Doctor Strange: Into Shamballa (Marvel Graphic Novel #23)
Issue(s): Doctor Strange: Into Shamballa (Marvel Graphic Novel #23)
If i'm going to sit down and read a novel, that's one thing. But when it's comic book time, i want a comic book, please. That said, if you're going to do something like this, Marvel's Graphic Novel line (and/or Epic or Marvel Fanfare) is the place for it.
As best as i was able to surmise in between dozing, the story here shows an unusually arrogant Dr. Strange returning to visit the temple of his deceased mentor, the Ancient One. One his way there he's attacked by some mages that are "besotted" with magic after having sought it without proper guidance. But Strange doesn't see them as people in need of guidance. He considers them "fools" and scares them away.
When Dr. Strange arrives at the Ancient One's former abode, he meets the Ancient One's former assistant, Hamir, who "in his ever-smiling eagerness to please, has always (and even now you are ashamed to admit) annoyed" him. Hamir gives Strange a box, said to be a final gift from the Ancient One. When Strange brings it home, he finds it is in fact just an ordinary box with a mirrored interior.
When Strange shatters it in frustration, he's brought to another dimension called Shamballa where he believes he senses the presence of the Ancient One. And he's told to bring about an apocalypse that will allow the surviving remnants of humanity to grow to Perfection.
Trusting the Ancient One, Strange sets about to bring about this Apocalypse, facing various points of resistance along the way...
...but eventually thinks better of it and gives up. He then gains the insight that instead of him purging the world, each individual must go through his/her own personal purging to reach perfection.
And he discovers that the presence that he thought was the Ancient One was in fact Hamir. Hamir tells Strange that just as Strange inherited the Ancient One's magic, he inherited the Ancient One's spirit. They have a brief merging of the souls, and then Strange says that he already feels the mercurial revelation slipping away. The book ends by telling us that the Golden Age is right now and that was are all Lords of Shamballa.
Umm, what else? Strange mentions the lost continents of Atlantis and Mu at one point but there's no connection made with the Marvel universe versions.
At one point in the story, the narration uses the first person pronoun. I'm not sure if it's Hamir talking, or DeMatteis, or something else.
If nothing else, it's nice to see Dan Green, an inker at Marvel since the mid-70s, expanding out into this nice painted art...
...and even co-plotting. But the format of this book is not for me. And i mean, it's just J.M. DeMatteis writing this, not like Neil Gaiman or someone where i would be more willing to delve into the text. The story is fairly typical New Age stuff and i don't even love DeMatteis' depiction of the overly arrogant Dr. Strange in need of a takedown in this story. I'm not sure where that's coming from (certainly not DeMatteis' work with the character on Defenders).
I mention Neil Gaiman because i've always been disappointed that Marvel was never able to do with Doctor Strange anything along the lines of what Gaiman did with Sandman. And here's a nice prestige format book with nice painted art, and even though this is without a doubt better than a lot of what Marvel did in their Graphic Novel line, it still feels like a squandered opportunity to me.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This story is context free. The MCP places it before Doctor Strange #76, since that story leads into the one in #77 where his Cloak of Levitation is torn and which further leads into a major disruption of Strange's status quo.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Strange's being willing to destroy three quarters of the planet's population in order to create a paradise on the word of the "Ancient One" foreshadows his ruthlessness in Gillis's run.
Posted by: Michael | January 28, 2014 9:06 PM
You have to remember that JM DeMatteis wrote the critically acclaimed Moonshadow for Epic.
Personally, I absolutely loved this book. I thought it was pretty much the only time this Marvel graphic novel line lived up to its promise *and came close to what DC would be doing in the '80s.
*Well, not counting some non-Marvel U editions.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | January 28, 2014 9:30 PM
The originally announced title was "Mirror, Mirror". Maybe DC, who then had the Star Trek license, said no way?
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 19, 2014 9:42 PM
I was surprised to find out recently that Shamballa is an actual Buddhist legend:
Posted by: Michael | May 17, 2014 4:40 PM
It was also the title of a hit song by heroin-fueled '70s rock gods Three Dog Night.
Posted by: Robert | May 17, 2014 4:57 PM
The legend of Shamballa (or Shambhala) is most likely the main inspiration for Shangri-La (which is a very modern-day invention, first appearing in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon).
Posted by: Dan H. | October 8, 2016 12:22 AM
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