Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Strange Spiders



Spider-man/Dr. Strange: Fever: written and illustrated by Brendan McCarthy with an additional story written by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and illustrated by Steve Ditko (2010/1965; collected 2010): Enjoyable, wonky, slight and psychedelic team-up of Marvel's two biggest heroes co-created by the occasionally trippy pen of Steve Ditko.

That Ditko was amazingly good at conjuring up the weird magical vistas of sorcerer Dr. Strange always seemed a bit paradoxical, as Ditko's other strength lay in making his characters look realistically proportioned -- and New York realistically lived-in. Nonetheless, Ditko made magic look somehow effortless and cool and disquietingly surreal, and forty years of other Dr. Strange artists have struggled to approach the surreal-yet-grounded vistas and creatures of Ditko's realms of magic and mystery.

McCarthy has earned a name as a somewhat surreal comic-book artist, often more for his cover painting for books like Shade, The Changing Man (itself a revival of a trippy 1970's Ditko creation for DC Comics). Here, he grounds his magical dimensions in Australian aboriginal art, among other things, in this tale of Dr. Strange and Spider-man fighting spider-demons in another dimension.

McCarthy wisely keeps Strange and Spider-man believably human-proportioned and muscled, and some of the effects he achieves are quite lovely and strange. He's no Ditko, as the bonus reprint of the first Ditko-plotted-and-drawn Spider-man/Dr. Strange team-up shows, but he's definitely not your average 21st-century comic-book artist. Recommended.

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