Despite the heaviness that stems from the miniseries central content, The Death of Doctor Strange remains a heartfelt and emotional, and even fun story that takes a turn into magical horror that adds much-needed weight to the story. All aspects of the issue from the story to the artwork are 100% an unabashed loving celebration of Doctor Strange, his world, and the Marvel Universe as a whole both past and present.
Doctor Strange is dead. Long live Doctor Strange.
Living up to its title in the very first issue, after a nice day in the life goodbye to the title character, The Death of Doctor Strange kicked things into even higher gear with its second issue as all hell breaks loose and magical foes/warlords have come to Earth, barriers are breaking everywhere, three magical supreme beings called The Three Mothers have arrived, and a Doctor Strange ripped right from the past is the only hope.
Just a typical day in the Marvel Universe really.
As he has done with his work in Black Cat and Taskmaster and Moon Knight, Jed MacKay instantly showcases his love for all things revolving around this character and their world. The use of many foes that Strange has fought (that haven’t been seen in some time) to the return of Clea, to just the whole past remnant Strange and his old school speech patterns, are amazing. MacKay excels at character work and just storytelling, in general, is quite deft in his ability to bring back and use old continuity without making it feel like an anchor to the story. Instead, the past things used just make the world feel more lived-in and enrich the story rather than potentially hold it back.
While the circumstances are dire and the Stephen Strange we know at this point is still lying very dead on the Sanctum Santorum floor, there are still bits that work to bring a little levity and humor/heart to the proceedings. Another staple of MacKay’s work that never fails. There are a lot of great moments, but the one where Captain America just takes the past Strange’s explanation of his existence and death of modern Strange in stride brought a laugh. It’s humorous but also truthful to the fact that these characters would do that in many cases because truly nothing is off-limits of possibility in the Marvel Universe.
While there are still many questions to be answered (across the three remaining issues and the various tie-in issues) the pacing of these first two issues is spot on. The first set us up to feel the most impact for when it reached the death promised in the series title, while the second escalated things and made it very clear what the overall stakes and threat are right now.
There are a lot of interesting things about this old school Strange from his speech patterns and how unaware he is of everything because of when he was made, made even better thanks to the art team. Modern Doctor Strange is a striking visually fun and engaging character, but Lee Garbett and Antonio Fabela have the touch that makes old Strange so visually intriguing as he just pops on all levels. Sure there is the effect that we haven’t seen a strange of this design in a very long time, but it’s heavily on the wonderful work of the artists to make this design look older without making the character look out of place in this time.
It’s not just Strange where this ability to sort of call back to the days past in style shows up. The opening pages have shots of the magical warlords coming to take parts of Earth, and there is a lot of old Marvel Comics type of fire behind them. Each of the shots is very clearly from a more modern style of art, but at the same time, the paneling and the coloring choices, and the overall vibe make them feel like they were pages pulled from a book of the past much like the Doctor himself.
Let’s talk about the Three Mothers. Absolutely 100% intimidating and utterly terrifying. That first image of them as a spread, just gorgeous and frightening at the same time. And the fight scenes between them and the Avengers, as they monologue basically and wipe the floor with the Earth’s mightiest heroes, are so smooth and great.
Cory Petit brings his very own magic to these pages with the letters, helping with the ways of making Strange stand out without standing out far too much, making little tweaks with his dialogue bubbles that make his speech different than the modern characters. All the font size changes, bubble color/style changes for different characters, or things like Cap dropping a stylized Avengers Assemble are really fantastic. Not to mention the SFX that have so much life and power to them as they make the story even more tangible.
The Death of Doctor Strange #2 is now on sale in print and digitally from Marvel Comics.