A Whole New World: Reviewing ‘Strange Vol 1: I Belong To Death’

by Scott Redmond


‘Strange’ is a magical, dark, but also whimsical series full of great spectacle but also profound emotional heartfelt human moments that resonate beyond the pages. Magical energy can be felt through every page as we journey into various unseen realms and situations that bring new depth and richness to the Marvel Universe and New York in particular, which is a great thing to see. This series is a delight to dive into month after month as it fully showcases the power of comic books.


Hear ye, hear ye! The Sorcerer Supreme Strange is dead. Long live the Sorcerer Supreme Strange.

The Marvel Universe was rocked in various ways when Doctor Stephen Strange was brutally murdered in the aptly named The Death of Doctor Strange mini-series. Thanks to a younger time-locked Strange duplicate of sorts, the murder was solved, Strange returned, and they turned back an invasion by powerful magical forces. Death, though, could not be so easily beaten as Strange was taken back to her realm.

Not before he did one last thing to protect his world, giving all his magical items and his powerful title to his wife Clea, the new Sorcerer Supreme Strange for the Earth realm while remaining the Sorcerer Supreme of the Dark Dimension.

Clea is a character that hasn’t had the same type of profile in the last decade or more that she once had when it came to Strange-related stories, but one would never know that after reading this series. Jed MacKay is a true master at creating engaging plotlines/stories but perfectly nails capturing all the elements of emotion and character beats that help us become attached to these fictional beings. This is something that has been showcased in his work from series such as Black Cat to the currently running Moon Knight and even villain-focused things like the most recent Taskmaster series.

There are a great number of things that have been done in the short time this series has existed that are working wonderfully, one of them being how MacKay has made sure to establish a space in the Marvel Universe that is fully Clea’s own right now. The best way to handle legacy character situations is to make sure they’re not just taking on all the same bad guys, handling the same situations, and going through the same motions as whoever’s role they have taken on. What’s best about Clea is that she has her own role as a sorcerer supreme and is not just replacing Stephen in that regard but is doing a favor for her husband since he cannot return to keep the world safe.

Not only this but because of her history and her life in the Dark Dimension, Clea has an attitude that is different about magic and everything else than Stephen, even how she uses magic is very different. Especially when it comes to the visual aspect of her unleashing those powers and it tapping into her Faltinian Dark Dimension form.

I can’t think of that many stories that I’ve read with Clea in all the time I’ve read Marvel Comics, the old-school Strange books being a hole in my reading resume, but in just these five issues I fully love the character. The strength, the sass, the power, the firm determination with a side of vulnerability, honesty about her situation and goals, and a good sense of humor are a winning combination. I mean watching Clea utterly verbally destroy Doctor Doom is worth the price of admission alone, not to mention the great moments between her and Wong, as well as the vast world-building that is on display, and some powerful family drama to boot.

After dipping into the magical realms with The Death of Doctor Strange: Spider-Man #1, Marcelo Ferreira tackles the art for this series with Don Ho and Robert Poggi shifting in and out of issues to tackle the inking aspects. Their work has a lot of great magical and emotional, and fun vibes to it, perfectly capturing the body language/facial expressions. On one hand, there is a ton of detail work at play but on the other hand, the focus is often on the moment/emotion rather than capturing every detail which works. Our focus never leaves the characters or things that we need to have our eyes upon, the backgrounds and people are out of focus as their not part of this story.

The paneling style in use is really great as it’s very mixed across the, morphing into the shape or spaces that are needed or wanted constantly. 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. There is a weight and depth to all the proceedings that gives the pages even more of a proverbial punch, with the colors doing the same thing.

Those colors are provided by Java Tartaglia, with Felipe Sobreiro tagging in for the first issue, and they are overall toned down a bit from some of the bolder brighter colors one might see around some of these characters or their counterparts, which is fitting for the tone of this story. Not only is this story darker in the sense of the foes that Clea faces or the issues of the dead rising, but it’s a heavily emotional one about how grief and loss are handled or in some cases not handled. These are heavy subjects but the perfect mix of bright and shadows we get in this magical series carry that weight with ease.

There is a nice line between whimsical and dark/dangerous that Tartaglia balances each issue with the array of colors that are on display. I love the choices at times for the close-up shots where we get deep looks at the emotions in play across a face and the backgrounds take on a more neutral or sometimes even fully white color so that all attention is straight onto the character and their moment. Whereas others will pull back and give us a full background and colorful elements to remind us of what type of place/world they are in at that moment for wider shots.

One thing that is nice about covering so many books is getting to keep seeing the work of a lot of the same awesome folks, like Cory Petit. There is a natural flowing and orderly feeling to the work that Petit does, making all the lettering have a more realistic feeling. 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. We can see the emotion on the page and feel what the character is feeling through their expressions or body language, but Petit makes sure that we can hear it as well. With the right emphasizers and choices in font or bubble structure, the annoyance or sass or fear of a character becomes fully clear, and we the audience can get a sense of their voice in our heads.

While adding a lot of fun elements like colorful balloons for magical things (like Clea shifting to her Dark Dimension form) or the SFX that take on the color and energy of whatever they are attached to on the page.

Strange Vol 1 is now available from Marvel Comics.

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