Chris Bachalo – Dr. Strange #1

Chris Bachalo (1965 – ) has been working for both DC and Marvel during his career. He launched in November 1994 with the author Scott Lobdell a new X-Men series, different from all the others, Generation X. It’s during his time on this title that Chris Bachalo‘s style changed. His characters adopted a more manga-like style, with large heads, eyes and hands. The physical proportions became extreme : muscular characters were almost misshapen because of all their muscles, willowy ones were taller and thinner, short ones became dwarves. The features on the faces themselves were more marked, such as the wrinkles or the scars. His new style forged, Chris Bachalo moved forwards Generation X for the flagship book of the X-Men franchise, Uncanny X-Men in 1997, alongside the writer Steven T. Seagle. Chris Bachalo came back to Uncanny X-Men for the second relaunch of it in 2013, and is one of the artist who drew Uncanny X-Men #600, the conclusion of Brian Michael Bendis run on this series. In addition to his work on X-Men titles, Chris Bachalo also drew some Amazing Spider-Man issues in the Brand New Day storyline, and some Captain America issues in 2004. Now Chris Bachalo is the artist of Dr. Strange, the fourth series of the Supreme Sorcerer, with the author Jason Aaron (also known for the series Wolverine & the X-Men, and currently writer of Star Wars and the Mighty Thor).

Eight month after the end of Battleworld, and the – mysterious – resurrection of Stephen Strange (see Dr. Strange), the Avenger is already fighting against magical creatures. As Supreme Sorcerer, it’s his role to defend mankind against these creatures. On this double-page spread, Stephen Strange finds himself with a giant Teddy bear, which he uses as a shield against a tribe of soul-eaters. The contrast between the cute stuffed animal, fluffy and smiling, and the soul-eaters, monstrous and hard skinned, is strengthened by Chris Bachalo’s style. The multiplication of small panels on a double-page spread is also a recurring feature in the artist’s style. These panels allow Chris Bachalo to give a rhythm to the pages, to densify the action in order to accelerate it. This double-page spread is not a contemplative one, rather that an active one – unlike Andrea Sorrentino for example in Old Man Logan #5 SW, who uses the double-page spread as a way of presenting the character’s thoughts.

Chris Bachalo - Dr Strange #1 p.4-5
Chris Bachalo – Dr Strange #1 p.4-5 © Chris Bachalo / Marvel

Doctor Strange is used to deal with such magical creatures, even when they are into him, like the one he’s making out on the top of the page, on the body of Spurrgog the soul-eater who’s been defeated by Strange. Like a knight in his armor, Strange is kissing a girl on the body of his vanquished enemy. Unlike the knights though, Strange is kissing the villain – half-snake half-woman -, the one who unleashed Spurrgog on him. But it seems to be a pretty regular day for Strange … after all, is he not the Supreme Sorcerer ? The top panel is designed like an introduction scene in a movie : the hero kissing the girl on top of the dead enemy, surrounding by others soul-eaters trapped in bubbles. Besides, the trapped soul-eater bring a comic touch to the scene. This passive scene offers a contract with the previous double-page spread, an action scene. There are no little panels scattered across the page, no ongoing battle, just two people making out. This does not take place in the real world, but rather in an other dimension. Strange is actually in the room of a young boy who’s been haunted by these soul-eaters, and the Teddy bear is a part of the boy’s interior world, which explain its presence on the previous pages.

Chris Bachalo - Dr Strange #1 p.10
Chris Bachalo – Dr Strange #1 p.10 © Chris Bachalo / Marvel

Back in the real world, Strange can’t even catch his breath and has to watch over the citizens of New-York in case one of them is devoured by a mysterious creature. He uses his third eye on his forehead, allowing him to see every one of these creatures. The contrast between these colored beings and the black and white humans is fantastic. On this page, we can see Chris Bachalo‘s very own style, without the colors. The top panel is cut in three increasingly large parts, and Stephen Strange appears in every one of them. In the first, he’s barely visible ; on the second, he’s seen on a medium-long shot, and on a medium shot in the last part. This cutting looks like a movie storyboard, with the indications on where the actor should be at that instant. It’s funny how some characters on the street look like known characters of Marvel : like the one on the third part of the top panel, with his glasses and colored dreads, looks like Christopher Muse, aka Triage, one of Cyclops’ student for the Secret Xavier School ; and look at the girl on the right of the same part, enchained : she reminds me of Rachel Grey.

Chris Bachalo - Dr Strange #1 p.14-15
Chris Bachalo – Dr Strange #1 p.14-15 © Chris Bachalo / Marvel

These magical creatures – as scary as they can be – are nothing compared to the ones Zelma Stanton is trying to get rid of. Chris Bachalo‘s style is perfect to draw such monsters, with their open mouth full of teeth, their protruding eyes, their crocked fingers and threatening look. The panel is divided between the humans on the bottom – Stephen Strange and Zelma Stanton – and the demons on top. But the demons are already trying to invade the humans’ space. Will they succeed ? Or will Doctor Strange manage to keep them under control ? This terrifying page is maybe my favorite of this first issue, because Chris Bachalo can express himself by drawing all of these magical creatures.

Chris Bachalo - Dr Strange #1 p.26
Chris Bachalo – Dr Strange #1 p.26 © Chris Bachalo / Marvel

Soul-eaters, malebranchian psyche-leech and red demons, Chris Bachalo and Jason Aaron have given a strong start to this new series. Even during his spare time, the troubles keep knocking at Stephen Strange’s door. The drawings of Chris Bachalo are really good, and the story intriguing : what are these red creatures ? What role will Zelma play in the future ? And most of all : how did Stephen Strange raised from the dead ?

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