Strange #1 review – get to know the quirky Clea in an exposition-heavy debut issue

Marvel readers have met their share of Sorcerers Supreme, from the heroic Ancient One to the pure of heart Brother Voodoo, to the manipulative Loki Laufeyson. But after Stephen Strange, Marvel’s signature mantle-holder dies in a magical murder mystery, a new character takes on the job and the power that comes with it. And though her power is indeed great, her responsibility is, ultimately, only to herself. 

Strange #1 page

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

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Strange #1 (opens in new tab) kicks off an all-new era in Magical Marvel mythology, introducing Clea, ex-wife of Stephen Strange and niece of the Dread Dormammu, to the role of Sorceress Supreme. The issue finds the world reeling after Stephen’s murder in Death of Doctor Strange (opens in new tab), with Victor Von Doom attempting to take on his role and a mysterious threat called the Blasphemy Cartel attempting to make the most of his absence. 

However, the Earth’s new magical guardian is a lot less concerned with these threats than her superheroic predecessors. Sure, she’ll defend the Earth when she can, but her primary concern is something else entirely: the resurrection of her ex-husband. 

Strange #1 credits

Written by Jed MacKay
Art by Marcelo Ferreira, Don Ho, and Roberto Poggi
Colors by  Java Tartaglia and Felipe Sobreiro
Lettering by Cory Petit
On sale March 2
‘Rama Rating: 6.5/10 

Artist Marcelo Ferreira has a lot of fun in proving that a new character has taken up the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme. When she’s at home, Clea uses the Cloak of Levitation as a kind of bathrobe, and Strange’s ghostly sidekick Bats as a personal lapdog. When she’s out on the town, Clea’s roots as a citizen of Marvel’s Dark Dimension are proudly on display. 

She dresses in the garb of her people, the Faltine, whenever she’s not actively acting as Sorcerer Supreme, even when she’s going for coffee. Along with inkers Don Ho and Roberto Poggi, Ferreira injects Clea’s personality into every panel in which she appears. You’d be able to tell exactly who Clea is with no dialogue or captions on the page at all.

Without that dialogue, though, you’d miss out on the great snippets of humor in Strange #1. More than anything else, the mark of a Marvel story these days is quippiness, and letterer Cory Petit makes that aspect shine in this book. Whether it’s banter between Dr. Doom and Clea, banter between Wong and Clea, or banter between occult terrorists and Clea (she likes to banter, ok?), Petit’s use of space in getting the reader to a speech bubble lands every one-liner and makes the burns that much hotter.

Strange #1 page

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

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As you probably might have gathered by now, the first issue of Strange really focuses on establishing the character of Clea, so the overarching plot takes a bit of a backseat. Writer Jed MacKay handles this balance well, explaining Clea’s backstory in a way that feels pretty natural, if sometimes a little heavy in expositional. 

Still, you can’t fault a writer for some exposition in this situation; Clea isn’t an extremely popular character, after all, and the casual reader might need a quick biography. All that said, don’t come to Strange #1 expecting to get a strong sense of what Strange’s first story arc will be. Though MacKay does a good job sprinkling in hints of what’s coming, the antagonist of the series is made as much a mystery as its protagonist is made clear.

And yet, there is at least one thing that’s as clear in this comic as its protagonist. Thanks to the efforts of colorists Java Tartaglia and Felipe Sobreiro, the reader will get an excellent sense of the world that this new Sorceress Supreme inhabits.

Strange #1 page

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

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It’s one part New York City, all reflected sunsets and concrete, one part magical underground society, with weird greens and oranges that color things unlike our natural world, and one part Dark Dimension, which is, well, dark. Purples and blues have followed Clea from her home dimension as much as her sordid history has, firmly establishing the fact that the challenges facing Clea are worthy of fear.

Of course, there’s a lot to be nervous about heading out of this issue. The role of Sorcerer Supreme is a big flying cape to fill, and readers will have to keep reading to find out whether or not Clea and the creative team behind the book can do it. So far, they’ve given us a strong showing of character, and have hinted at the fact that this is a story centered on her personality, with all its strengths and all its flaws. 

Those are different from Stephen Strange’s, and though that might be bad for the Marvel Universe, it’s at least incredibly intriguing for its readers.

Strange #1 is on sale March 2nd.

Will Strange turn out to be the next great chapter in the history of Marvel Magic? We’ll have to wait and see, but until then, get your magical fix with Newsarama’s Best Doctor Strange stories of all time.  

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