In the 1980s, Marvel started to release OGN’s (Original Graphic Novels) on a regular basis. The stories ranged anywhere from horror to sci-fi, to straight up superheroes. These over-sized books were some of the greatest achievements of that decade, bar none. Some of these titles were books that certain creators had the chance to get their own new characters into print by Marvel (Dreadstar –Jim Starlin, Star Slammers –Walt Simonson, The Futurians –Dave Cockrum, etc.). This book is not one of those, but it is nothing short of an absolute gem!
J.M. DeMatteis (writer) is one of those writers I discovered in a Bronze Age comic book (not 100% sure which one), and I loved his style from the very beginning. I’ve read a fair share of his work, and this is his magnum opus. His ability to write stories full of raw emotion is second to none. Not to be outdone, Dan Green (artist/co-plotter) turns in the work of a lifetime as well. His pencils on Doctor Strange (the 1974 series) was great, and really showed his ability to render the supernatural.
This story is a culmination of everything that Marvel comics built from the late 1960s through the 1970s. Mysticism, philosophy, morality, religion, etc., are all touched upon in this one. DeMatteis doesn’t beat you over the head with his own beliefs or ram an agenda down your throat either. He carefully crafts a tale that is steeped in self-awareness, and really pushes Stephen Strange to the edge of the proverbial cliff. We see the good Doctor in moments of strength, and weakness, and everywhere in-between. An extreme amount of depth was added to him in this story.
The artwork is something to marvel at, and Dan Green should be extremely proud of this book (also being a co-plotter). Some creators, as consistent as they are, never produce something this incredible in a lifetime of work. His inking is very extensive from the Bronze Age up until recently (at least 2011). The visual story he tells, coupled with the script is a masterpiece. This book is right up there with any OGN…period.
As for the true meaning of Shamballa, I’ll be satisfied with this story and Three Dog Night…