I realize that right now the hype over Doctor Strange this year is for the movie, which I thought was fine, but I finally read one of the good doctor’s most well-known miniseries, The Oath by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martín. I’m no stranger to Mr. Vaughan’s work as I personally think Saga is the best book being written right now. I’d also read The Private Eye which teamed these two together again and whereas I felt the art was more enjoyable in that book than the story, the opposite is true about The Oath. And that isn’t to diminish Martín’s art in this one, Vaughan’s writing is just very strong.
It helps to know the basics about Doctor Strange’s powers, origin story, that sort of thing before coming into this book. However, Vaughan’s script pokes fun at some of that stuff anyway so you won’t be totally lost going in if you don’t know squat about the character. Plus, it’s a major publisher book so that means those dreaded (if you’re me) recap pages at the start of each issue. Also don’t be worried if you don’t know squat about the grander Marvel universe because, as is not always the case with limited series runs, this one doesn’t rely on outside forces at all really.
It was fun to read this after already seeing the movie because there were a few things directly lifted from The Oath that made it into the movie such as Night Nurse being the love interest and Strange’s astral projection scaring the bejesus out of her when she’s operating on him. Like the film (and nearly every Marvel film at that), the villain is pretty ill defined and completely inconsequential. At any given moment Strange could completely wreck the dude (which we see when he finally does in the final issue, not a spoiler) and only doesn’t for the sake of drama in the comic book. In the film, at least Strange was a fledgling sorcerer so it made sense that he had even fights with the bad guys. Here, he’s Sorcerer Supreme, so there’s no excuse for some out of practice guy to even hold a candle in a fight.
What I really loved about this book was the relationship buildingstuff between Strange and Wong. If you’re new to Doctor Strange mythology, you can see right away that Strange is a compassionate guy because of how deeply he cares for Wong and how much he’s willing to do to help him out. Night Nurse was a fun assertive presence too. Vaughan always has great humor in his books and this one is no different.
The flashback sequences to when Strange was a prick also seemed to be the main inspiration for how he was portrayed in his origin in the film. If I had made the film, I actually would’ve gone with Vaughan’s method of showing it via flashback rather than bore me to death for an hour waiting for Strange to just cast one damn spell. But I digress.
The denouement was rushed but I liked the message behind the whole series which becomes clearer at the end. Again, though, in a superhero story there should really be a supervillain that can hold their own against said hero. This story didn’t have a supervillain and it hardly even had a villain anyway. But, that plays in to the overall moral of the comic anyway so, maybe, joke’s on me, eh, Mr. Vaughan?