A tragically common element of Marvel Comics over the past decade is that the publishing house is at the mercy of what gets translated on the big screen. The stranglehold of pop culture that the MCU maintains has made the depictions of these famous characters, for better or for worse, the distillation of their entire history and as a result, what fans read in new comics feels like a copy of these amalgamations. Obviously not everything Marvel publishes has this quality, but it is particularly common, which is why Tradd Moore and Heather Moore’s Doctor Strange: Autumn Sunrise is such a relief.
This version of Doctor Strange isn’t Benedict Cumberbatch on paper doing magic stylized by visual effects houses. No, this is pure, unadulterated comic book goodness, an exploration and examination of the form and function of comic book storytelling through the lens of what the medium can do with its own unique mechanics. Moore is writing and drawing the series with Heather Moore taking the already classy and trippy visuals to the next level with an extra layer of psychedelic color.
Remarkable is that Autumn sunrise has a hint of relatability to readers who come to the title because they’ve seen Doctor Strange in movies – hints of his heroism and lineage are peppered. a unique level of existence that requires him to think about his own existence. Is the Stephen Strange we’re following awake? Empathize? Even really? Is he a man bound to panels in a comic book? The story doesn’t exactly lean towards Morrison-esque meta-theatrism, but the vagueness of the plot plays into the mystique, sometimes giving this a depth that may not even have been intended.
From a pure plot perspective, it’s hard to really say what Doctor Strange: Autumn Sunrise really “over” because the piece carries more weight as an atmospheric painting than as a story to be broken down. To a large extent, this series already feels like Moore is channeling Mike Mignola’s Hellboy in hell – singular stories that focus on a character in a specific place that fit together to form a larger portrait. The comparison with that series is not only correct in terms of narrative structure, but also in terms of the cheerfulness that you can achieve by simply taking in the images. The Moore team has taken the atmosphere Steve Ditko routinely explored with the Sorcerer Supreme and given it a modern polish, pushing unique terrains and villains to a character that has a malleable form (sometimes literally) in regards to what kind of pastiche you also want to add it in.
To mispronounce recent work with Doctor Strange does you a disservice to the writers who make recent attempts under the banner, but Tradd Moore’s work in Doctor Strange: Autumn Sunrise already feels like the pinnacle of what an artist can do with a character who hasn’t felt fresh in years. Instead of chasing the MCU’s facsimiles and the version of Doctor Strange that, arguably, most of the world knows, Tradd Moore and Heather Moore have gone back to basics. They give readers a Strange who feels like he’s controlling the panels around him, inviting you to turn the page. Autumn sunrise is a late but promising arrival in the conversation of the best comics of 2022.
Published by Marvel Comics
on November 23, 2022
Written by Tradd Moore
Art by Tradd Moore
Color through Heather Moore
Letters through Clayton Cowles with Tradd Moore
Cover Tradd Moore
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