Death of Doctor Strange #1 Review

by Charles Martin on September 22, 2021

Death of Doctor Strange #1 Review
Writer: Jed MacKay
Artist: Lee Garbett
Colourist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics

The Death of Doctor Strange begins by charting the course of a very ordinary day -- or as ordinary a day as a Sorcerer Supreme can have.

He's such an ordinary guy! He has coffee. He walks his dog. He hustles to his job at the hospital. Later, he teaches at his school.

Except, of course, his dog is a ghost. He can be a surgeon again thanks to ridiculous magic shenanigans that restored his ruined hands. His classroom is full of young wizards and demons. And at several points, his day is interrupted by magical emergencies.

It's a finely crafted portrait of the man in both words and art. The doctor and the creators telling his story operate with tremendous warmth and compassion. This first installment moves slowly, but it makes the most of the time it takes. 

Regardless of your level of familiarity with Doctor Strange, this issue will convince you that losing him is a tragedy. And it's not just because the Sorcerer Supreme has an important (and well-defined here) role in protecting the Earth; it's because Stephen Strange is (now) a genuinely good guy.

Much is made of how Dr. Strange has changed over the years. How his diction has become less mystic, how his personality is less abrasive, how he is much more strongly connected to the mundane world he protects. And this "change" theme isn't just wool-gathering; a marvellous finale (no spoilers!) rips the contrast between contemporary Strange and classic Strange out of the subtext and puts it center stage.

Artist Lee Garbett does a formidable job setting the tone right from the get-go. He embroiders the edges of Doc's Very Normal Day with subtly weird details, visually demonstrating the fusion Strange has achieved between man and magician. 

Mr. Garbett also does terrific work illustrating a vast cast of magic-users and a lot of mystic action; the supporting cast gets painted with the same brush of realism that Dr. Strange enjoys. I'm a particular fan of the artist's portrayal of Magik (for whom a larger role is strongly foreshadowed). 

I said above that this is a very warm portrait of Dr. Strange. Colourist Antonio Fabela makes that warmth a reality in every panel. This is a sunny day in Strange's life (until, y'know, the dying), and Mr. Fabela portrays that with bright yet nuanced colours. Backgrounds are softer than the characters, in order to emphasize them, but they never turn cold (until, again … y'know).

Writer Jed MacKay has crafted a masterful script here. Though it moves slowly, I strongly doubt that it's wasting any time. Even in this first installment, trivialities from early in the day loop around to become vital later. It has the perfect effect, sending me back to scrutinize every detail of the Doctor's last day, guessing which little details and developments will bloom into key plot points further down the line.

Mr. MacKay's dialogue is strong and natural, conveying a surprising amount of information without feeling expository. (Okay, the classroom scene feels expository, but c'mon, it's a lecture.) The writer uses divergent narration throughout the issue to layer the words, mixing Stephen's thoughts into the ongoing story. It's a tough trick to do well, and while this example isn't flawless, it does avoid the pitfall of diverging too far.

In the Death of Doctor Strange #1, Doctor Strange does indeed die. We get just a glimpse of what happens next and scant hints about whodunnit; in this issue, the creators concentrate on making the loss meaningful by portraying the man in detail. You don't need to be a big Dr. Strange fan to enjoy this comic. As long as you appreciate strong comics storytelling, this book will persuade you to care about losing him.

Our Score:


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I bet a spillion dollars that the blonde babe with the pointy shoulders in the photo (you know, XXXXX) will have a bigger role to play moving forward.