Orbs, Faeries and Optic Blasts: Jason’s Comic Reviews

Welcome back to my ever-evolving comic reviews. Each week I will review a few new releases you may have missed on new comic Wednesday. As things change, mostly my mood, so will this column. Some weeks may be several new comics from various publishers or sometimes just one. There might be a time when it’s a longer review for a book I’m really excited about, and every now and then I may throw in a review of a retro book from years past. You never know!

This week, it’s all about the back issues! I play the hits of the 70s, 80s, and 90s!

Doctor Strange #1 (1974)

  • Marvel
  • Written by Steve Englehart
  • Art by Frank Brunner

It starts on a dark and stormy night. Doctor Stephen Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme, is in deep thought. He is interrupted by his lover/student, Clea. Clea does her best to cheer up the doc with a cute rabbit out of the hat spell. The good doctor is confident his Sanctum Sanctorum is safe. However, an unknown lurker waits outside. The intruder enters and reveals himself to be the Silver Dagger. The Silver Dagger takes down Clea, Strange’s bodyguard and Strange himself. He accuses Strange of being a demon in disguise and take the Eye of Agamato and Clea with him. Strange enters an orb to heal himself and seek answers. What he encounters are very strange occupants of the orb.

I wish I had taken all of my LSD before reading this issue. It starts out simple enough. We get establishing scenes of our leads; Doctor Strange, Clea, and Wong. The relationship between Strange and Clea is interesting. While she is still learning, Strange is very much in love with his student. I liked the introduction of the Silver Dagger. He has a cool look and is clearly some sort of zealot. He wastes no time accomplishing his mission. It gets weird though. When Strange enters the orb he encounters a Caterpillar much like the one from Alice in Wonderland. This is where the book lost me. Especially because I have to read issue two to find out if Strange rescues Clea! This was very much like a comic from today, where not everything is wrapped up in one issue. The art is excellent though. The characters have a very defined look to them.

I was hoping for a complete story in this. Not sure what I was expecting but whatever it was, I didn’t get it. I very much enjoyed the artwork and the way the characters were written. This was underwhelming as a first issue. However, it wasn’t underwhelming enough for me to not check out further issues.

 

Sandman #19 (1990)

  • Vertigo
  • Written by Neil Gaiman
  • Art by Charles Vess

The year is 1593 and William Shakespeare and his band of actors are making their way through the hills of England. It’s a hard life for traveling actors. Will meets Dream waiting for him in the hills. Sometime before Will and Dream had reached a deal. Shakespeare’s work would be remembered throughout time and in return, he would craft two plays for Dream. Dream requests that Shakespeare and his troupe perform at sunset near the road. Mind you, they are in the middle of nowhere. Soon before the performance, the residents of the faerie world appear to witness the play. The play is Midsummer Night’s Dream which is about faeries. The faeries are quite amazed and troubled at how accurate the play is. Shakespeare is quite impressed at how magnificent his play is, much to the chagrin of his young son would rather Shakespeare be more of a father. In the end, nobody gets what they were expecting.

A friend loaned this issue to me. He read it back in 1990 and to this day it’s still one of his favorite comics. It is quite good. Part of this may be that I took a Shakespeare class in college. That makes me a Shakespeare expert, right? This was a dense, one shot story. The accuracy of the time is great. Well, faeries aren’t real but the fact that the troupe was all men and some play women is. The depiction of the residents of faerie land was a lot of fun. Especially, Puck, who took great exception to his portrayal. The art is great, again especially for puck who is a sinister little cuss.

This was a great stand-alone story. It may help if you are somewhat familiar with Shakespeare or the Sandman series. However, it’s not necessary. The story is fantastic and the artfully compliments it. This is not a key issue, so it should be easy to find and at a low price.

 

X-men #129 (1980)

  • Marvel
  • Written by Chris Claremont
  • Art by John Byrne

The X-men leave Muir Island after an intense battle. They plan to recuperate back at the X-mansion. However, the long lost Charles Xavier returns to put the team back in training. Soon two new mutants are discovered and the X-men are broken up in teams to locate them. Storm, Wolverine, Colossus and Xavier head to Chicago to recruit 13-year-old Kitty Pryde to the team. Kitty is a dancer suffering from headaches. She reaches home to be greeted by her parents and a strange blonde haired woman. The woman introduces herself as a headmaster of a school for gifted children in Massachusetts. Soon after she leaves, Xavier and his x-men arrive to recruit Kitty. Kitty accompanies the X-men to a local malt shop. Soon, armored thugs attack. The X-men, with some effort, defeat the thugs but are eventually captured by new enemies. Poor Kitty who managed to escape stows away on the getaway vehicle.

This issue kicks off the classic, Dark Phoenix story. However, this issue is also an issue of firsts. This marks the first appearances of the Hellfire Club, Emma Frost, and Kitty Pryde. The above synopsis does not do this issue justice. There’s so much going on. Also, Charles Xavier is a dick! We also have the subplot (soon to be the main plot) of Jean Grey being psychically being manipulated by a member of the Hellfire club. This is a great first issue to an arc. There’s a lot of plot threads going on here but it’s easy to follow, plus we get a lot of action. The collaboration between Claremont and Byrne is strong here. The art fits so perfectly with the dialogue and the plot.

This issue was a joy to read. I’ll admit, I’m an X fan. This issue gives us a slow burn to the Dark Phoenix but we get stunning debuts and some good old fashioned mutant drama. This one is a bit pricey but available digitally and in trade paperback. If you’re an X-men fan or just a casual comic fan, this is a must-read. 

 

I’ll be back with a new crop of reviews. For more comic reviews, insight, and commentary on comics old and new check out the Drawn & Paneled podcast wherever you get podcasts!

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About The Author

Jason Jason is a "not quite GenX'er." He's a self proclaimed comics expert, film buff and beer aficionado. All of which are true in his own mind. Jason has also been accused of being a pizza snob. Those accusations are not without merit.

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