The packing and unpacking that accompanied Marvel's recent office move saw stories that were commissioned, but for one reason or another never published, come to light. It's been decided to blow the dust off the work and present them under the Marvel Vault banner. First off, a Doctor Strange entry intended for the Marvel Universe series of the late Nineties. The book's USP was that it told tales that predated the first appearance of the Fantastic Four ... it was a clever idea, but never found a wide readership and was cancelled after #7.
So Roger Stern and Neil Vokes's Doctor Strange story never saw the light of day - until now. And how spookily appropriate that it sees the future Master of the Mystic Arts house-hunting. Just back in the Big Apple after studying with the Ancient One, Stephen Strange is shown around a house he's been drawn to. The estate agent's had trouble shifting it due to spooky happenings. Properties on the lot keep burning down, for one thing. But the reborn former surgeon is all about the mystical, and the oddness he senses and sees persuades him to make an offer. Strange faces his own demons and those of the house and, on conquering both, begins planning a makeover - starting with a massive, swirly window.
It's a simple little tale - Doctor Strange fights minor demons as his past is recapped. Stern's script is stylish and efficient, with a nice line in magic spells that actually scan. And penciller Neil Vokes evokes the mystic realm with aplomb, homaging original artist Steve Ditko while weaving his own magic. He captures the angular appeal of original Strange, and it's a treat to see that old blue smock and Cape of Non-Levitation again. (There's also a wonderful panel of a flailing maiden being sacrificed that looks to be pure Mad! era Wally Wood; deliberate or not, I loved it.)
There's a freshness to the inks of Jay Geldhof that works for this story, and the colours of Leigh Loughridge are eerily appropriate. Splendid letters come courtesy of Jared K Fletcher, while Mario Alberti supplies a beautifully spooky cover illustration.
This one-shot won't change the world. But it did cheer up my evening. And that's not bad for a story we might never have seen.