Heartstrings Tugged: Reviewing ‘The Death Of Doctor Strange’ #5

by Scott Redmond


The Death Of Doctor Strange comes to an emotionally fitting ending, easily cementing itself as one of the best modern Doctor Strange stories as it puts a spotlight and stamp upon the character while paving the road for what is next. This is a magically gorgeous book that understands how to handle magic and the characters that wield it while showing a deep love for the Marvel Universe and its characters as a whole.


When picking up a comic book, whether physically at the store or through digital means, if the name Jed MacKay is on the cover there is a significantly high chance, you’re in for an emotional ride of some sort. This has been the case in recent years through titles such as Black Cat, Taskmaster, and even the current Moon Knight run.

It’s very much the case for the concluding issue of the event series The Death of Doctor Strange.

As with everything MacKay writes, this series has been a big-time character piece. Even in death Doctor Strange was the major one being explored through the time-displaced copy of himself that was trying to solve his own murder. Even the various tie-ins followed this in a sense, many of them fully or at least semi-focusing on the impact that the Sorcerer Supreme of Earth has on magic, the realm, and individuals. We see that even more here as the various heroes of the Marvel Universe and the wide swath of magicians all come together to stand against the threat of the Three Mothers and Peregrine Child, to hold the line for their fallen friend.

One thing that I was not expecting was the love story angle of this series, but this issue in particular, mostly as the relationship between Strange and Clea doesn’t get the level of attention that it should often in modern Marvel. Knowing that Clea is becoming the Sorcerer Supreme in the soon-to-launch Strange series really made her return and interaction with young Strange so much better.

Then, in typical style, the rug was pulled out in the most emotional and fulfilling way. Not only did young Strange solve the murder of himself, but he also found a way to turn it against Kaecilius and bring himself back to life. Getting to have the first and last issues be from the perspective of the Strange we’ve known of modern times, seeing how he views his allies and loved ones, and getting to pass the torch to his love before death took him back was the best type of emotional roller coaster.

One of the best things that has come within the last decade for magic in the Marvel Universe is the streamlining of the concept that includes rules. One of those rules being there is always a price to be paid for spells, big and small. It adds more drama and stakes but also makes magic not be a fix it all type situation. Not even the Sorcerer Supreme can beat paying the price, especially when the magic used restores his very life.

This was a story that was tailor-made for the work of Lee Garbett and Antonio Fabela, as they perfectly move between the action and emotional character beats so smoothly. Full-page spreads are always fantastic, but I truly appreciate the way that Garbett handles many of the pages paneling for the action. We get little inset panels that showcase various parts of the fight, which allows us to see how truly big and chaotic this battle is. There is no need for a deep focus on say Iron Man fighting one of the mothers while another is dispatching Wolverine and Black Panther because the flashes are enough to get the point across fully.

There is a ton of detail in Garbett’s work normally, but in a lot of the aforementioned panel snippets, the focus is pulled back where faces and such details aren’t there because again, they don’t need to be. The focus is Strange and Strange and what they must do, their purpose in this moment, the rest is background. As Strange himself says in the captions, this is “a war of wizards” and “a battle of magicians.” It’s a great touch.

This has been a dark book in many respects, as there are very serious matters that have popped up and dire threats, and Fabela helps make that clear through a lot of the heavier and more shadow-tinged colors. Which we still see here in some spots, but then we start to see those shadows receding and things take a bit of a brighter turn as the heroes rally and the Sorcerers Supreme and the Stranges do their thing.

As I noted in the last review, the way that Fabela just slides through color palates so that no two places/realms look exactly alike is no small feat and should be greatly appreciated. Magical stuff also comes with a lot of out-there colors, and the page of Strange within the Peregrine Child is just gorgeous, with all the swirling mix of neon-like colors against the black backdrop.

I just love what Cory Petit has been doing on this book issue to issue, and the small little flair of having young Strange’s font be so old-school looking and different pays off even more here when put right up against the modern Strange. Even in the throes of battle where they are giving off the same powerful energy, it’s easy to tell their voices apart. Two versions of the same man from different periods in life with a similar voice yet so different, and it’s depicted perfectly.

This being a magical story allows for even more creativity with the way that fonts, bubbles/captions, and even SFX can be depicted to match the more chaotic colorful energy that magic brings. Each of the Three Mothers has their own color and style in their bubbles, the already mentioned different Strange lettering, and the font and bubble choice for the Peregrine Child is 100% effectively super bone-chillingly creepy. I could just imagine the way that voice sounds from the way Petit depicted it and I shivered.

Overall, this was a tremendous comic book, and the work that everyone put in was above and beyond to create a storyline that was an event that touched the entire Marvel Universe but was also small and contained because it never wavered from focusing on character. As a final, for now, story of Stephen Strange it definitely will be on top of the list for best Strange stories. There is no doubt of that.

The Death of Doctor Strange #5 is now on sale in print and digitally from Marvel Comics.

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