Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Book Review: Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph & Torment by R. Stern et al.

 Doctor Strange & Doctor Doom: Triumph & Torment written by Roger Stern and Bill Mantlo with Gerry Conway, art by Mike Mignola and Kevin Nowlan with Gene Colan

A graphic novel full of Doom! Doctor Victor von Doom, that is. He's the leader of Latveria, an Eastern European country that hails him as a beloved leader though everyone outside thinks of him as a despot. He is an expert in science and has a working knowledge of magic (his mother was a gypsy accused of sorcery), making him a formidable foe.

In the main story, Doctor Doom and Doctor Strange are both invited to a mystical competition to see who is the greatest sorcerer on Earth. Doom has spent his life studying both science and sorcery, so he is a viable contender but does not win. Strange is the victor though in this contest a boon is given by the victor to the person in second place. So Strange owes Doom a favor. Doom knows exactly what he wants--to free is mother's soul from Mephistopheles, the ruler of Hell. She was unjustly taken by the Lord of Demons and Doom. Being a loving son (who knew he had one good quality?), Doom wants to free her. Doctor Strange recognizes the request as an actually worthy task and agrees to venture into Hell to save the soul of Mrs. von Doom. The story gets bizarre, touching, and smart as the two try to best the ruler of Hell on his own turf. The tale is entertaining and satisfying, weaving in a lot of character moments for the two stars.

In the second story, Doctor Doom goes to one of the deeper dungeons in his castle to summon and fight a demon for his mother's soul. It's an earlier issue of Astonishing Tales that sets out his yearly quest to free his mother's soul from Hell. It's not really clear why they put this after the first story. 

In the third story, also predating the first, Doctor Strange has lost his disciple Clea. Somehow word got out and everyone with any inkling of the occult comes to Bleecker Street to become the Sorcerer Supreme's new disciple. Even Victor von Doom in Latvaria hears the news and considers studying the mystics art with Stephen Strange. But he's too egotistical and too busy with matters of state (restoring order after some usurper messed things up). Doom's appearance is just a few pages and is a precursor of the main story above. 

The final two stories feature Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner. The only connection to the other material is that Mike Mignola did the pencils. These are some short, more mythological stories. In one, Namor saves a white horse that's drowning at sea; in the other, he's in the Saragossa Sea and has a strange experience where he's transported to the past and has a dalliance with a female pirate captain. 

Highly recommended for the initial story. The others are more filler/background information.

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