Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 3

First Published: December 2007

Contents: Doctor Strange #1 (June 1974) to #29 (June 1978); Doctor Strange Annual #1 (1976); and The Tomb of Dracula #44 (May 1976) and #45 (June 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Steve Englehart, Marv Wolfman, Gene Colon, Frank Brunner, Jim Starlin, Roger Stern, Tom Sutton, and others

Key First Appearances: Silver Dagger, Gaea, Domini

Story Continues From: Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 4

Overview: As a part of the Marvel Universe for over 10 years, Doctor Strange served as the co-star of Strange Tales, which was later renamed (but not renumbered) as Doctor Strange; he was the focus of attention in Marvel Feature and Marvel Premiere; and he helped found a non-team in the Defenders. But it took until 1974 for Doctor Strange to finally get what every hero craves – a #1 issue!

Having finished his run in Marvel Premiere, Doctor Strange once again got his own bi-monthly title with the same creative team of Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner. But the title really picks up when Gene Colon returns to the title with issue #6.

There are some interesting stories in this volume. Doctor Strange becomes the last man alive, as the Earth is destroyed and then replaced with an exact duplicate. Doctor Strange travels to Boston where he encounters Dracula to save Wong from becoming a vampire. And who else could defeat Doctor Strange but a Doctor Stranger. Thankfully, Doctor Strange still has friends like Clea, the Ancient One, and Nighthawk to stand by his side as he faces down these new challenges.

What makes this Essential?: I do try to be original for each one of these reviews. But I run the risk of repeating myself with this review. So, I’m still not a big fan of Doctor Strange. But the art of this volume, in particular that of Gene Colan, is simply spectacular. I think that the black & white format actually enhances the art. This volume could serve as a primer for aspiring artists looking to understand page layouts and characters forms. The stories seem rather average against the artwork – for all of the talk about current writers stretching out stories for the trades, they should read some of these stories.

Footnotes: Doctor Strange #3 contains reprints of Doctor Strange stories from Strange Tales #126 and #127, framed with new pages. These Strange Tales stories were previously reprinted in Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 1.

Doctor Strange #14 and The Tomb of Dracula #44 and #45 were also reprinted in Essential Tomb of Dracula Vol. 2.

Doctor Strange #21 is a reprint of Doctor Strange #169, which retells the origin of Doctor Strange. This story was previously reprinted in Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 2.

If you like this volume, try: exploring the works of P. Craig Russell. Serving as the artist of Doctor Strange Annual #1 in this volume was one of Russell’s earliest jobs in comics. Over the years, he has been a modern master of the art, which a very distinct look and creative layouts. Russell is known for incorporating operatic themes into his work across multiple publishers and decades. He had a memorable run with Killraven, which can be found in Essential Killraven Vol. 1. Russell’s most recent work includes a two-volume graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.

Essential Silver Surfer Vol. 2

Essential Silver Surfer Vol. 2

Essential Silver Surfer Vol. 2

First Published: June 2007

Contents: Silver Surfer story from Epic Illustrated #1 (Spring 1980); Silver Surfer #1 (June 1982); Silver Surfer #1 (July 1987) to #18 (December 1988); Silver Surfer Annual #1 (1988); and Silver Surfer story from Marvel Fanfare #51 (June 1990)

Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, John Buscema, John Byrne, Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, Joe Staton, Ron Lim, and others

Key First Appearances: Contemplator, Nenora, Captain Reptyl, Clumsy Foulup. S’Byll

Story Continues From: Essential Silver Surfer Vol. 1

Overview: Free at last, free at last! The Silver Surfer is free of Earth, and spanning the galaxy in Essential Silver Surfer Vol. 2. Sit back and enjoy the ride, as our cosmic-powered hero finally goes cosmic.

Back when the Silver Surfer first appeared, he was a herald of Galactus, but rebelled against his master to protect Earth. As a result, he was punished to live out his days on Earth, inside an invisible barrier Galactus erected surrounding the planet. But leave it to the genius of Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four to figure out a loop hole, which releases the Silver Surfer from his confinement.

Once again free to roam the stars, the Silver Surfer travels back to his home planet of Zenn-La and his beloved Shalla Bal. He finds his home world caught up in the ongoing conflict between the Krees and the Skrulls. The warring races, and the political intrigue taking place behind the scenes, would provide the direction for the series. With the entire Marvel Universe at his disposal, writer Steve Englehart allows the Silver Surfer to encounter many of the cosmic beings – from Galactus and Nova to the Eternals and Mantis.

