"Doctor Strange: Season One" is the underground sleeper slice of brilliant in Marvel's "Season One" field that stands right next to the blockbuster "X-Men: Season One" book in quality and sheer levels of enjoyment. Greg Pak brings a severe sense of humor to the mystical proceedings with Emma Rios and Jordie Bellaire in strong contention for the stand out art team of 2012.
Pak writes a stirring quest storyline with plenty of plot tokens along the way that keep the pace ticking. Each hurdle to overcome is presented in a different way, whether it's a sea of mystic monsters or glowing sheep creatures from beyond. Pak keeps readers on their toes, never sure what to expect. This energy gives the book the true range and scope the Sorcerer Supreme deserves.
Layered behind the major league events of danger and intrigue are clear and interesting characters. Pak presents a new Strange certainly geared to appeal to new fans that appreciate good timing and snark. While Strange is an adult with motives and desires, Pak also characterizes him as a sneering arrogant jerk for much of the book, which builds depth -- and allays fears that the Sorcerer Supreme would be characterized as a tween. The fresh coat of paint applies to Wong as well, who appears as an ass-kicking apprentice more a partner in a buddy cop comedy than a sidekick filling a token roll. It is refreshing to see both characters dusted off and made modern.
Emma Rios and Jordie Bellaire are perfect for this book and they each work to elevate it to the next level of art. This book was always going to tread on the toes of some of Steve Ditko's greatest work. Getting an art team to stand up against that is a tough call and yet Marvel have knocked it out of the park. The frenetic lines of Emma Rios bring out a passion on the page that Strange needs for his quest to feel real. Rios honors the spirit of the old "Strange Tales" issue but doesn't feel beholden to them nor does she ape Ditko's style. She uses inspiration as a springboard to reach higher and punch harder and the result is a book full of glorious storytelling and amazing imagination. The layers of Bellaire's colors are just the ultimate icing as she brings varied mystical elements to life in ways that can only be showcased in a comic book -- TV or film could never match this palette.
"Doctor Strange: Season One" is fun and smart all at the same time. It delivers thrills, laughs and spectacular visuals. This is the ultimate place to get back into Doctor Strange if you've been away for too long. As a first taste, you'll be spoiled for quality and want more of this version of the character and the creative team. As both a story and a "Season One" book, this is a resounding success on all fronts. Let's greenlight the Season Two for everyone involved here.