The Death of Doctor Strange is a magical whodunnit that takes the audience on a somewhat tour of the depths of the often unexplored or forgotten magical realms of the Marvel Universe that anchors itself as a deep character exploration. There is a ton packed into these glorious gorgeous pages that really showcase the best ways to engage with decades of continuity while building something new at the same time.
There are a vast number of subjects that are part of eternal debates amongst the members of comics fandom. One of those subjects is the place of canon/continuity and its importance within the realm of ongoing narratives within a shared universe.
Some cast it as one of the most important matters and shudder at the mere thought of casting it aside in any way. While others are of the mind that it can be completely tossed aside as they care more about the current story and the characters than their long-entrenched comic book history.
Every so often though we get a comic book series or event or story that showcases that there is a perfect middle ground, where the past is not forgotten, nor does it anchor the character/story down. Instead, it acts as a stalwart guide that shows a depth to the world but allows for growth and change. Right now, The Death of Doctor Strange is one of those series.
Jed MacKay has solidified himself as not just a writer that knows and loves the canon of the various characters he’s handled, but one that excels at character work and the ability to use that canon/continuity to create something wonderful. This has been seen across a number of recent books including other Marvel publications like Black Cat, Taskmaster, and Moon Knight.
Even with the great number of callbacks to magical beings, realms, and old foes of Stephen Strange the series moves at a rapid yet not too quick pace. The last issue saw the rise of the major threat, the Three Mothers, and this one is able to lay out the story of the child these mothers ‘work’ for (the Peregrine Child), give Clea and the temporal ghost version of Strange some moments, as well as move the investigation of Strange’s death and the Three Mother’s plot ahead. A ton happens within these pages, but it never once feels like it’s a mountain of stuff, allowing it to be that meal the fills you up just right.
Breaking each issue into small chapters definitely very much helps with this matter.
While there is a ton to bring to life within this issue, Lee Garbett and Antonio Fabela continue to make it look easy and fantastic at the same time. Magical stories are often harder in many ways within the confines of the Marvel Universe, which hasn’t always been as focused on setting up that part of their world like other publishers, but when it’s a visually striking as this (alongside the fantastic character work) that idea goes right out the window.
Each of the areas that the book travels to look distinct and detailed, taking on their own colors and tones, while still looking like they very much are of the same world (outside of the actual other realm that is visited near the end, of course). The modern look of the Avengers and the other threats fits so well with the temporal ghost Strange that the artistic duo does their best to make look like something from a bygone era but also still able to fit right in at the same time.
All of the emotions are clear and evident here, from the pain to the anger to the fear and even joy from so many characters. These are folks that just faced a grand threat and found themselves severely lacking, and they look just as worn out and angry and fearful yet determined as we expect from these heroes. One of the final shots, featuring Baron Mordo, is just striking in not only the detail but the absolute terror etched upon the normally blustery villain’s face. It’s pretty golden.
This magical feat is not complete without mention of Cory Petit and the wonderful lettering work he always brings. It’s not just the variety of bubbles and the changes in font sizes or emphasizers that make things stand out. As noted before there is a distinctive tweak that is made to the dialogue for Strange that makes it stand out differently from the more modern characters, as well as various tweaks that make the otherworldly characters stand out in their own visual ways. I especially like the way that a character’s normal speech and their magical speech are differentiated with colors, as it’s just a small touch that enhances the overall feel.
By the way, from the great character work to the visuals, it would be wonderful to see this team continue to an ongoing series together. Whether that’s the upcoming series for the new Sorcerer Supreme rising out of this mini, or something else (I’d love to see this team tackle something like Avengers), they definitely need more time together because they are great.
The Death Of Doctor Strange #03 is now on sale in print and digitally from Marvel Comics.