This volume also collects some assorted solo stories of the Silver Surfer that appeared in this era. Two tales written by Stan Lee, with art by John Buscema and John Byrne, start off this collection. And an unused story from Silver Surfer #1 finally sees print in 1990 in the pages of Marvel Fanfare (see Footnotes below).

What makes this Essential?: This book highlights an interesting change in the direction of the Silver Surfer character. The first Silver Surfer series from the 1960s, collected in Essential Silver Surfer Vol. 1, dealt with ethics, morality, race and other topics. The Silver Surfer was the voice of Stan Lee in the pages of the comic books, giving him a chance to wax poetic on whatever interested Lee at the time. I would contend that the Silver Surfer of this era was more of a philosopher and not a super-hero.

Now over the 1970s and early 1980s, we did see Silver Surfer used, primarily in the pages of the Defenders, but he was never the focus of that title. It’s not until the 1987 series launch, collected in this volume, where we see the Silver Surfer go back into space and become a cosmic super-hero. This Silver Surfer is more likely to dive into action versus sit on his board and think about the petals on a flower. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Bottom line, if you want an action hero, you will enjoy this volume. If you prefer the Silver Surfer seen in the first Essential volume, you may not like this edition.

Footnotes: The cover to Marvel Age #52 is included in this volume. In that issue, there was an article on the then pending release of the new Silver Surfer series, which starts in this Essential. The article is reprinted in this volume.

The Silver Surfer story from Marvel Fanfare #51 was originally intended to be the first issue of the 1987 series. Before it could be published, Marvel editorial agreed to allow the Silver Surfer to be released from his imprisonment on Earth, once again allowing him to span the galaxy. The original issue was shelved, and a new #1 was quickly put together. Not willing to let paid work go unused, Marvel later dug out the finished issue and included it in Marvel Fanfare.

If you like this volume, try: the 2014 Silver Surfer series from Dan Slott, Mike Allred, and Laura Allred. Free from Earth once again, Silver Surfer encounters an Earth woman, Dawn Greenwood, who becomes a new companion for Norrin Radd on his travels. I use the word ‘companion’ on purpose, as this title has a strong ‘Doctor Who’ feel to it, in terms of it’s timey-wimey elusiveness. This is some of Slott’s most creative writing to date, and the Allreds work feels like it is a direct descendent of Jack Kirby. The first trade paperback collection just came out in October, so rush back to your LCS to pick up a copy.

Essential Captain America Vol. 3

Essential Captain America Vol. 3

First Published: December 2006

Contents: Captain America #127 (July 1970) to #133 (January 1971); Captain America and the Falcon #134 (February 1971) to #156 (December 1972)

Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, Gene Colan, Gary Friedrich, Gerry Conway, Steve Englehart, John Romita, Sr., Sal Buscema, and others

Key First Appearances: Leila Taylor, Boss Morgan, Jack Monroe/Bucky

Story Continues From: Essential Captain America Vol. 2

Story Continues In: Essential Captain America Vol. 4

Overview: Welcome back to the continuing adventures of Captain America and the Falcon. This volume features an all-star list of comic greats, as Stan Lee and Gene Colan wrap up their long run on the book, and familiar Marvel Bullpen creators like Steve Englehart, John Romita, Sr., and Sal Buscema get their chance to take on star-spangled superhero.

Our duo continues helping out Nick Fury, Sharon Carter, and S.H.I.E.L.D. with a variety of familiar foes, such as the Red Skull, Hydra, and the Grey Gargoyle. Heroes like Spider-Man and the Avengers make cameo appearances, as New York City is the hub for all Marvel super-heroes.

Now, one of the struggles for our title character is to find something to occupy his time when he is not in costume. Sam Wilson works as a social worker in Harlem, and now has a steady girlfriend in Leila Taylor. But what can Steve Rogers do? Well, with good intentions, he joins the New York City Police Department. He works with Police Commissioner Feingold to set it up, but they agree to tell no one of Rogers’ other identity. Of course, this leads into all kinds of crazy excuses that Rogers must come up with to explain missing his shift, much to the annoyance of Rogers’ sergeant, Brian Muldoon (who bears a solid resemblance to Jack Kirby, one of Captain America’s co-creators).

