The Fate of Dreams

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Doctor Strange: The Fate of Dreams by Devin Grayson.

Grayson Doctor Strange The Fate of Dreams

This original “prose” (i.e. not sequential-art) novel about Marvel occult superhero Doctor Strange was published in 2016, concurrently with the release of the MCU film featuring Benedict Cumberbatch as the Master of the Mystic Arts. In this book, Strange is already long established as the Sorcerer Supreme, and there is thankfully none of the “sling ring” gimmickry that was on display in the movie. The style of the book is very Marvel, with ample intertextual references, deep investment in the prior narrative continuity, and occasional wisecracking. There is sparing black-and-white illustration in this book, for which nine different artists are credited! I suspect that the art was simply repurposed from previous comics work.

The Fate of Dreams concerns itself with Strange’s efforts to address an enigmatic corruption affecting the realms of dream. He works in eventual concert with a dream-specialist neuroscientist, a young Inhuman (i.e. superpowered human-alien hybrid), and Strange’s erstwhile foe Nightmare, a sovereign of the dream realms. The characters are interesting and fairly well-developed relative to superhero genre standards, and the plot is quick-moving. Author Devin Grayson introduces some Nebraska backstory for Strange prior to his career in medicine, and this material was new to me despite extensive reading in old Strange Tales and Doctor Strange comics. I don’t know if the ideas are original here, though–she seems to be working hard to use as much comics material as she can.

I was pleasantly surprised when the plot resolution turned out to hinge on the Inhuman Jane Bailey taking the role of a messianic sacrifice to redeem the dream realms. Her function as a sort of Gnostic Sophia on these lines was amply foreshadowed with reference to the descent of Inanna, along with other related tropes. In this particular drama, Strange was awarded the part of an esoteric Judas!

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The Fate of Dreams is likely to engage and entertain fans of Doctor Strange comics. Those readers familiar only with the theatrical film will perhaps find it a bit inaccessible for its constant allusions to the larger Marvel metatext. Non-comics-fan occultists and students of the occult who are looking for a gratifying potboiler tale of magical heroism might perhaps be better served by Frank Lauria’s Owen Orient novels from the 1970s and 80s.

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