So, Halloween has just passed, and on that day Halloween ComicFest was held at local comic shops all over- I decided to get my son a few books, and while I was there, I thought I may try and get my hands on The Oath, a book that I haven’t read before, but that is the case with a great MANY titles that came along before I was firmly entrenched in this world of sequential art. On a past episode of the podcast, I sat down with friend of the show Reggie (a regular contributor to the Weird Science DC Comics Blog site and podcast- and @reggiereggie on twitter.) for our Zdarskast segment, a discussion of all things Chip Zdarsky. And as any good comic book discussion goes, it went wildly off-track. We discussed a great many things in that interview, but one that piqued my interest was the mention of this book: The Oath. I had heard ABOUT the book, but never read it- and from Reggie’s opinion, it is one of few Doctor Strange titles that hold much relevance in the modern version of the character. So I grabbed the book off the counter at my local shop (Acme Comics in Peoria, IL) and headed out for trick-or-treating with my son.
It took me until today to finally sit down and read that single issue, because Halloween took a great toll on me physically, and no amount of Reese’s cups or Baby Ruth bars could energize me enough to get me over the hump. But I have finally returned to a semblance of normalcy, so I have been digging into the back issue stack of my books to read (I also read my Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. reprint of Steranko’s work, in honor of his birthday).
I have to say, I was quite a bit surprised at the content of this story- part of which, is due to the fact, that I have not read anything where Doctor Strange takes center stage before reading the first two issues of this new ongoing series just released. I wasn’t sure what to expect when the book opens with Iron Fist in a waiting room that plays “The Girl from Ipanema”. That alone was something far beyond what I thought this book would be about. There was no bloodshed, no realm of mystical power, no Fin Fang Foom or other such monstrous creature- so what the heck was going on here???
I was greeted with a sight I hadn’t seen since I enjoyed her stint in the Superior Spider-Man (or was it finally in Amazing Spider-Man) point one story where Spidey-Ock goes to Night Nurse for treatment. But Night Nurse is in this book, and she meets a much worse for wear looking Stephen Strange, who has a bullet in him. I thought that this book couldn’t get much weirder than this, but it did. Strange’s spiritual essence ends up hovering around the operating theater, chatting up Night Nurse while she attempts to remove his bullet and stabilize his condition.
Then we are treated to a nice side story where the man who shot Stephen Strange (doesn’t that have a nice ring to it??? “The Man Who Shot Stephen Strange” sounds like it could be a new story title… you’re welcome, Marvel!) speaks with a shadowy figure who hired the thug to steal a vial of important liquid from the Sanctum Sanctorum, and in the process he shot Strange… WITH HITLER’S GUN. Which is an insane twist. The thug stole the pistol Hitler used to take his own life and turned it on Doctor Strange.
We then get a nice double-page spread where Doctor Strange gives a brief but effective recap of his backstory (which I was only vaguely aware of- it reads a bit like the origins of the Abominable Dr. Phibes film, which is also funny, because this Doctor Strange has some very Vincent Price-esque moments) along with some details to further the current story where Doctor Strange is shot over a vial of liquid. We are informed that Wong, Strange’s manservant and gal Friday, has an aggressive tumor and has barely weeks to live- which is the catalyst that sends Doctor Strange after the vial of liquid that has been so hotly contested over recently.
The splash page of Strange entering the other dimension to do battle with the creature that held the vial of liquid was a gorgeous and truly insane visual, one that this book I am all but certain will feature more of in future issues. I think that this book leaves the reader on a nice cliffhanger, with a gorgeous last page image, and the big gutpunch in the reveal of what that vial actually contains. I think that now that I have read this first issue, I am now completely ensnared by the story, so that I am compelled to finish it. I think this is an interesting and unique character, and from the first two issues of the new ongoing- I can safely say that this version feels altogether removed from that version. I don’t think that this is the same Stephen Strange we’re working with here, and that’s okay- I don’t mind the new version and since I wasn’t emotionally connected to the older iteration of the character, I cant be THAT offended by the new version.
But I think that these “giveaway days” in comics are a great thing- I got myself a first issue of a story that now has me clamoring to get my hands on the collected edition, and I got a few comics for my son to soften the blow when I tell him that I “accidentally” ate all his Halloween candy. So, if you were on the fence about this book, if your local shop has copies of this I definitely recommend checking this out. I will probably try and see if my library has this book in trade, otherwise ill end up actually buying it, because I really enjoyed this first issue and I am interested to see where it is going.