The volume concludes with a face-off with the Captain America and Bucky from the 1950s. We find out that the government tried to introduce a new Captain America during the early days of the Cold War. William Burnside is an avid Captain America fan, and while researching his hero, he discovers the super soldier formula long thought lost. He undergoes plastic surgery to have his face shaped to look like Steve Rogers. Bringing in a young Jack Monroe that shares Burnside’s beliefs, the two teamed up as Captain America and Bucky. But their version of the super soldier formula causes psychotic breakdowns in the heroes, and the government is forced to put the two into suspended animation. Reanimated in the early 1970s, the 1950s Cap and Bucky come to blows with our Cap and Falcon. Our fearless heroes triumph, and the 1950s heroes are put back on ice. (In later years, Jack Monroe would return to Captain America’s side, adopting the Nomad costume identity in the 1980s. For more on Nomad, come back for Essential Captain America Vol. 4!)

What makes this Essential?: This volume really has me on the ropes. I don’t want to write a negative review about it, but I don’t know that I can write a positive review either. Given the incredible talents of the creators involved with the volume, one might expect the stories to be more epic in nature, or even more memorable. I don’t believe they were phoning it in during this era, but this is one of those books that felt like priority 1 was to just get a book out each month. This is a very good read for the Captain America fan, but I believe the casual Marvel Universe fan will find it disappointing.

Footnotes: Captain America Special #1 (1971) and #2 (1972) are reprint issues. collecting previously published stories from Tales of Suspense and Not Brand Echh. The covers for the two issues are in this volume.

Beginning with issue #134, the title of the comic changed to Captain America and the Falcon. This remained the title until issue #222, which can be found in Essential Captain America Vol. 6.

If you like this volume, try: the Captain America movies from 2011 and 2014. In all fairness, this may seem like a cheat. Maybe I am struggling to find another book to recommend based on the events of these comics. But at this point, if you are reading Volume 3, you probably have also read Volumes 1 and 2, which gives you 8 years worth of Captain America stories. So you understand who the character is and how he should be portrayed. So jump over to the movies. The 2011 Captain America: The First Avenger film portrays our hero’s origin, using the story from Captain America #255, which is viewed as the definitive Captain America origin, during the Roger Stern-John Byrne run in 1980 (see Essential Captain America Vol. 7). Jump ahead to the 2014 Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier and we see Captain America working with S.H.I.E.L.D., which we have seen a lot in these Essentials. Look at the opening to Captain America #153, as Captain America comes home and finds Nick Fury sitting in the dark. That scene was later mimicked in the movie. Chris Evans visually personifies Captain America in the flesh, even more so than Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man. The Captain America films have done an excellent job of aligning the movie character to that of the comic character, They are worth the re-watch to appreciate how faithful they were to the comics.

Essential Hulk Vol. 4

Essential Hulk Vol. 4

Essential Hulk Vol. 4

First Published: September 2006

Contents: Incredible Hulk #143 (September 1971) to #170 (December 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin, Steve Englehart, Herb Trimpe, Gary Friedrich, Dick Ayers, Gerry Conway, and others

Key First Appearances: Dr. Peter Corbeau, Hulkbusters, Shaper of Worlds, Wendigo, Gremlin, Zzzax, Bi-Beast

Story Continues From: Essential Hulk Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Essential Hulk Vol. 5

Overview: OK, this is the fourth volume in the Essential Hulk line. Do you still need a proper introduction? We all know by heart how Dr. Bruce Banner was exposed to gamma radiation, and as a result becomes a green monster known as the Hulk when he gets angry. I think we can skip the introduction and just get into the story. 

The Hulk is still on the run from the Army. General Ross reveals a new plan to battle our hero with the introduction of the Hulkbusters. Initially designed as aircraft that could attach the Hulk from a distance, the Hulkbusters would morph over time into a full military assault unit with a weapons cabinet that would make the Punisher giddy with excitement.

At one point, the Hulk is finally captured, and is brought to trial for his numerous crimes against humanity. Of course, the Hulk keeps attorney Matt Murdock on retainer, so he is represented in court by the man without fear. The case does not go the Hulk’s way, and Mr. Fantastic finds a way to help the Hulk get out of the courts, even if he remains on the run.

During this era (1972-73), the X-Men title was in reprint mode, so those characters were able to make appearances in other books. At one point, the Hulk encounters Havok and Polaris, as the Hulk is confused by the green hair of Lorna Dane and mistakes her for Jarella. Later on, the Hulk crosses paths with the Beast and Mimic. Sadly, one of those three does not walk away from the fight. Given that we still have three more Essential Hulk volumes to cover, and this is well before the Beast has joined the Avengers, the Defenders, and X-Factor, I think you can figure out the ending of that story.

