‘Doctor Strange: Damnation’ dodges limitations by being a helluva lot of fun
By Clyde Hall. “God, please save us from the good people.” It’s something a friend of mine used to say when well-intentioned folks examined a bad situation or tragedy, and in trying to do a good thing to alleviate the problem, made it worse. There’s a thread of that sentiment through Doctor Strange: Damnation #1, when our hero takes it upon himself to mystically restore the entire destroyed city of Las Vegas in the aftermath of Secret Empire. Loved ones resurrected, property reclaimed, and buildings unflattened. If only magic didn’t come at a price and one helluva ‘please remit payment now’ invoice.
Part of Mephisto’s infernal realm arrives on the material plane along with shiny new Vegas because, the demon says, the city entire was bequeathed to him by the Powers that Decide Such Things upon its destruction. (Hey, apologies to Vegas residents and fans, just paraphrasing Mephisto, who Strange does call the inventor of lies.) At any rate, Vegas was fused with the nether regions closely enough that its restoration brought some of the latter along for the ride, depositing a Hotel Inferno right on the Strip. Strange promises the Avengers, present for a memorial service, that he’ll get things sorted. And the situation naturally only worsens from there.
This limited series has quite a bit on its plate, by all appearances. It cleans up Secret Empire plot lines. It guests the Avengers. It also guests a host of Marvel’s supernatural heroes. It unfolds a scheme Mephisto has planned for the entire world. Despite all this, writers Nick Spencer and Donny Cates do something that often gets lost with ‘many goals but limited issues’ projects. They make it a lot of fun. Mephisto has never been oilier, smooth as a Used Car Salesman of the Year three times running. His repartee with Doctor Strange is witty, the Hotel Inferno setting and customers amusing, and it runs well alongside the developing situation outside the casino.
Rod Reis plays handily between horror and humor in his killer impressionistic manner, his art adding to smiles conjured by the parlay between Mephisto and Doctor Strange. His layouts are atypical, with a good breakup of panel sizes and one especially excellent Strange-centered page. I also liked his differing styles for the panel borders.
Though there are tie-in books to the series, Marvel promises they aren’t required to understand and enjoy the main story. More of a, ‘if you like Damnation, you may also enjoy these tales’ kind of pitch. That approach appeals personally, and I’ll be doing that based on this starting issue.
The solid selection for the Stephen Strange Rescue Squad (Wong’s Hoodooing Commandoes?) includes some of my favorite Marvel heroes, too, like Moon Knight, Blade, Man-Thing, Iron Fist, Elsa Bloodstone, Doctor Voodoo, and the Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider. And an appearance by Bats the spectral hound guarantees I’ll be saying, “Just take my money” for several Wednesdays to come.
Written by Nick Spencer and Donny Cates.
Art by Rod Reis.
Letters by VC’s Travis Lanham.
7.5 out of 10