The best comics to read right now: Doctor Strange edition
Can't get enough of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, currently blowing up the box office? We've curated a selection of comics — new and old, Marvel and not — particularly relevant to the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe film.
Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme (Marvel)
Robbie Thompson (writer), Javier Rodriguez (artist), Alvaro Lopez (inker), Jordie Bellaire (colorist)
Doctor Strange calls himself the Master of the Mystic Arts. Though a superhero, he lives in a world of magic, demons, and mystical possibilities. As a result, he sometimes ends up feeling like the least interesting character in his own story.
That's true of Multiverse of Madness — which positions America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) as the audience surrogate going through a hero's journey — and it's also true in current Marvel comics, where Stephen Strange is dead and succeeded as Sorcerer Supreme by his love interest Clea (who may or may not have made her own MCU debut recently). But it's never been truer than in the 2017 comic Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme, which saw Strange team up with a whole team of Sorcerers Supreme from the past and future — including a younger incarnation of his own mentor the Ancient One, a future version of the Young Avenger Wiccan, and a female gunslinger called the Conjuror, among others — in order to vanquish a threat that scared even Merlin.
The plot specifics of Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme are honestly a little hard to follow, but that's not really the point. The attraction here is Javier Rodriguez's art, which interprets the magic used by Strange and his comrades as a truly otherworldly force capable of breaking apart the typical panel structure of comics. If you enjoyed the scene in Multiverse of Madness where the MCU version of Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) battles an evil parallel self by using musical notes as weapons, then you'll love Rodriguez's depiction of the Sorcerers Supreme fighting their way out of a living spellbook or investigating a magical library designed according to M.C. Escher physics.
Though this series ran for 12 issues back in 2017, it's handily available in collected form on Marvel Unlimited — and if you enjoy Rodriguez's take on Doctor Strange, rejoice that he recently reunited with the character in last year's Defenders miniseries.
Captain Carter (Marvel)
Jamie McKelvie (writer), Marika Cresta (artist), Erick Arciniega (color artist)
After playing a prominent role in Marvel comics over the past few decades, the Illuminati finally made their MCU debut in Multiverse of Madness. But the big-screen version of the secretive group contained a member who hadn't been in the comic incarnation: Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell).
Peggy Carter had initially been a background bit of Steve Rogers' backstory, but ever since Atwell lit up the screen in Captain America: The First Avenger, the character has steadily been gaining in popularity and prominence. After the Marvel Puzzle Quest mobile game introduced a version of Peggy that had been given the supersoldier serum instead of Steve, she made her comics debut in the dimension-hopping 2017 series Exiles by writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Javier Rodriguez (who you may remember hearing about in the previous section). From there, Atwell voiced the character in last year's What If…? animated series, and now has fully incarnated her in the live-action MCU.
But don't fret if you want more Captain Carter content! Marvel is currently publishing a five-issue miniseries fully digging into a world where supersoldier Peggy Carter wakes up in the present day and finds herself navigating a changed world, much like Steve often has to do. But Hydra is still out there — and possibly connected to the impossibly slick fictional Prime Minister of the UK — so there are plenty of bad guys for Captain Carter to knock around with her vibranium shield. It's unclear yet if this version of the character will eventually connect back to the mainstream Marvel comics continuity (though based on the history detailed above, it's probably a safe bet), but for now it's also fun to see alternate-universe versions of familiar faces. Captain Carter's biggest help in finding her way around the present is STRIKE Agent Lizzie Braddock, who is currently Captain Britain in the main Marvel comics. Speaking of whom…
Knights of X #1 (Marvel)
Tini Howard (writer), Bob Quinn (artist)
Doctor Strange isn't the only Marvel superhero who works with magic, you know. The X-Men also dabble in the mystic arts sometimes, and new miniseries Knights of X picks up where Excalibur let off last year as Captain Britain (a mantle now carried by Betsy Braddock instead of her brother Brian) mounts a ragtag resistance to the evil powers that have taken over Otherworld. Who are those evil powers, you ask? Why, none other than Merlin and King Arthur, who have recently become vehement mutant haters after learning that Arthur's son Mordred is a mutant.
Writer Tini Howard's previous run on Excalibur explored mutant magic in the age of Krakoa, as the X-Men expanded their newfound power into Otherworld. Knights of X reclaims the underdog flavor that really makes Marvel's mutants special, with ass-kicking art from Bob Quinn.
Kieron Gillen (writer), Stephanie Hans (artist)
Kieron Gillen knows a thing or two about America Chavez — he wrote the 2013 Young Avengers comic that helped make her a star — but if you're in the mindset for dark fantasy comics about getting lost in alternate realities, it's hard to beat Die. Co-created with artist Stephanie Hans, Die can succinctly be described as a sort of "Goth Jumanji," wherein a group of young friends got lost in a Dungeons & Dragons-style roleplaying game with tragic consequences years ago, and then reunite and return to the game as middle-aged adults. Die doesn't skimp on the fantasy elements at all — there are manipulative elves, awesome swords, and terrifying monsters — while also providing powerful commentary about our relationship to fantasy stories and how that understanding can change as we age and grow over time.
This is a particularly good time to read Die because Gillen, Hans, and other collaborators have built it out as an actual RPG that you can play alongside your real-life friends. It launches on Kickstarter this week, so keep an eye out!
Marjorie Liu (writer), Teny Issakhanian (artist)
Marjorie Liu is best known for Monstress, a dark fantasy saga that she writes with art by Sana Takeda. Monstress combines all sorts of interesting ideas (body horror, Lovecraftian monster-gods, cute animals…) and continues to prove itself one of EW's favorite comics of the past decade. But Liu clearly has range, because her new series Wingbearer with artist Teny Issakhanian is very different from Monstress while still being a wonderful fantasy story in its own right.
Wingbearer revolves around Zuli, a young human child who was raised in the Tree — where the souls of birds come after death to be reincarnated as new chicks. Zuli doesn't seem to care that she's the only two-legged, non-winged being she's ever seen; this is just the world she knows. But when the souls of birds stop coming to the tree, Zuli must embark out into the real world to find out what's gone wrong.
Zuli's journey definitely echoes that of America Chavez in Multiverse of Madness — as a powerful young girl moving through a strange world, unsure why evil forces seem to be pursuing her — but Wingbearer is also just a great all-ages comic in its own right that deserves a shout-out this spring.