As if his life is not complicated enough, Bruce and the Hulk have conflicting issues with their girlfriends. Hulk wants to return to Jarella’s side in the sub-atomic world, while Bruce struggles to find a way to stay with Betty Ross. Unfortunately, during one of his periods where Bruce and the Hulk were off-Earth, Betty accepted a proposal and married Glenn Talbot. Later on after the Hulk’s return, the arch-fiend MODOK transforms Betty into the Harpy, the half-bird/half-woman character from Greek mythology. The last thing the Hulk needs is his best girl harping on him for all of his faults, whether it’s his anger control issues or his two-timing with Jarella.

What makes this Essential?: I’m not for sure what to think of this volume. The stories are interesting, but I am not a fan of Herb Trimpe’s art during this era. His Hulk looks more brutish, but does not appear to be much larger than a normal man. Personally, I prefer my Hulk to be overwhelming in size and anger, and I do not get that Hulk in this volume. The new characters introduced in this volume stick around or make a bigger impact with other characters, such as Wendigo with Wolverine and Alpha Flight. This is a volume for a die-hard Hulk fan. As a casual Marvel fan, I don’t think this is essential to own.

Footnotes: The back-up story from Incredible Hulk #147 is also reprinted in Essential Hulk Vol. 2.

Incredible Hulk #161 is also reprinted in Essential Classic X-Men Vol. 3.

If you like this volume, try: the Hulk Visionaries: John Byrne collection, which reprints Byrne’s brief run on Incredible Hulk in the mid-1980s. Flashback to 1985, as John Byrne was wrapping up his run on Alpha Flight. At that same time, Bill Mantlo and Mike Mignola were finishing up a year-long story in Incredible Hulk that had our hero jumping around in other dimensions. Marvel essentially traded the creative teams between the two books. Beginning in Incredible Hulk #314, Byrne takes control of the title, and the Hulk is back on Earth, hounded by General Ross and his Hulkbusters. Doc Samson has figured out a way to separate Bruce Banner from the Hulk, but it leaves the jade giant a mindless monster. Free of the Hulk, Bruce Banner and Betty Ross are finally able to be married. And suddenly, Byrne was off of the book, due to creative differences with then Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter. This volume also collects two other Byrne Hulk stories from this era, an Incredible Hulk Annual #14 and a Hulk feature from Marvel Fanfare #29. This Hulk Visionaries was released in trade paperback in 2008, and should still be easily found.

Essential Avengers Vol. 5

Essential Avengers Vol. 5

First Published: January 2006

Contents: Avengers #98 (April 1972) to #119 (March 1972); Daredevil #99 (May 1973); and Defenders #8 (September 1973) to #11 (December 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Harlan Ellison, Steve Englehart, Barry Windsor-Smith, Rich Buckler, Don Heck, Sal Buscema, Bob Brown, and others

Key First Appearances: Imus Champion, Mantis

Story Continues From: Essential Avengers Vol. 4

Story Continues In: Essential Avengers Vol. 6

Overview: In the aftermath of the Kree-Skrull war, the Avengers have returned to Earth to find that one of their members is missing. Tracking down the Warhawks, the Avengers are reunited with Clint Barton, who has dropped the Goliath act and is now back to the bow and arrows of Hawkeye. With him, they find another former Avenger, Hercules, confused and disoriented. What a way to start the next volume of Essential Avengers!

The disoriented Hercules leads into a storyline that leads into #100 anniversary issue, which brought back every former Avengers – including the Hulk – in a battle between Earth, Asgard, and Olympus. Following that, the Avengers face numerous familiar foes, including the Grim Reaper, the Sentinels, the Space Phantom, and Magneto.

The highlight of this volume is the Avengers-Defenders War, which crossed over between the two titles, both scripted by Steve Englehart. Loki, the step-brother of Thor, and Dormammu, long-time foe of Doctor Strange, manipulate the two super-teams into battle. This has been reprinted multiple times, including in the Essential Defenders books.

The volume concludes as the Avengers make another return to Rutland, Vermont, for the annual Halloween parade. Once again, chaos ensues as the Collector shows up trying to complete a set of Avengers.

