The Wong Side Of Life: Reviewing ‘Strange’ #6
by Scott Redmond
‘Strange’ takes a semi-detour placing Wong in the spotlight, showcasing just what makes the character so wonderful and how he fits into the Marvel Universe while still moving the overall series plot forward in significant ways. Everything about this series is a winning formula that takes us deep into the magical side of the universe, with gorgeous dark yet bright visuals, and a powerful character-focused emotional throughline that keeps one hooked month after month.
Wherever one happens to find the Sorcerer Supreme Strange, they are sure to find Wong as well. This is a fact that hasn’t changed even as Clea Strange takes over the role held by her husband Stephen Strange before his death.
While we’ve seen plenty of Wong alongside Clea in these past five issues, giving the stalwart companion of the Sorcerer Supreme his own issue in the series is just fantastic. We’re given a great view into his mind about what his role is and always has been, but also how it differs from what his father experienced and expected for him, but also how important and even revered he even is on his own within the ranks of powerful beings of the Marvel Universe.
Jed MacKay is great at a lot of things when it comes to writing, chiefly among them being able to just really home in on character and emotional beats. Big superhero action is one thing that draws us into these stories but what keeps us there is the connection to these characters, and MacKay is one of the best at being able to dig deep into those connections and make us care even more.
At the same time, it’s not just an issue about Wong going about his day restoring some missing memories, it reveals a whole lot of big things that shed more light on the current mystery of the Blasphemy Cartel. It’s here that another element that makes MacKay such a great writer is showcased. The continuity of these long-running shared universes can often be a dicey thing to play with, as it can either enhance or drag down any given story. MacKay is one of those writers who easily pulls at threads from the recent or further past that might have been forgotten and weave them into his stories in a way that enhances everything.
I’m a big fan of doing one-off issues like this that semi-stand alone but are also a big part of the overarching plotline, which is a natural way to bring another artist into the book to allow the regular artist to get ahead. Lee Garbett is of course no stranger to working with the Strange family (see what I did there…), having been the artist that worked alongside MacKay on The Death of Doctor Strange miniseries that led to the birth of this series. So, it was very nice to see him back in this realm of characters once more, though he hasn’t been far since he’s been providing covers for the series.
There is a lot of really great detail and energy in Garbett’s work as it fits perfectly well with stories that are far more character/emotional beats or ones that are tons more action/magical wonder or those that are in the Goldilocks zone of a just-right mix of both. Stories like this, in my opinion, benefit so much more from the type of paneling style that someone like Garbett uses which eschews the sort of standard panel layout/focus. Instead, we get overlapping panels and panels that are close-ups of people or items that bring far more focus and power to the moment. Sure, we could have a panel that shows the arrival of Black Widow on her motorcycle and Wong covering his eyes from the headlights, but doing it with them in separate (one of them a smaller inset) panels has far more impact.
Java Tartaglia remains on the colors for this issue and brings the same energy from the previous issues into this one, balancing the bright colors and the darkness that is inherent in these stories. We get quite a number of panels where there is a duller splash of color, sometimes it being just white, in the background that provides a great counter to the smoother and brighter color of the person or object in the panel. All the night scenes just hit right, and the flashy but also dull/toned-down color palette continues to be the right one for a magical story.
Over the years I’ve come to appreciate more and more what letterers bring to the table for issues, and Cory Petit is high on the list of favorites. Sure, all the dialogue and other lettering fit and flows around the page in a great way, but it’s the other things that he does that make it work even more. Bits of energy and personality that are leaking through, flourishes that just make the words sing on the page, and the effort put into ensuring that volume/tone is always perfectly clear. The big bold font that shows the anger and power in the moment hits so hard, just as it’s meant to do. Just as shirking it to showcase quieter moments can hit in the opposite sort of way.
Oh, and the SFX that are in play here is just delightful. I love SFX because they are just a fantastic comic book staple that lets us really ‘hear’ what is happening in a medium that is all visual. How could one not love a panel with Black Widow driving away where the “Vroom” of her motorcycle is perfectly placed within the smoke cloud that is coming from the said bike? That’s just some amazing work and some peak comic book goodness right there.
Strange #6 is now available from Marvel Comics.