Of the handful of Doctor Strange stories I read for Blastoff’s month of Sorcery and Magic, I connected most to The Oath by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin. It showed a Doctor Strange using his medical past as well as his magical skills to solve a problem and save his friend. As far as I can tell, it’s a good thing he went to the Ancient One. Before he became Sorceror Supreme, Doctor Strange wasn’t the kind of man you’d want to call you friend. He was somewhat of a tool.
Dr. Stephen Strange was a man. Talented, smart, and in high demand in his profession but still just a man. He was an incredibly skilled neurosurgeon who found success at a young age. Instead of using his knowledge and steady hands for good though, he went the other way. He become arrogant. Just like the kind of mean prince who gets turned into a beast in Disney films.
He only wanted money. If poor patients who needed his help came to his doorstep to beg, he’d remind them about his high rates and and turn them away. To make it worse, he wasn’t sympathetic about it – just matter of fact and callous.
So in a twist of just desserts, on his way to treat a wealthy client, Strange got in a car accident and did irreparable nerve damages to his hands. He would never be able to perform surgery again. He couldn’t bear to fall so far and just be a consultant, he sought a cure. He got desperate and spent all of his savings on every sort of treatment possible. Some patients he had turned away in the past probably gloated over his fall. I don’t know that I can blame them. But, the tragic event did put Strange on a path to make him a better person.
Most determined and manic quests lead toward paths once rational people never thought they would venture down. For Doctor Strange, it meant pursuing every option – even the supernatural. When he heard about the Ancient One, he had to take his chances. The old man would not cure him, but he did end up teaching him the mystical arts.
I think that saved Doctor Strange. He learned to care about something other than himself, and I don’t know how much longer he would have survived as he was.
By the time we see him in The Oath he won’t stop for anything in order to save his servant and friend, Mr. Wong. When Wong asks him to stop and not face down a god to save him, Strange reminds him the first oath he swore was the Hippocratic Oath. It’s a nice remembrance of his first career and a reminder that it stills plays a part in Strange’s life. You get the impression he often considers that particular oath and that it affects his actions.
It comes into play later in the story as well. Strange has a drop of a potion which would cure not only cancer but every disease on Earth. He could take it to the Sanctum and reproduce it for the masses or he could treat the dying Mr. Wong right in front of him. Even though he wrestles with choosing to save his friend over all the sick people in the world, he ultimately cannot deny that he took an oath to never withhold treatment from a patient under his care. Leaving Wong to go to his lab (more or less) means his friend would have died. He couldn’t allow that.
The decision wasn’t an easy one by any stretch, but his beliefs ultimately made the choice for him.
Besides seeing how far Doctor Strange has come as a human being, The Oath is one of those stories that just grabs you and makes you want to read more about the character. You see a lot of Strange’s personality – as a friend, flirting, solving problems, saving the day – and you want to spend more time with him. Vaughan manages to fit all of those facets in effortlessly so that you feel like you’ve gotten to know Strange without just reading a character sheet. It’s not easy to do, but we covered a lot of ground in five issues. I want more.