Look at the cover by Tom Coker - well designed, nicely executed, moody as all get out. It promises great things for this four-issue mini following the former Sorcerer Supreme since his demotion to would-be Master of the Mystic Arts once more.
Now look at the interior artwork by penciller Emma Rios and colourist Christina Strain. I'm not saying it's bad, subjectivity and all, but there's almost a 360 degree disconnect between what's on the outside and what's on the inside.
I'm not saying the art's bad - I will say I don't like it. The immediate problem for me is that I'm no fan of Christina Strain's colouring style, in particular the approach to skin tone. The uniform flatness leavened by blotches of brown to add a bit of shadow modelling . . . to my eye it's heavy handed. A few more graduations of tint would likely work wonders. I'd be interested to see how the art of Rios looked with a traditional inker.
Kudos, though, to Strain for having the shirt colour and trim echo Stephen's old Cloak of Levitation - a neat touch.
So how's the story? Waid gives us his spin on Damn Yankees, with a baseball team at the mercy of a demonic pact. It's good to see Stephen Strange is still tackling dark forces, but the sight of him in a baseball shirt, looking like a bum, made my heart sink. And while it makes sense that he's going to need a second to help cast spells, given his old hand tremble, disciple-to-be Casey (as in 'at the bat') is so annoying I'd have been happy had someone dragged her to hell. Waid had me hating her from the second she was introduced via annoying text-speak. I'm sure she'll improve, but I hope she's not going to be around at the expense of existing disciple Wong and Stephen's other half, Clea.
The dramatic climax of the issue is woeful, page after page of Stephen trying for a home run or something - hey, I'm a British comics fan, what do I care about baseball? - against a team of hellspawn. We're dialogue free for this sequence and after a page or so I simply skipped past all the tentacles and balls to get to the end and the unsurprising coda.
I'll have a look at issue two, but if it's as slight as this one I'll likely pass.