There’s an article in the back of this bumper-sized issue by comics writer and Comic Buyers Guide critic Tony Isabella from the early Seventies, heralding the next big thing from Marvel, Jericho Drumm aka Brother Voodoo. Stan Lee ‘wanted to make sure this character did not become a black Dr Strange’. So in his Strange Tales strip there was neither manservant Wong nor evil Baron Mordo; anyone for manservant Bambu and evil Baron Samedi? Brother Voodoo lasted five issues before landing in the limbo reserved for occasional guest stars and Fred Hembeck favourites . . .
. . . but now he’s back, and promoted to Sorcerer Supreme. Doesn’t that make him a black Dr Strange?
Maybe so, but if this first issue is anything to go by, that’s only a good thing. Having taken on the Eye of Agamotto, Cloak of Levitation and sundry other Stephen Strange props, he’s being mentored by the former Sorcerer Supreme as he tears through demonic nether-regions, telling the dark lords there’s a new sheriff in town. When we join him this issue he’s gotten as far as the dread Dormammu, who isn’t intially impressed. By the end of the book Dr Voodoo – he’s a psychologist as well as a superhero – is facing Dr Doom, who’s out to usurp his new role and become Sorcerer Supreme himself.
The book also features Strange as mentor (I believe he’s soon to debut in a new book of his own – Dr Strange, Sorcerer Superfluous, maybe), soul brother Daniel and a very scary voodoo deity. Writer Rick Remender fills the comic with mumbo jumbo of the highest order – I’ve no idea how many of these mystic references are from the voodoo tradition, as opposed to having been made up by Remender, but it sounds convincing (he said, terrified to try and use ‘verisimilitude’ in a sentence). And there’s a definite direction here, always a plus. I think I’ve read maybe one Brother Voodoo story in my life, but I didn’t feel at all lost here, and I definitely like our hero – he’s purposeful, courageous, not totally dour and as keen to help the bum in the street as he is to send Dormammu and chums packing.
The art of illustrator Jefte Palo and colour artist Jean-Francois Beaulieu is beautiful. Dr Voodoo looks every bit the powerful mage in his new Stephen Strange influenced get-up, and moves with animalistic grace (click to enlarge). While I prefer my Dormammu with Human Torch stubble, the lord of the Dark Dimension is recognisable here, and formidable, while Dr Doom actually looks as fierce as he talks. There is, though, no excuse for Palo’s Strange, who looks like a gay walrus missing his gym membership. Maybe I’m projecting, but I’m sure I detect echoes of Gene Colan – Brother Voodoo’s masterly first artist, and penciller for Strange’s masked period – in occasional images, such as the castle towards issue’s end. That’s a definite plus.
Beaulieu’s colouring is a revelation – intense, moody and, when special effect are needed. spellbinding. Credit too to letter Dave Lanphear, who juggles his dialogue fonts with panache.
Marko Djurdjeviv is fantastic, you can hear those voodoo drums a-coming, but it’s also the cover that brings my only real gripe – that logo is nigh unreadable. Actually, that’s not a logo, it’s a toast rack. Fix it someone.
As well as the Isabella text piece there’s a Handbook of the Marvel Universe spread to help us tell our Zobop from our Zhambi.
All in all, Dr Voodoo #1 is a wonderful package – just magic.