Writer: Jed Mackay & Amy Chu
Artists: Pasqual Ferry & Tokitokoro
Colorists: Heather Moore & Protobunker’s Fer Sifuentes-Suto
Cover Artist: Alex Ross
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Doctor Stephen Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme, has returned from the grave thanks to the efforts of his wife Clea, Sorcerer Supreme of the Dark Dimension and niece of Dormammu. They’ve stumbled upon a treacherous plot where somebody’s been assassinating the big hitters in the Magical side of things. But that’s going to be on hold for the moment. Join the good doctor in Doctor Strange #3, where he has a “Parlay Day” with the Dread Dormammu himself.
So, this comic introduces a very interesting concept for the dynamic between Doctor Strange and Dormammu and fails to capitalize on it or make it fun. After reading this issue, it’s become apparent that Jed Mackay is planning to take things slow with this series, which is both a good and bad thing. And we see how it can be a bad thing in this issue as he fails to make the concept of Parlay Day between Strange and Dormammu fun to read about. Before I go any further, I’ll say the one good thing in the comic is the consistent characterization of Stephen Strange as the calm, witty, cunning, and sophisticated man that he is. There will be some SPOILERS throughout this review.
The beginning of the comic does bring up what happened with the assassinated Aggamon from the previous issue as recap, with only one takeaway being that Pandora Peter implies that Clea is a suspect and that’s all. That’s not the focus for this issue. The real focus of this issue is Doctor Strange having a “Parlay Day” with his arch-enemy Dormammu where they don’t try to fight or kill each other. Here’s the irony: there are no shenanigans. Except on Strange’s part but it’s heroic shenanigans.
Look, nothing really happens other than Strange spending a day with his arch-enemy as he tends to his usual duties while Dormammu just follows along and does nothing but talk with him. Mind you, this is not the most interesting hero-villain rivalry on display. There’s no witty banter, no great wordplay, nothing but constant trash talking, with most of it being Strange, and really Mackay, dressing down Dormammu as a villain throughout the whole comic. Making him feel very much like a Saturday morning cartoon villain who ALWAYS fails at his plots. Granted, there’s some good burns here and there, and there’s actually a purpose to Strange recounting their past history with direct payoff in the end with the aid of Jean Grey. Side note, what is it with Marvel writers and using Jean Grey to beat Doctor Strange’s major villains? Here’s hoping that the trend stops with this issue, but I’m not holding my breath.
Earlier I said that this comic fails to truly capitalize on the concept of Parlay Day for this comic. When I say that Strange and Dormammu do nothing but banter, I’m not kidding. The only one doing any action is Strange but it’s just him easily dispatching random Magical threats, and Dormammu never joins in on the fun. This is the most mundane thing any Marvel writer has done with him. I bring all of this up because most comic writers at Marvel and DC Comics, Mackay included, often talk about how they always try to take the heroes and villains to new heights, to try new things with them, or explore their dynamics with each other in new ways. Well, this was the perfect opportunity to do any of that, to do a deep dive into their history, have them fight against and with each other, or highlight what their dynamic was and redefine what it could be like going forward. Instead this ends up being a very mundane comic with a unexciting story with a predictable ending, and the only real achievement is how it showed Dormammu is an ineffective, even lame villain.
Then there’s the backup story by Amy Chu and Protobunker’s Fer Sifuentes-Soto about how Nico was attacked out of nowhere by Dormammu and was saved by Doctor Strange. There’s not much to say about it other than it just adds to the defanging of Dormammu as a villain and seems more like fan-service to Runaways, specifically Nico, that’s in a Doctor Strange book for some odd reason.
Doctor Strange #3 takes some time from the main plot to show Parlay Day, where Stephen Strange and Dormammu spend a day together. The one thing that makes this book interesting is the trash talking between Strange and Dormammu, not much else sells this comic issue beyond that. Unfortunately, as a result this book is pretty skippable since nothing really exciting or fun happens until the tail end of the issue. The backup story might be cool for Runaways fans, but it just feels like fanservice that’s in the Doctor Strange title for some weird reason. Overall, not great, not terrible, just an okay issue.