i'm rushing this out before i look at what anyone else has to say, and become unduly influenced. To start with, i'm not deeply disappointed, and i don't have this fannish thing where i pick a perfect nostalgia point for a series (it's never the origin), then whine when nothing else ever strikes that chord. My experience of Silver and Bronze Marvel belongs to me, and bad or mediocre interpretations aren't tragic. Marvel won't offend me if they tell the same story over, if there is a creative reason.
The book doesn't look bad. It's adequate. Brandon Peterson's layouts are graceful, but impart little information or enhancement beyond the story. A worse problem is that the same thing can be said of the writing. J. Michael Straczynski and Sara Barnes may have spent a great deal of time developing the plot of this origin revamp - if so, we'll see it in the next few issues. Number one seems rather flat and redundant, lacking any sense of humor or mystery. There is no sense of place or character, based in the Marvel Universe or some hybrid of Marvel and popular culture notions of medicine, or mysticism, or Tibet, or, well, anything. We do know that, redundantly, Stephen Strange is all about the benjamins because the sign in his office identifies his practice as "A Medical Corporation". It's one of the few details in the book and it's dumb. i'll refrain from piling on JMS, as so many have in the blogosphere. Yeah, his contributions to comics haven't dazzled, but the problem i see this time is one of editorial vision.
It's not a flawless comparison, but consider the 'Ultimate' series, and the "Ultimate Fantastic Four" in particular. Bendis and Millar looked at the FF origin story with particular attention to the details, then rethought the story in science fictional terms for a new readership. It referenced Marvel history, and science and cultural touchstones of today. The creators imagined an audience, and wrote for them, or possibly for themselves. When you begin in this way, the first issue can be fun, even if you know where it's going. "Strange" may ultimately bring twists to the origin story, but to what point? Sure, i'd love to see the Dr. Strange character revived, but if there's no joy in telling the tale, why bother?
"Strange" in any form is a different type of comic than a pure SF book like Fantastic Four. Ditko had honed his mysterious mystic character for a while before it reached Marvel, and Lee emphasised contemporary references and accessibility, resulting in both a unique and typical Marvel creation. If you look at the next few decades, the comic reinvents itself over and over, as cosmic superhero, slugfest, gothic, alternate history, science fiction - the potential for using nearly any genre is there, and often used, with varying success. Why this uninspired, plodding retread? So a new audience will consider the character? i'll just say i'm skeptical. The few kids reading comics won't sit through this. If they like cerebral comics, there's a world of Moore, and Ellis, and Morrison, and Gaiman out there, if not they will never pick this up.
Perhaps the rest of the series will prove me wrong - i hope so. But i doubt it, because a fantasy that works is done from the inside out, with attention to details to pull us in. The ways to approach Dr. Strange are nearly infinite; i'm not sure an origin was appropriate for this creative team. i will be watching hopefully.