I liked this collection. It contains my favorite issue of 2019, opens the door on Stephen’s new direction as a surgeon, and closes the door on his adventures with Kanna (at least for the time being). It does serve as a transitional sort of reading that can be a tad awkward if you haven’t read the previous stories–the weight of Stephen as cosmic sorcerer supreme is lost–but serves its purpose for new and brighter pastures.