Doctor Strange #41
Issue(s): Doctor Strange #41
I don't know if his exit was due to sales, specifically, but the fact that Doctor Strange was so heavily involved in the Infinity events was surely an attempt to help with sales. And this issue features a guest appearance by Wolverine, who is not exactly a natural fit for this title. It seems a good time to quote this passage from Sean Howe's Marvel Comics: The Untold Story:
Some editors complained that the sales, marketing, and publicity teams only worked to sell the books that were already selling, that the response about underperforming titles was, Sure we can help you push this book. Just put Wolverine or Ghost Rider in it. [Emphasis in original]
Ok, Howe's book is giving us an anonymously sourced paraphrased quote, but i can't help read it and go, "Aha! I knew it!". It's one thing to see all the appearances by Wolverine and Ghost Rider and say, yeah, this seems like crass commercialism, and it's another thing to read that it was basically official Marvel policy.
At least when Ghost Rider has appeared in this book, his mystical nature made it feel like it was not so crazy for him to team up with Doctor Strange. Wolverine is a different story.
That said, if anyone is going to figure out a way to fit Wolverine into this book, it's Roy Thomas. And he (or Jean-Marc Lofficier, who seems to have acted as a research assistant) hits on the fact that the X-Men have had encounters with the N'Garai, demons that Chris Claremont has peppered around the Marvel universe starting with his early writings in Marvel's horror comics. And those demons as an enemy would be enough to get Dr. Strange involved, but it's even better, because Claremont established that a N'Garai Sa'arpool is in Dr. Strange's basement.
That said, Wolverine's appearance still feels forced. Wolverine has become possessed and goes to Dr. Strange's house, coming up from the basement, through the Sa'arpool. He attacks Dr. Strange, who has to fight Wolverine with his martial arts because the nature of the possession counteracts Strange's magic.
Strange is able to stop Wolverine, but the surprise is that Wolverine is possessed by the Undying Ones, not the N'Garai. It turns out that the Undying Ones and the N'Garai are rivals. The Undying Ones, who now have a new Nameless One to lead them, possessed Wolverine to see if they could use him, since he was previously touched by the N'Garai, to make use of the Sa'arpool for themselves, and to kill Dr. Strange.
So as you can see, there's no reason for Wolverine specifically to have been used in this story, as opposed to any of the other X-Men that fought the N'Garai in Uncanny X-Men #96, or Kitty Pryde, who fought one in Uncanny X-Men #143. But of course it's Wolverine.
Strange decides that he needs to go to the Undying Ones' dimension to stop them, and Wolverine, quoting one of Roy Thomas' favorite lines about "those who only stand and wait", demands to go with him.
Wolverine's dialogue really grates on me. It's punny and referential, typical of Roy Thomas during this period, but it doesn't sound much like Wolverine.
But i don't have to hear too much of it, because Wolverine winds up getting possessed a second time in this story.
Strange manages to seal up the portal from the Undying Ones' dimension with a "Gaea shard", and it seems that the N'Garai Sa'arpool is no longer in Strange's basement after this.
Using a character like Wolverine, but not writing him well, seems in the long run to be a worse idea than not using him at all. You may get that temporary sales boost, but Wolverine fans aren't going to be thrilled with the depiction of their character, and they're going to assume the book just sucks. Thomas' 90s Doctor Strange run has not been my favorite, but it's usually better than this, so this isn't a very good showcase. And that's beyond the general problem of diluting the appeal of characters like Wolverine by having them appear in so many random bad stories.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is a new Nameless One after the original was defeated in the Defenders story. And this is his only appearance, so i haven't listed him as a character appearing.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showClea, Dr. Strange, Imei Chang, Wolverine, Wong
Fnord, shouldn't this take place before the backup story in Doctor Strange Annual 1? Doctor Strange 42 seems like it's meant to be the first time that Clea has returned to the mansion since encountering Flyxx.
Posted by: Michael | March 21, 2016 9:16 PM
Yes, thanks Michael.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 22, 2016 8:06 AM
Wait a minute... Wong taught Dr. Strange Martial Arts?
Posted by: Jay Gallardo | May 6, 2016 6:26 PM
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