Overview

Strange #4

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Strange #4

Credits

  • Words: J.Michael Straczynski and Sara (Samm) Barnes
  • Art: Brandon Peterson
  • Inks: Brandon Peterson
  • Colors: Justin Ponsor
  • Story Title: Strange: Part 4
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $3.50
  • Release Date: Feb 23, 2005

The mysterious Clea reveals more details of Stephen’s destiny, while his true enemy drops his charade.

Dr. Stephen Strange is having a very weird day. Having just fled from the enigmatic Ancient One in a bizarre building that couldn’t (and shouldn’t) exist, Strange finds himself in a demon-haunted counterpart of New York. Dismissing this all as delusion, he proceeds to curl up in a fetal position in a dumpy rented room and waits for the madness to pass. It doesn’t. The beautiful Clea, pupil of the Ancient One, explains over breakfast why he has been chosen to walk the mystical path. This knowledge may come too late, however, when a once-trusted ally is exposed as a deadly threat.

J. Michael Straczynski and Samm Barnes continue to weave an engrossing spell with this miniseries, providing added depth to a character I had only a passing interest in before. This story is no mere retread of an origin but a tight, character-driven narrative with many interesting new twists. The writers capture Strange’s desperation, terror, and uncertainty with impressive skill, endowing him with a realistic human reaction to the insanity that has become his life. Disillusioned with the choices he’s made, he seems to believe in nothing, making him an unlikely apprentice for the Ancient One. The irony is that Clea and even Strange himself agree with this assessment and think he’s the wrong man for the job. I found it amusing to watch the characters discuss what a huge cosmic mistake this is even as mystic forces continue to come into play around them. This particular issue is more action-driven than previous ones, which made for a slightly quicker read than the creative team’s usually rich text. However, the reveal of the enemy within their midst was an interesting development and the battle that results is one of the more bizarre I’ve ever seen illustrated.

On that front, we have the wonderfully intricate artwork of Brandon Peterson to thank. Each panel is highly detailed and dramatic, the images alternately beautiful and horrifying. Until this point, the artwork on the series has been almost purely realistic with the eerie forces of Strange’s world simply lurking at the corners. In this issue, Stephen’s enemy steps fully into the light and Peterson completely lets loose with the mystical elements. The first shot of the battle had the fighters suspended Matrix-style in mid-air and seemed a bit corny at first. Nevertheless, the following pages took my breath away with glimpses of entities of fire and light locked in combat on a plane that Strange (and the readers) can barely comprehend. My guess is that these are the true spiritual forms of the combatants but whatever their origin, these images are the visual highlight of the issue. Colorist Justin Ponsor does a good job contrasting the slightly dingy look of the real world with these shining colorful godlike beings.

Combining strong characterization and unnerving mysticism, Strange is a thoroughly entertaining and fresh examination of a classic character.

- Eric Lindberg

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