When Hell Is Full, The Dead Will Walk The Earth: Reviewing ‘Strange’ #2
by Scott Redmond
Earth lost a Sorcerer Supreme but gained a new double Sorcerer Supreme warlord that is making her mark felt as she defends those that need defending and seeks to return the man the world lost, her husband, to the land of the living. What this creative team is doing with Clea, Wong, and the magical realms of the Marvel Universe is special and unique. There is so much emotion, character, depth, beauty, darkness and fun within these pages.
Throughout most of the early 21st the phrase “dead means dead” was one that was uttered a ton by the editor-in-chief and others from Marvel Comics. Despite the contrary proof of a revolving door that saw most characters (including the long-dead Bucky Barnes) make their way back, it was the motto that kept making appearances in interviews, solicits, and even was the name of an arc of Runaways in 2006 following the death of one of those characters.
In recent years though death is something that Marvel Characters in-universe scoff at, the X-Men and the Eternals having found ways to fully defeat it, and Clea Strange is looking to capture some of that energy in her quest to bring back her murdered husband Doctor Stephen Strange. Death has other plans.
Often in stories where the former protagonist’s shadow looms overhead, especially in cases where the new lead wants to get them back, it’s easy for that shadow to take up all the space and leave the new character pushed to the side. Not with Clea here, because that’s not something that will happen in a Jed MacKay written book. When a book is about a character, that character will be developed and take the spotlight as the supporting cast also is boosted beside them for a really great all-around experience. That’s what you get with a MacKay book, and it’s what we get here.
Honestly, before this and the preceding Death of Doctor Strange miniseries, I knew very little about Clea. There aren’t any Doctor Strange focused books from before the Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo run in 2015 that I’ve ever read, outside of a random Secret Defenders issue here or there. The magical side of Marvel is one area that my knowledge is high, but that knowledge didn’t come from actually reading the books themselves. So, getting this time to dive into Clea and her backstory and her personality is really awesome.
One thing that I really like here is not only is her attitude about things different because of her life in the Dark Dimension and her personality, but the way she uses magic is so different from Stephen Strange. Especially when it comes to the visual aspect of her unleashing those powers and her appearance changing as she shifts into her Faltinian form.
All the visual elements come courtesy of Marcelo Ferreira on pencils, Don Ho inking, Java Tartaglia tackling the colors, and Cory Petit bringing the lettering magic. Magic is a type of otherworldly energy within these fictional universes, and there is a very magical energy that permeates these pages. It’s emotional (capturing the myriad of emotions perfectly), and fun, but also has a powerful darkness to it and very kinetic energy flowing through the action scenes. A lot of detail can be found in most panels even through the background, while other pages strip all the background away to bring focus to the forefront such as one of the first shots of Clea and the Huntsman and the reanimated zombie Thunderstrike coming to blows.
Since picking up the proverbial pencil or pen to bring these reviews to life over a year ago, there are many elements of comics that I never considered that much that I really focus on now. One of those is paneling and the different styles that are presented in how pages can be put together. Ferreira is the type that doesn’t have multiple pages that look, all the same, going for pages that might have three stacked varying sized panels next to a page that drops them in like jigsaw puzzle pieces next to one that has three horizontal rectangle panels side by side.
Last issue there were two inkers with styles that were similar and flowed but had their own slight flavors. Here Ho takes that role on alone and there is an even more cohesive feeling to the book because the depth and weight his work brings is throughout all the pages equally. Ferria’s art style and Ho’s inks are a great pair, as they complement one another and really create something special.
Just as there were two inkers in the last issue that became one for this issue, the same was true for the colorists. Tartaglia hits all the right notes for achieving that space where there are some really nice bright deep colors that match the superhero/magical aspects alongside the heavy deep dark shadows that are ever-present in this darker toned and darker cause it’s a story taking place at night. There is also a bit of a muted feeling to them along with a sort of Earthy or grounded feeling, even with the more fantastical elements on display.
Lettering is just such a fantastic thing. Not only does it provide all the dialogue and captions and other elements that help us ‘hear’ the story, but it helps set a lot of the tone and dip into the same energy as the other elements of the book. Petit makes sure that the lettering here always feels natural and flows in an orderly way, and makes it feel very realistic. That realism comes from just doing the little things that make different volumes and emotional utterings feel correct, like shrinking or growing the font or changing the font style to make whispers or yells clear. Those bright but grounded colors also find their way into the lettering as the magical spells are colorful, and Clea’s narration boxes have a pinkish color to them as well.
SFX are fantastic and here we get a lot of them that fall right into the great spot of being firmly part of the moment they are meant to represent. One could do the ‘Krakoom’ of Thunderstrike’s transformation as something above the characters or floating around, but it’s far more impactful when it’s right there smack dab in the middle of the panel taking up space and radiating power. Even the ones that are smaller in size and tone are still right there in the moment and convey the same levels of power despite their size.
Strange #2 is now available in print and digitally from Marvel Comics.