Writer: Jed MacKay
Artist: Juan Gedeon
Color Artist: Kj Diaz
Cover Artist: Alex Ross
Publisher: Marvel Comics
There has been a killer eliminating all of the big magical warlords on Earth for a while. But the answer behind the mysterious person was revealed: it’s General Stephen Strange! Who is this version of Stephen? How did he become the man he is? And what does he want to do? Read Doctor Strange #6 to gain the answers to these questions.
So, last issue revealed that the mysterious killer behind the death of the warlords is General Stephen Strange, and now this issue is basically the good generals’ origin story. And what we get is…..not great. It’s not terrible, but all in all it’s pretty mediocre with some solid moments and ideas here and there that just work in regards to Fantasy and the horrors of Warfare. All I can say is that this comic didn’t sell the idea of General Strange to this reviewer at least, in the story or the art. Fair warning: There will be SPOILERS throughout this review.
Essentially, Doctor Stephen Strange was recruited some time ago by the Vishanti, whom I only know of from the canon story Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment (it’s pretty great), to help fight a war against the deadly forces of the Trinity of Ashes. Side note: the Trinity of Ashes are brand new creations by Jed Mackay made for this story. Stephen is reluctant at first since he’s a doctor and the sorcerer supreme of Earth and his universe, so he feels he can’t just up and leave his post. But the Vishanti persuade him that if the fighting isn’t contained then it will spill over to Earth eventually. And here we see Stephen Strange take up the role of General to war against the forces of the Trinity of Ashes for 5,000 years which see him go mad.
Alright, let’s get it out of the way, Juan Gedeon is not the best fit for this type of story. I am not a fan of his artwork, but admittedly it is better here than it was in the last story arc of Donny Cates’ Thor series, which was basically a rush job. But even though it’s better here, it’s still not great. This concept of a magical war between dimensions and creatures of Fantasy required an artist like Tradd Moore whose visual style can easily bring the surreal cosmos that Dr. Strange lives in to life (if I remember correctly, Tradd Moore is working on or did work on a separate Dr. Strange series). I will say that when the comic focuses on General Strange and his emotional reactions, Juan Gedeon’s art is at its best.
However, the bigger problem lies with Jed Mackay here. His story doesn’t do a good job at selling the idea that Stephen Strange, Sorcerer Supreme of Earth, who’s battled countless foes both magical and otherwise, would be unable to thwart the Trinity of Ashes and their forces for millennia. See, Marvel fans, let alone Dr. Strange fans, have seen Dr. Strange unleash all kinds of powerful spells that could decimate armies, and some of that type of power is shown in previous issues of this very run. So, when we see the enemies that General Strange fights here, it’s underwhelming to put it mildly.
He’s not fighting macabre master spellcasters, unholy mystical warriors, cosmic horrors who look like they could be Shuma-Gorath’s cousins or anything interesting of the sort. All he’s fighting against are generic Fantasy demons/demon-looking creatures who are rarely depicted using magic (with only one short instance shown) or doing anything of the sort that would convince readers that not only would Stephen Strange be unable to defeat them, but that he would be unable to defeat them for over a thousand years. Which is ironic given that the Trinity of Ashes themselves have interesting designs are supposedly very powerful but you never see them in action except for one page and it’s not that awe-inspiring.
Of course, the aim of the comic is to show General Strange’s descent into madness as he fights in a seemingly endless war that forces him to betray every principle he’s every stood for or believed in. And again, there are glimmers of this story peppered throughout the comic, with one example being where in the hundredth year of the war, General Strange orders his troops to kill their prisoners (off-panel) so they can use their corpses to heal and improve their wounded soldiers. It would be a great moment to show when the General truly loses his way, but it fails to deliver because the conflict itself isn’t that compelling to begin with. And if you’re wondering what happened to this side of Dr. Strange, it’s simple. The Vishanti separated the “General” aspect of Dr. Strange as his own entity and placed him in a mystical crystal that is tied to Stephen Strange’s life force. So, when Dr. Strange died, General Strange was released and now he seeks to finish his war for good.
Also, if you’re wondering about the G.O.D.S. bonus page in this story, it’s not all that great. It’s just one page of General Strange having a short discussion with some guy called Wyn who literally shows up from a magical portal, just for this one page, so he can ask Strange if he can have his stuff if he bites it. That’s it. It’s pretty out of place and feels like a waste of space in this comic and its story.
Doctor Strange #6 reveals the origin story of “General Strange” and what happened to make him into the man he is. While there are some aspects of the comic that are interesting when it comes to depicting moments of General Strange’s madness and brutality, the story unfortunately doesn’t fully deliver on the concept of Stephen Strange fighting a mystical war for millennia that drives him mad. On top of that, the bonus page tied to the upcoming G.O.D.S. story was sadly underwhelming in this comic.