All the pieces are coming together as ‘The Death of Doctor Strange’ enters the endgame, never leaving behind its character moment-heavy nature which makes the book work so well. All the fun aspects of a murder mystery reveal are captured perfectly here, with the time capsule former Stephen Strange going all in as the theatrical investigator. The magical line of Marvel has been given new beautiful fun life, giving it the most solid foundation its had in years.
In any good murder mystery story, there is the moment where the investigator gathers their audience of suspects and with a bit of flair begins to lay out just how the murder went down and reveals the who in whodunnit. With only one issue to go, The Death Of Doctor Strange has reached that point and the younger time capsule version of Stephen Strange brings all his magical theatrical flair to the table.
It’s almost hard to believe we’ve reached this point already, but that’s because Jed MacKay has such a smooth writing style that feels so quick while delivering so much. This issue is jam-packed with moments and pieces that move the overall plot forward towards the upcoming conclusion, but it goes by seemingly in the blink of an eye. While it’s easy to think that is a bad thing, it’s really not. Truly the best pieces of fiction one engage in (no matter the format) are the ones that seem to fly by, where you do not feel the need to check the time or engage in other things.
No matter the book, MacKay has a style and a voice that makes it very easy to dive right in and not stop till you reach the end and then want to go back again to make sure you didn’t miss anything. It’s been stated in various other reviews I’ve done of his books, but truly he is one of the best writers in comics right now in a top tier among some other more recent heavyweights. There is tons of magical stuff here and world-threatening worries (the Three Mothers and the Peregrine Child) but at its heart, like all of what MacKay’s works, it’s a story heavy on the character beats.
This time-tossed momentary younger Stephen is a great trick for the murder mystery story in a magical way, but it’s also a great way to really get a look at the character of Stephen Strange and how much the character has changed. So many Marvel characters also are heavier with the weight of decades of continuity, compared to their earlier versions that might have been lighter but also more intense in some ways.
There is not one ounce of doubt that Lee Garbett and Antonio Fabela were the right choices for handling the art for this series. One glance at the gorgeous page where Stephen lays out the details of the murderer’s plan proves that. The symbol that is easily recognized as the one in the window of the Sanctum Santorum takes up the page where each section is a different image pertaining to something he mentioned as Stephen walks over the yellow symbol over a groovy background. Truly a tremendous page that just pairs perfectly with the theatricality of murder mystery reveal moments.
Garbett just has such a deeply detailed and realistic feeling style that captures all the emotional beats as well as the action-packed ones perfectly. Not to mention just how utterly fantastic the various realms this book travels to look, magical realms need a magical energy and Garbett has that in spades. This also fits the paneling which feels perfectly dramatic for this type of story, with super closeups and cutouts and breaking the borders of a panel all to fit the tone of the given moment.
Speaking of tone, that is maintained through the book thanks to Fabela’s coloring which has a shadowy heaviness to it even in the much brighter panels. There is a shadow always looming with the Three Mothers and Peregrine Child on their way (as we see at the end of the issue) and we feel that ominous feeling through the issue. Yet, there are still a variety of bright and lighter colors that mix things up. As seen in previous issues, no two areas or realms look inherently the same in visuals or their color palettes.
Even when the colors change between Baron Mordo’s castle and the Sanctum Santorum or outside Greenwich Village or in Antarctica/New Umarria, it’s not jarring. There are enough similar colors that it all flows together smoothly. That probably sounds silly to point out as it seems something that is just a given but it’s something to appreciate because I imagine maintaining that sort of jumping of tones is not easy.
Another bit of magic rests within the words themselves that are here, provided by Cory Petit who brings it all to the table every single time. Most of the characters here do not have specific bubble types or colors to differentiate their words, the font seemingly the same, yet when reading each bit of dialogue there is a different energy feeling to them. It could be just interpreting the distinctive voices but the changes in font sizes and the emphasizers used really help sell it all. Past Strange’s dialogue though does seem to have a tweak to it as it does feel almost old-timey in a way yet still fits alongside everyone else.
This is a talk-heavy issue as the investigation wraps up and the reveals begin, but it never feels too overly talky or crowded. Even on the aforementioned big, long Strange speech reveal page, the dialogue is spread out and follows the path so smoothly in an easily readable way.
The Death of Doctor Strange #4 is now on sale in print and digitally from Marvel Comics.