Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo (with his loyal army of inkers) are ideally suited to tackling the adventures of Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme. The writer, through his runs on “Wolverine and the X-Men” and “Thor,” has shown that he knows how to handle the strangest parts of this shared universe, tossing off the most over-the-top details about it with ease. As for the artist, he’s shown over the years, between his work at Vertigo and Marvel that there isn’t really anything he can’t draw. Now this is going to sound more than a little self-congratulatory as I say that this first volume bears out my thoughts in grand fashion. Within the five issues collected here, Strange has to deal with the everyday magical creepy-crawlers that infest Manhattan, a possession by nomadic soul-eaters, Zelda Staunton — a librarian with an infestation of mind maggots, and an astral projection gone awry that requires him to cleave his way back to his body. Oh, and an organization known as the Empirikul who are set on wiping out the plague on reality they call “magic” from the multiverse.
The two creators deliver an experience with this first volume that’s as gloriously weird as you’d expect from them. Bachalo rises to the challenge of rendering all of these magical creatures — as well as Strange’s otherworldly townhouse — in vivid detail without the jarring shifts in style that marked his (clearly rushed) work on the latter half of Bendis’ “Uncanny X-Men” run. Aaron delivers an eccentrically heroic protagonist in Strange, as he (both the writer and the character) clearly relish the chance to prove their skills when dealing with the fantastically bizarre.
My only concern with the series so far is in the broad strokes of the plot: It has the main character going about his business only to be confronted by an enemy that is out to destroy him and everything he stands for. This is basically the same setup for the “God Butcher” arc from Aaron’s (really great) first couple of volumes of “Thor: God of Thunder.” Some may cry foul here, but the writer does a great job of making this plot specific to Strange as he broadens the Sorcerer’s world and finds a great subplot for his manservant Wong. Said subplot is also directly relevant to the ongoing problem of establishing the rules for how Strange can use magic without coming off as impossibly powerful. It’s a winning debut for Aaron and Bachalo and worth picking up for anyone who has an interest in the character (assuming they can find this hardcover as cheap as I did).