Doctor Strange: Into Shamballa – Marvel Graphic Novel #23

By J.M. DeMatteis & Dan Green (Marvel)
ISBN: 0- 87135-559-0 or ISBN13: 978-0-87135-166-1

Once upon a time Marvel published far more all-original graphic novels than reprint collections or assorted compendia of past glories, utilising new formats and print innovations to tell “big stories” on larger than normal pages (285 x 220mm rather than the now customary 258 x 168mm) featuring not only licensed assets like Conan, high profile movie adaptations and creator-owned properties, but also proprietary characters the company owned lock, stock and barrel.

One such spectacular home-grown special event is this quirky, lyrically lovely visual and philosophical diversion starring the company’s own New Age Astral Avenger…

Steven Strange was once America’s greatest surgeon, a brilliant man, yet vain and arrogant, caring nothing for the sick, except as a means to wealth and glory. When a self-inflicted drunken car-crash ended his career, Strange hit the skids.

Then, fallen as low as man ever could, the debased doctor overheard a barroom tale which led him on a delirious odyssey – or perhaps pilgrimage – to Tibet, where an impossibly aged mage and eventual enlightenment through daily redemption transformed the derelict into a solitary, ever-vigilant watchdog for frail humanity against all the hidden dangers of the dark. Now he battles otherworldly evil as the Sorcerer Supreme, a Master of the Mystic arts.

After years of unceasing battle, a momentary lull in the eldritch crusade allows Strange time for contemplation and reminiscence. His thoughts return to the beginning of his second life amidst the misty crags of the Himalayas. He is often troubled by his long-departed mentor’s more impenetrable teachings and questions, even doubts begin to cloud the wizardly warrior’s sense of mission and purpose…

Visiting the Ancient One’s abandoned abode, Strange meets again his past master’s devoted body servant Hamir the Hermit and takes possession of his mentor’s final gift: a puzzle-box which defies his every effort to discern its true meaning.

Just as Strange’s frustration peaks he is summoned by the puissant and (seemingly) benevolent Lords of Shamballa and press-ganged into undertaking a global odyssey to jump-start the spiritual evolution of humanity and thereby mid-wife the Golden Age of Mankind.

But for that joyous miracle to occur the Doctor must perform three drastic and draconian feats of mystic surgery; in South America, India and England, harried each time by an unknown and deeply malevolent adversary.

However, no matter how far he travels or bravely he strives Stephen Strange cannot solve his most urgent internal dilemma: what kind of transcendent world can be built only on the corpses of three-quarters of humanity…?

Challenging, allegorical and elegiacally moving, Into Shamballa offers a far more mature and spiritual experience than most comics tales whilst still maintaining the thrill and wonder so necessary to lovers of graphic narrative.

Enticingly scripted by Searcher into the Mysteries J.M. DeMatteis and stunningly painted by Dan Green, this off-beat gem typifies all that was great about the bold and innovative middle-period of “the House of Ideas”.
© 1989 Marvel Entertainment Group/Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved.