The Death of Doctor Strange #1
I’m not crazy about the concept behind The Death of Doctor Strange #1, a five-issue miniseries written by Jed MacKay and illustrated by Lee Garbett. The more events promote a morbid ending that readers already know won’t stick, the less it means, and the cheaper the gimmick becomes. Admittedly, this is one of the characters, given all the magic, that is more reasonable to take the approach with.
(With the slim possibility that Disney, Marvel’s owners, won’t pay off Steve Ditko’s heirs, who have sued to reclaim his creation, Doctor Strange, maybe this is precognitive.)
But as soon as I opened the comic and saw ghost Beagle Bats waking up Stephen because the dog wanted the doctor to be healthier, I was won over. This is one of my favorite current comics just because of that.
As I recently said, I’m not the right audience for superhero comics any more, but this is the kind of imaginative comic I’d like to see more of. Someone who’s got a magical life and tries to balance the everyday (waking up, having breakfast, taking the dog out) with those fantastical elements. Plus, Stephen and Wong bantering over how dramatically the doctor used to speak was a charming nod to the characters’ history without feeling exclusionary. (The jokes about Hawkeye’s dog Lucky require a bit more continuity knowledge, but I still liked them.)
The new approach to the character — less psychedelic mystic, more doctor-to-the-world, trying to diagnose and heal, using magic as surgery — is well-suited to this era (as the previous was to the world he was born into, many decades ago). The bit of “magical schoolkids in Strange Academy” we see makes me wish that I liked that title better. The first half of this 36-page issue (and no ads! other than inside front and outside back cover; that’s unusual, but probably is their excuse for the $5 cover price, yikes) gives us a condensed but meaningful overview of who he is and what he does, which makes us miss him all the more in the second half.
I’m not going to reveal what happens, but it’s a terrific twist, and one that makes me eager to see what happens next. I admit, I’m a fan of this character now because of who plays him in the movies. This was a great overview and introduction to where he is now in the comics, one where I feel welcomed to keep reading and curious to find out more.
That enthusiasm probably won’t last me through the six other one-shots included as part of the event, in addition to the remaining issues of this miniseries, but at least there’s a convenient, clear checklist spelling out titles and dates at the end. I’m already nervous about where the character will eventually end up after all this, but I’m also cautiously hopeful that we’ll get some good story in the meantime.