What is interesting with this volume is Englehart advancing the characters into relationships, bordering on a soap opera. The Scarlet Witch and the Vision start a relationship, much to Quicksilver’s chagrin. Mantis shows up, and wants to claim the Vision as her own. The Swordsman has fallen head over heels in love with Mantis, but can’t get the time of day from her. All of this gets resolved in the next volume.

What makes this Essential?: We see another transition in the Avengers title as Roy Thomas steps down as writer, and Steve Englehart comes in as the new scribe of the book. The X-Men – friend and foes – make numerous appearances during a time when their book was strictly a reprint title. Englehart scripts one of the first multi-part crossovers between the Avengers and the Defenders. With the introduction of Mantis, we start approaching the Celestial Madonna storyline that will dominate Essential Avengers Vol. 6. The downside to this volume is the art, which suffers from a lack of consistency. If you liked Essential Avengers Vol. 4, you should probably have this volume as well to continue the run.

Footnotes: Avengers #111 and Daredevil #99 was also reprinted in Essential Daredevil Vol. 4.

Avengers #115-#118 and Defenders #8-#11 are also reprinted in Essential Defenders Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: Avengers: Under Siege by Roger Stern and John Buscema. Running in Avengers #270-#277, the Masters of Evil are back with a vengeance, taking down the Avengers one-by-one. During the onslaught, Hercules is beaten within inches of his life; control of the Avengers Mansion falls over to the bad guys; and even the butler Jarvis is caught up and injured. But falling back to the group’s origins, the Wasp rallies the troops, calling in Thor and Captain America to defeat the Masters of Evil. When fans are asked to name the best Avengers stories, this is easily in the top five for everyone, if not the top choice. This has been collected multiple times and remains in print nearly 30 years after it initially ran in the monthly book.

Essential Defenders Vol. 1

Essential Defenders Vol. 1

First Published: September 2004

Contents: Doctor Strange #183 (November 1969); The Sub-Mariner #22 (February 1970), #34 (February 1971) and #35 (March 1971); The Incredible Hulk #126 (April 1970); Marvel Feature #1 (December 1971) to #3 (June 1972); The Defenders #1 (August 1972) to #14 (July 1974); and The Avengers #115 (September 1973) to #118 (December 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema, Ross Andru, Steve Englehart, Bob Brown, Len Wein, and others

Key First Appearances: Valkyrie, Nebulon

Story Continues In: Essential Defenders Vol. 2

Overview: Doctor Strange! The Hulk! The Sub-Mariner! More than men, these beings border on being forces of nature. Brought together against their wishes, these heroes unite as one to form the first non-team in comics history, the Defenders!

A loose story line drifted across the three titles of the featured characters, all written by Roy Thomas, over a two year period before the trio of characters came together under the Defenders banner in Marvel Feature #1. Following three appearances in Marvel Feature, the Defenders graduated to their bi-monthly title. What made the team unique is that they didn’t necessarily consider themselves as an organized team. The Defenders did not have an organized charter and rules like the Avengers. They did not have matching uniforms like the Fantastic Four. Rather, they happened to be characters who hung out at Doctor Strange’s home and were pulled together at different times to fight foes (mainly magical characters) that threatened the Earth.

The Silver Surfer joined the “team” in issue #2 and is now considered to be one of the core members of the team. Longtime members Valkyrie and Nighthawk soon appear, and the regular cast of characters is set for the next few years.

The highlight of this volume is the Avengers/Defenders War, which ran for four months across both titles. This was one of the first major crossovers between two Marvel titles that last more than two or three issues. Hawkeye was hanging out with the Defenders at this time, so it made for a lot of interesting match-ups between the two teams (Captain America vs. Sub-Mariner, Swordsman vs. Valkyrie, Iron Man vs. Hawkeye, Vision & Scarlet Witch vs. Silver Surfer, etc.). The format for this storyline became the template for future crossover events for years to come.

What makes this Essential?: For a team that was not officially a team, the Defenders have a long history in the Marvel Universe. Primarily composed of characters best described as “anti-social” or “loners”, the members fought each other as much as they did their foes. There are a lot of times where this title feels more like an extension of the Doctor Strange book, as his villains are the team’s primary foes.

I think if you are a fan of the team or the main characters (especially Doctor Strange) then give this volume a read. If you are coming to this for the Avengers/Defenders crossover, then pick up Essential Avengers Vol. 5 or the Avengers/Defenders War collection.

Footnotes: Doctor Strange #183, The Sub-Mariner #22, The Incredible Hulk #126, and Marvel Feature #1 are also reprinted in Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 2.

