By Taylor Anderson
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
In the past, I’ve made no bones about how much I like the ghost-dog, Bats, in Doctor Strange. A lot of why I like him is because he’s a rude, talking animal that isn’t afraid to tell it the way it is. While that still plays a lot into why I like him as a character, in issue 388 I find I’m liking him more because of who he is instead of what he is.
Stephen Strange’s body has been possessed and used to attack his would-be saviors through a clever trick played by Mephisto. With little recourse left, Bats decides to possess Stephen’s body in an attempt to get him to stop attacking his allies. Inside of Stephen’s body, Bats meets his master’s soul, (or consciousness or whatever) and they have a frank talk about how things have been going lately.
Bats isn’t just being rude here, he’s reached his breaking point. As he says, he’s had a pretty shitty year and he’s been dealing with way more weird stuff than any dog should. This highlights something that’s easy for me to forget when reading Doctor Strange — all of the stuff that happens here is not normal. It gets normalized because I see it every it month, but it’s definitely weirder than most heroes, let alone average dogs, encounter in a lifetime. That being said, I admire Bats for being able to roll with all of this crazy crap. Put in his situation, how many of us would actually be able to cope with it all?
This has me reconsidering Bats. He’s more than just a simple dog who shows up now and then and provides some laughs. He’s tough, smart, and like all good dogs, has a huge heart. As we see in his interactions with Stephen, Bats has a deeper world within him than we were first led to believe even though he may be just a dog, he’s quickly become one of the standout characters of this series.
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I have to at least say something here. I loved this comic. I’m trying to figure out why exactly I’m liking this so much but Damnation itself left me so cold…
I know I like the art here. Henrichon has a unique style – it’s not hyper realistic, but it is gritty and it really feels like the fantastic fits with the mundane. It helps that I feel the same way about the story – it doesn’t worry about explaining the fantastic too much other than: Magic! And in this case, that’s pretty good.
I think Bats is a compelling character. And he’s gone from, “Did they really get us attached to this stupid talking dog just to kill him to propel the plot?” (remember that in his first appearance?) to a major player and quite possibly my favorite current ghost-type superhero.
I’ve been too busy to go back and reread this issue (I’ll do it when the arc finishes) and give more detail, but this issue really struck me as something pretty special.