27th Sep2021

‘The Death of Doctor Strange #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Jed Mackay | Art by Lee Garbett | Published by Marvel Comics

Firstly, what a stunning cover. Reminds me of the Frank Brunner stuff from the 1970’s. If that’s what Kaare Andrews was shooting for, it’s a bullseye. If not, a damn good unintended tribute. So, it’s another Marvel event, albeit a mini-one this time. Doctor Strange gets a 5 issue mini-series, with a few on-shots sprinkled in for good measure. This was an easy pick up for me. I love Doctor Strange as a character, and feel he’s not always given the respect due to him. I know a former top surgeon/sorcerer supreme is not the most relatable character in the world, but the circles Doctor Strange can, and does, move in make for some fantastic stories. Treat him as a normal superhero, then meh. Make use of all the possibilities his abilities and personality allow, then you’ve got a goldmine. Let’s see what Jed MacKay and Lee Garbett have in store.

Behind a nicely designed chapter heading, one of several, we join Stephen Strange having a lie-in. Lee Garbett’s great art makes us appreciate in his full page spread that Strange is essentially a middle aged student, going by the state of his bedroom. Nice touch. Also a nice touch is the first half a dozen pages, which gently introduce things that will be very relevant later, but are somewhat hidden beneath a nicely written and drawn recap ,of elements of Strange’s life, culminating in Wong making breakfast. Classic stuff. The banter between Stephen and Wong is also fantastic, emphasising this a partnership, not a master servant relationship. MacKay even gets in a subtle, affectionate jab about Stephen’s way of talking in the past. All ‘zounds’ and ‘by Mephisto’s beard’. Thor-esque. No more. Stephen’s happy, grounded, and things are going well. He’s even got a ghost-dog, which is pretty cool.

That newfound grounding includes Stephen’s return to work as a surgeon, now that his hands are working properly again. A Doctor of both medicine and magic one again. All is well. So, why the book’s title? The first indicator all is not well when minor villain Mr. Rasputin makes an appearance, having over-reached himself by trying to increase his powers and unfortunately bonded his mind to a dying planet in a dark dimension. As you do. Then back to yet another part of his day job, teacher. Stephen is also a teacher at his Strange Academy, so fits in a bit of that too. What a guy. In retrospect, his talk on the fact he won’t be the last sorceror supreme should have started the spider-sense tingling, considering the book’s title.

Things change rather drastically, rather quickly. After the Rasputin incident, and a breach incursion from Limbo (loved the Magik cameo) it becomes clear that something is happening in the outer dimensions. It’s something that quite literally turns up on Stephen’s doorstep. As powerful as Stephen is, he can’t win them all, and this time it proves fatal. Because of the title of this book, I’m giving nothing away by telling you that this was the day the magic died. Stephen Strange is murdered. Mourned by the obvious like Wong and Brother Voodoo, but also by the likes of Baron Mordo, who wanted Strange’s head himself. Of greater concern, with the sorceror supreme dead, Earth’s magical defenses have fallen, and it’s open season on Earth. Luckily, there’s a new champion to take up the mantle. A bit strange, but definitely a doctor. He’s been waiting to be called upon, and now he’s taking centre stage.

What a great read. The art alone would make this a recommended buy. Garbett’s art is superb, lovely clean lines and a whole array of great layouts, from lush full page panels to multi panel pages that ooze action and movement. Lovely stuff. The real magic for me came from the writing of Jed MacKay, who manages to pack in a great story while writing a love letter to the life and times of Stephen Strange. His internal dialogue for Strange is pitch perfect. I read a lot of it with a smile on my face, thinking as a long time fan this was written for me. I also think a new reader could happily pick this book up with very little knowledge and enjoy it quite happily. That’s good writing right there.

I don’t normally pick up all the tie-in issues to most events, but I may just do that with this one. It’s really drawn me in. I can’t find fault with anything.

Dr. Strange has never been better, or at least not since the Steve Englehart days. Now THAT’S magic.

***** 5/5


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