The Incredible Hulk #126 is also reprinted in Essential Hulk Vol. 3.

The Avengers #115-#118 and The Defenders #8-#11 are also reprinted in Essential Avengers Vol. 5.

Tom Hagen and the Rutland, Vermont, Halloween parade make an appearance in Marvel Feature #2. For more information on Tom Fagan, see Essential Avengers Vol. 4.

If you like this volume, try: the Defenders series from 2001. Created by Kurt Busiek and Eric Larsen, this series once again reunited the core members of the team under a spell — Yandroth manipulated a spell so that Doctor Strange, the Hulk, the Sub-Mariner, and the Silver Surfer must reunite any time the world is in danger. This volume ran for 12 issues when it was then renamed The Order, which ran for six issues. These were numbered #1-#6, but they also continued the numbering from The Defenders with #13-#18. This story mixed a lot of humor into the action. Sadly, this volume has not been collected into any trade collections so you may need to dive into the back-issue bins to track this down.

For a look at the 2008 series The Order, please take a look at Essential Defenders Vol. 3.

Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 2

Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 2

First Published: March 2005

Contents: Doctor Strange #169 (June 1968) to #178 (March 1969) and #180 (May 1969) to #183 (November 1969), Avengers #61 (February 1969), Sub-Mariner #22 (February 1970), Incredible Hulk #126 (April 1970), Marvel Feature #1 (December 1971), and Marvel Premiere #3 (July 1972) to #14 (March 1974).

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, Steve Englehart, Gene Colon, Frank Brunner, Barry Windsor-Smith, Dan Adkins

Key First Appearances: Satannish, the Vishanti, Shuma-Gorath

Story Continues From: Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 1

Story Continues In: Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 3 and Essential Defenders Vol. 1

Overview: Doctor Strange moves into his own title with full-length stories with this second Essential volume. This book can be broken up into three distinct parts:
* Part 1 covers Doctor Strange #169-182 and Avengers #61, with the start of new writer Roy Thomas joined quickly by Gene Colan to tell some breath-taking stories of the Sorcerer Supreme. Colan’s art is incredible in this edition and jumps off the page with pure energy.
* Part 2 covers Doctor Strange #183, Sub-Mariner #22, Incredible Hulk #126, and Marvel Feature #1, which gives us the origin story of the non-group of heroes known as the Defenders (Doctor Strange, Namor the Sub-Mariner, the Hulk, and the Silver Surfer). To get the full story arc for this, I suggest reading Essential Defenders Vol. 1, as not all parts of the complete origin are contained in this volume.
* Part 3 covers Marvel Premiere #3-14, where once again Doctor Strange is given the chance to be the lead in the book. His run would end in this title with issue #14 but picks up the next month with a new Doctor Strange #1, which can be found in Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 3. The highlight of this run is the start of Steve Englehart’s association with Doctor Strange, which would continue on for many years.

What makes this Essential?: For me, the highlight of this book is the Gene Colan art in the first part of the book. I have never been a big fan of the character of Doctor Strange, but I found myself pulled into these stories by the artwork. I don’t know if this volume is truly essential, even if you are a fan of Doctor Strange.

Footnotes: Doctor Strange #169 was the “first” issue of the character’s own title. Prior to this issue, Doctor Strange shared the Strange Tales comic with Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Strange Tales came to an end with issues #168. The title was renamed Doctor Strange for #169, keeping the previous numbering, which was the norm for this time.

Avengers #61 was also reprinted in Essential Avengers Vol. 3.

Doctor Strange #179 was not collected in this volume. The issue reprinted Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2, which has been included in Essential Spider-Man Vol. 2.

For Marvel Premiere #11, the cover and the framing sequences are included in this volume. The issue contains reprinted stories from Strange Tales #115 and #117, which were included in Essential Doctor Strange Vol. 1.

If you like this volume, try: Superman: The Phantom Zone TPB, which was recently re-released by DC Comics. The main story is written by Steve Gerber with art by Gene Colan (hence the recommendation). This was originally a mini-series from 1982. The paperback is printed on a bright white glossy paper, which accentuates Colan’s art beautifully. The story features the Phantom Zone villains (more famously featured in the Superman motion pictures) escaping to Earth and imprisoning Superman in the zone. He must travel through the different worlds of the Phantom Zone before he is able to escape and return the Kryptonian criminals to their rightful place.