So Doctor Strange is apparently going to die…
Yes ... again.
Such is the life (and often the many deaths) of Marvel and DC superheroes and villains, where disembarking the mortal plane is almost always just a temporary layover.
But The Death of Doctor Strange, Marvel's newly announced five-issue series that launches in September, does have an interesting twist worth a closer look: the limited series will likely conclude in January, just eight or so weeks before Benedict Cumberbatch's Stephen Strange returns to the MCU in March 25's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
As close observers of the mighty Marvel media machine know, Marvel Comics will often time the release of new comic book series and collections to correspond to big media releases. But this time - killing the character just as 'mainstream' interest in him is likely to rise - is somewhat off the beaten path and Marvel almost certainly has a plan B with a significant payoff in mind.
Case in point: After over a year on the shelf due to pandemic delays, Marvel's Darkhold limited series has returned to the schedule. Originally scheduled to debut prior to Disney Plus's WandaVision in 2020, Darkhold will now also debut in September with the bookend one-shot Darkhold Alpha #1, followed by five character one-shots (Iron Man, Wasp, Black Bolt, Spider-Man, and Blade), and concluding with the bookend Darkhold Omega #1. If monthly, that places Omega in March 2022 … just in time for - you guessed it - Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Now, the Darkhold storyline doesn't star or feature Doctor Strange as far as Marvel has indicated (he'll be concurrently busy in the new Defenders limited series along with the series that will kill him), but it does star perhaps the two of the three most likely characters to assume the Marvel Universe's mantle of Sorcerer Supreme when it goes up for grabs. The first is Loki, who fairly recently held the mantle in the comic books.
The second is Doctor Doom, who has briefly held the title before and is always looking for additional power and prestige wherever he can find it. And finally, the third is Scarlet Witch, which given what we know of WandaVision and her role in The Multiverse of Madness, cannot go ignored.
The timing of it all is almost certainly not a coincidence.
Or at least so we thought when we first published this story. More on that in a moment.
The Darkhold event, which prominently features Wanda recruiting heroes to try to wrestle the titular book of dark magic written by the other-dimensional demon Chthon from Doom, has parallels with the conclusion of WandaVision, in which the newly 'crowned' embodiment of chaos magic the Scarlet Witch is seen reading from the MCU version of the book in the streaming show's final scene.
The newly powered-up and now Darkhold-versed Wanda is, of course, the co-star of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which makes it ... or made it ... all the more likely Marvel Comics may try to capitalize on the moment by having the Scarlet Witch win the title of Sorcerer Supreme in the wake of the Darkhold event and after the Doctor Strange's death.
But there's been a twist.
Spoilers ahead for June 30's X-Factor #10
So now it looks like the Scarlet Witch is dead. Or at least according to the final pages of X-Factor #10 it's supposed to look that way.
She's presumed dead - seemingly murdered by her father-not-father Magneto, who whether she's really dead or not or he is the real killer or not is the prime suspect in the upcoming The Trial of Magneto limited series.
And if you're asking how the Darkhold series can co-exist with her seeming death in the X-books, Marvel Comics tells Newsarama that the Darkhold series takes place before the events of the Hellfire Gala.
For a few weeks there we speculated that it looked increasingly likely that Wanda would win the title of Sorceror Supreme and would be the latest and perhaps most important stepping stone in her journey in comic books from a minor mutant character with often inexplicable, undefined powers, to a frequent victim/pawn of villains like Chthon, Mephisto, and Doctor Doom, to a fully self-realized character in control of her own destiny and one of the most powerful and important superheroes in the entire Marvel Universe.
The last 20 minutes or so of the WandaVision series finale featured a Scarlet Witch who, through her journey of loss, suffering, and realization has emerged as a confident, assured hero who seems ready to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Dr. Strange, and perhaps take on whatever the multiverse has to throw at her to rescue her children Billy and Tommy (who, by the way, are alive and well in the comic books).
Like her comic book counterpart, the live-action Wanda also seemed poised to emerge as one of her world's most powerful figures. But now - at least for the moment - comic book Wanda appears to be a victim ... again.
Anything can happen in comic books and often does, so there is still plenty of wiggle room for Wanda to emerge and succeed Doctor Strange early in 2022. After all, resurrecting mutants is kind of a thing in the X-titles these days. But her (for now) apparent death at least has us rethinking our conclusions.
The Scarlet Witch and Doctor Strange both figure prominently on Newsarama's list of the best supernatural superheroes of all time.