In March 2022, Marvel released the trade paperback editions of The Death of Doctor Strange and its companion novel of spin-off stories affected by the Sorcerer Supreme’s death. The main plot, written by the brilliant Jed MacKay, art by Lee Garbett, coloring by Antionio Fabela, and lettering by VC’s Cory Petit, is a collection of issues #1-5 and is considered the final saga of Doctor Strange. Of course, we collectively know this is not his final appearance considering the massive hype being generated by Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. Stephen Strange is dead…or is he mostly dead?
Reading the collected issues back-to-back was very fulfilling as it allowed the tapestry that MacKay was trying to weave to be seen in its full grandeur and tempo. The trade paperback is broken down into chapters titled: The Strange Day, The Lonely Death of Doctor Stephen Strange, The Dance of the Warlords, The Three Mothers, The Peregrine Child, A Knife of Memory, Invasive Surgery, Mordo, Down and Out on Bleecker Street, The Drawing Room, Physician Heal Thyself, The Battle of Antarctica, and the final 13th chapter, The Death of Doctor Strange. The companion stories, which I will get to later, were a distraction and generally a hit-or-miss situation. To read in-depth reviews of the single issues, please check out the articles previously written about them on AIPT, starting with The Death of Doctor Strange #1 review by David Brooke. The back of the trade paperback hosts a gallery of the cover art, with variants, and character designs by Garbett. It was exciting to see a Gene Colan variant cover in this section as he’s one of the iconic artists of Strange’s past. My favorite cover has to be the #1 variant by Stephanie Hans. The image of the Cloak of Levitation all by itself, looking so sad down at the chalk-outline of Stephen’s body really struck a strong emotion in me.
If the entire purpose of The Death of Doctor Strange was to create a vehicle to bring Clea back into comics in a big way with Strange #1, then I’m all for it. Clea has been woefully underused for decades and seeing her in the MacKay-crafted solo series has been entirely rewarding. Lee Garbett’s pencils and Antonio Fabela’s colors within the main plot are crisp. The simplistic inks and cel-shading color effect make all the characters pop and allow room for the spells and monsters to take center stage. The grand finale featuring five Sorcerer Supremes from different dimensions working in unison was astounding. I love a team-up, and this was on a massive scale to see Strange, Tiboro, Ilyana Rasputin, Clea, and Aggamon cast the biggest banishing spell the Marvel Universe has ever seen! Again, go back into the AIPT archives to read the rich reviews written by David Brooke to get a full sense of the story.
Onto the Companion novel, which collects the stories of how the greater Marvel Universe is affected by the death of Doctor Strange in one-off stories with the Avengers, Strange Academy, Spider-Man, White Fox, Blade, X-Men/Black Knight, and Bloodstone. These side stories are mostly filler with a few shining moments of fun. The Avengers piece widened the world of the Cyttorak and how the Three Mothers and Peregrine Child ravaged the crimson dimension that both powers Juggernaut and Strange’s signature spell, the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak. Spider-Man sees Ben Reilly and Black Cat at odds and reluctantly running errands for Stephen around New York City and builds on the Amazing Spider-Man dynamic nicely.
Strange Academy displays a touching story about mother and son bonding through magic as Enchantress and her sons Iric and Alvi, plus plenty of one-page stories on the rest of the kids. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll really enjoy it. White Fox, I found hard to follow. Blade’s story was decent, but I found the art made for a choppy experience. X-Men/Black Knight was a catfish, much like the cover of this graphic novel. Featuring the X-Men prominently in the promotions, they are hard to find in this story as when they are on page, they are hideously deformed monsters in a pocket dimension. Granted, it was this one-shot that made me look at Black Knight more closely and really enjoy his recent solo series, Curse of the Ebony Blade. Lastly, Bloodstone was a solid story about the Bloodstone family, focused on Elsa of course, but introduces a new character to the family tree which gave this spinoff a much-needed weight of importance to the overall story of these characters. The back of the novel showcases a small selection of variant covers as well.
Overall, the collection of the main storyline is well worth the pickup if you have not had a chance to read The Death of Doctor Strange. When it comes to the Companion book, my feeling is it is not worth it unless you are a completist. However, some of the solo stories are excellent and worthy of picking up their single issues.
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