Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Run Reader: Doctor Voodoo (2009)

As Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Voodoo is obligated to tussle with the Dread Dormammu! 
While scrolling through Twitter today, I came across Buzzfeed's well-written Black History Month post "17 Black Superheroes And Where To Read More About Them," which referenced a number of familiar (to comic book fans anyway) African-American (and in the case of the Black Panther, African) superheroes. While some of those mentioned in the Top 17 were among my favorite characters, most notably John Henry Irons from DC Comics' Steel series that ran from 1994-1998, there were some additional characters I thought worthy of mention.

The cover to issue #1
by Marko Djurdjevic.
My longbox of cancelled titles runs deep and as I read the article, mental images of forgotten covers came to mind. My intent over the next few weeks is to post some images and basic info about those not included on Buzzfeed's list. Though some characters have some fairly lengthy history in their respective comic book universes, I'll limit the pictures and comment to those in comic books I have actually read, as in a complete "run." First up, Marvel Comics' Brother Doctor Voodoo.

Though he first appeared in 1973, Brother Voodoo (Jericho Drumm) didn't come fully to my attention until he was promoted to "Doctor" Voodoo, Avenger of the Supernatural, during the five issue series of the same name in 2009. Replacing Doctor Stephen Strange as the Sorcerer Supreme in the pages of The Avengers, Dr. Voodoo's self titled series was written by then up-and-comer Rick Remender with art by Jefte Palo. Each issue featured a beautiful painted cover by Marko Djurdjevic.

Much of issue 1 deals with Dr. Voodoo asserting his newly-appointed authority with some of the Marvel Universe's magic-based heavyweights, including Dr. Strange (who appointed him in the first place), Dormammu and Dr. Doom (both of who feel it is they who should have been given the job instead)--apparently having a doctorate helps in the practice of the mystic arts. In fact a recurring theme throughout the five issue run is Voodoo dealing with various preconceptions of his worthiness. Dr. Doom in particular seems especially interested as the title come with lots of magical goodies. Beyond his existing powers derived from voodoo spirits, including the ability to call on the spirit of his deceased brother, Daniel Drumm, Voodoo also gifted with some special accouterments with the Sorcerer Supreme role. In addition to the iconic Eye of Agamotto, Strange also bestowed the Cloak of Levitation and the Books of Knowledge, upon him.

Doctor Voodoo and his brother, a spirit,
converse at the series
conlcusion. Art by Jefte Palo.
For those new fans of Dr. Voodoo, such as myself, there was also an short character biography, written by Tony Isabella, in the back of the first issue explaining the characters background with great detail. Issues 2, 3 and 4 also contain reprints of previously published back-up stories narrated by Dr. Strange recounting part of the history of the Brother Voodoo mantle, which not just a clever super-hero code-name, but rather a title and role like that of the Sorcerer Supreme that has been passed down through generations.

Marvel's editorial decision to supplement Remender's story with additional background information serves to reveal a character of much greater depth and potential than I had previously understood. Consistently atmospheric artwork by Jefte Palo grounds the proceedings in an earthy, yet suitably fantastical, setting that is (intentionally?) very different from the bright colored realms that longtime Strange are familiar with seeing their hero in. As evidenced by his action orientated approach and the visual palette through which his adventures are portrayed, this Doctor is his own man.

Though it only ran five issues before being abruptly canceled (other than the semi-terminal "End?" note in the book's final panel, the issue seems to be transitioning to a second story arc, this one with Voodoo battling Ogoun the Slayer), the series hints at some of the great potential the character holds. Perhaps this will be explored more fully, and with greater sales, as Brother Voodoo has recently resurfaced in the Marvel Universe in a big way, playing a pivotal role in last fall's AXIS event and his position as a member of a new Avengers team.

Single issuers of the five issue Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural are very likely still available at your local comic shop, as is the collected trade of the same name.

The cover to issue #3 by Marko Djurdjevic.
Teaming-up with Dr. Doom on the cover to
 issue #5 by Marko Djurdjevic.

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