Doctor Strange Dimension War

By James Lovegrove

There is a knack to adaptation, we have all seen a film made from a book. Many have read an adaptation of a film, but can you make a prose adaptation of a comic book? We see superheroes in the cinema every month, the action and colour sparks on the big screen, but bringing forth all that imagery in prose is not as simple. It takes an author who can paint with words and a decent source. You get both in Doctor Strange: Dimension War by James Lovegrove. 

Forgot the latest film and go back in your mind to a time that Doctor Strange was not the Sorcerer Supreme. Dimension War explores many of the trials that the magician had to go through to gain that title from fighting of the likes of disgruntled warlock Baron Mordo, to facing off against Nightmare a being who feeds off bad dreams. More powerful than these is Dormammu, the ruler of the Dark Dimension. He gained power over than realm through foul means and has his heart set on Earth next. 

When Stan Lee and Steve Ditko produced a comic series, their concentration was on a serial and not James Lovegrove trying to adapt the series of stories into a coherent whole decades later. The result from Lovegrove is Dimension War, a book that both captures the dynamic feel and magic of the originals, but also some of the fragmented nature of the comics. There is a central theme that drives through the book – Strange's development towards becoming the Sorcerer Supreme. To do this he comes across Mordo and Nightmare several times. A chapter reads like a short story as Mordo attempts to kill Doctor Strange and fails again or Nightmare gets up to his latest plot. 

As these short stories build up, you see a pattern. In the background is Dormammu and the real nemesis is revealed. The latter part of the book feels more coherent as it concentrates on a single enemy and storyline. This will be because it adapts a more coherent run of comic books. 

It is easy to get lost in the serial nature of comics, but Lovegrove does an excellent job of stitching the whole book into a single overarching story. We meet The Antient One several times, his presence brings the branching pieces back together each time. The most impressive part of the book is Lovegrove’s ability to paint with words. It is a shame to lose all the colour and dynamism that the comic panels bring, but Lovegrove can use language to stir the images. These are not easy things to describe; magical creatures, mind bending dimensions. I was impressed that Lovegrove did not have to use too many words to get the images across. 

Having a good author helps an adaptation immeasurably and that is what Lovegrove brings to the sauce. The author retains the style and storylines of Lee and Ditko but uses the right skills to get them onto the written page. The book could have become a disparate and disjointed series of short stories, but Lovegrove fashions a whole out of them. There is real fan service in the book, keeping true to the original and throwing in many magical terms and items that fans will love.  

Written on 26th March 2024 by .

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