Written by Fawaz Qashat
SDSU Biology Major, 2021
Comic book titles from the same publisher often overlap and interweave character histories and storylines… so much so that novice comic book readers sometimes complain that they do not know where to begin (see my earlier blog post on how to start collecting comics). This blog post explores a tragedy in the Marvel universe that spans multiple titles and years and highlights how fans can create a deeper and more fulfilling reading experience by exploring multiple, interconnected titles. There are spoilers ahead for Trial of Magneto #1-2 and Death of Doctor Strange #1. You have been warned.
Tragedy has struck in the Marvel universe. Two of the most beloved characters have suffered a terrible fate. The Scarlet Witch and Doctor Strange have recently been slain by an unknown murderer . Although their deaths have taken place separately, they seem to be connected.
Back in June and July 2021, the X-Men (those not-quite-human “mutants” whose special abilities singled them out for othering and this a topic for social justice commentary) invited humans to visit their new home, Krakoa, in a bid to build good relations with the nations of the world. They held a large gala that spanned several comics in the X-Men’s several teams. One key issue, SWORD #6 (2020), showed Wanda visiting her once-believed-to-be father, Magneto, after the gala had ended because she felt that having once wiped out 90% of the mutant population’s powers, she should not be the “pretender” at the event. X-Factor #10 (2020) shocked us with the discovery of the death of the Scarlet Witch after the X-Men found her lying on the ground in Krakoa. In Trial of Magneto #1 (2021), Wanda is chased by a mysterious figure who ended up taking her life with a magical dagger. Although she was pronounced dead, Wanda remains conscious and talks with the reader about her current condition. It is still unknown where she is exactly, but a surprise awaited readers as she eventually appears at the end of Trial of Magneto #2 (2021). The peculiar part about the Scarlet Witch’s reappearance is that she seems to be an older version of herself since she believes that her relationship with Vision is still ongoing when it had actually ended several years back.
Scarlet Witch recalling her murder. (Trial of Magneto #1, by Leah Williams)
Scarlet Witch reuniting with Vision. (Trial of Magneto #2, by Leah Williams)
Stephen Strange faced a similar fate in the recent Death of Doctor Strange #1 (2021). After completing his daily tasks, Strange senses that something is off in the balance of dimensions. He is then visited by a mysterious figure who carries a similar dagger to the one that killed the Scarlet Witch. We later discover that Strange is pronounced dead, with the dagger in his heart. Not only was his death similar to Wanda’s, he also had an older version of himself appear at the very end to help fix the imbalance in the universe because the Sorcerer Supreme position was left vacant.
The same murder weapon, the same mysterious figure, and a time traveling reappearance? “Once is chance, twice is coincidence, third time is a pattern.” -Patrick McKenzie. You can read more about what happens next in Trial of Magneto #3 and Death of Doctor Strange #2 on October 20, 2021.
From left to right, Doctor Strange being tied up by the killer, his friends finding him murdered, and his past self appearing out of a portal (Death of Doctor Strange #1 by Jed MacKay).
There is more to come for these two characters and this crime investigation storyline; however, they present us with a spectacular aspect of comics that differs from other mediums of storytelling. Comics add layered storytelling by allowing characters and events to span different issues. As in the murder of Wanda and Strange, it took several comic runs to establish such a big event and was able to engage readers by entering into the different comic worlds and following a trial to the ultimate point. Other mediums of storytelling frequently include all of the events within the work itself and are not as open to the idea of spanning their story across different works (and sometimes different authors and artists) to be able to immerse the reader into a scavenger hunt of finding out what happens next. This makes comics a great medium to work with and study because it involves the reader and includes them by asking them to do the work in the gutters not just between panels of a page but in the space between issues. Readers can discover what happens in real time and as they wait for the next issue, they are able to connect with a community of other readers who share their experiences and collectively wait to open the next door and follow the plot.