Saturday, November 12, 2016

Crabs, Assemble!, Part Eleven: Doctor Strange Versus Dracula: The Montesi Formula

 Yeah, technically NOT an AVENGERS book, but..... of the issues in this collection was included in THE AVENGERS: ABSOLUTE VISION, BOOK 1, and Amazon/Comixology just had this on sale for $3.99, so my OCD kicked in. MUST...HAVE...COMPLETE...STORY!!!

 DOCTOR STRANGE VERSUS DRACULA: THE MONTESI FORMULA collects TOMB OF DRACULA #44, and DOCTOR STRANGE #'s 14 & 58-62, and contains (As far as I know....) every encounter between The Master of the Mystic Arts and The Lord of the Undead. (Aside from the one in THE DEFENDERS EPIC COLLECTION, VOLUME 6: THE SIX-FINGERED-HAND, but even that omission is neatly explained here.)

 The collection opens with their first encounter, a crossover between Doc & Drac's respective 1970's books, and both chapters feature the stellar art of Gene Colan and Tom Palmer. (Has there ever been a duo whose artwork was more suited for horror comics?) The story is written by Marv Wolfman (The DRACULA chapter) and Steve Englehart (The DOCTOR STRANGE chapter), and the two styles mesh well enough that the books read as a seamless story. Not the most crossover story I've ever read, but it holds up pretty well. (I do have to draw your attention to Dracula's favorite insult, which is calling someone a "clod", a word that I will forever associate with MAD MAGAZINE. I cracked up every time Drac said it in these two issues.)

 The bulk of the book is comprised of DOCTOR STRANGE #'s 58-62, written by Roger Stern, with art by Dan Green, Terry Austin, Rick Magyar, and Steve Leialoha, which finds Doctor Strange and Dracula in a race to find The Darkhold, a mystical book of evil now in the hands of The Avengers. (See ESSENTIAL AVENGERS, VOLUME 9 and the MARVEL UNIVERSE BY JOHN BYRNE OMNIBUS ) Dracula wants the book to assure his immortality and help him to conquer humanity, while Doctor Strange needs it in order to access the spell known as "The Montesi Formula", which could potentially eradicate the scourge of vampirism from the earth for good.

 Doctor Strange has always been a character that works better for me as a supporting player in titles other than his own. As a solo star, Strange has always been somewhat bland and vanilla, trotting out the same old tricks every issue. There are only so many different ways to use astral projection, the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak, The Eye of Agamotto, etc. I've seen it all before. Like Aquaman and Wonder Woman before him, Strange is a character that few writers seem to get, so the solo stories involving the good Doctor that I would classify as worthwhile reads are few and far between. While I love the work of Roger Stern, I do have to say that this story was only slightly above mediocre. As a lifelong fan of THE TOMB OF DRACULA, I did enjoy the way that Stern integrated the rest of that book's surviving cast members into this quest to destroy all bloodsuckers, but there really wasn't much here that was new and different. I have yet to read a GREAT Doctor Strange story. I'm hoping that'll change when I finally get around to reading the Lee/Ditko Strange Omnibus, though. Stay tuned.

  Extras are pretty sparse, but include the Colan/Palmer DOCTOR STRANGE CALENDAR piece that is used as the cover illustration, and a new page that was created by Colan for a DRACULA collection titled THE WEDDING OF DRACULA. More Colan is always a good thing.

 Overall, a decent collection. While I am not a big fan of reading comics digitally (I find my comprehension lessened when I'm not reading an actual physical book....), the $3.99 Comixology DOCTOR STRANGE sale made this too good a deal to pass up. It looked good on my Kindle, and the price was right.

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