Spider-Man/Doctor Strange: The Way to Dusty Death

Writer / Artist
Spider-Man/Doctor Strange: The Way to Dusty Death
Spider-Man Doctor Strange The Way to Dusty Death review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Marvel - 9781-3029-0701-3
  • Release date: 2017
  • UPC: 9781302907013
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

While taking its title from a 1992 one-shot, The Way to Dusty Death is a chocolate box gathering of Spider-Man’s meetings with the Master of the Mystic Arts from the 1960s to the 1990s.

The logical place to start is with the second Spider-Man Annual from 1965, plotted and drawn by Steve Ditko and introducing Xandu, a villain who’ll recur throughout. It’s still exemplary in conveying the disorientation felt by Spider-Man as he copes with being shunted into other dimensions routinely traversed by Doctor Strange. Ditko is one of the few utterly unique artists comics have produced, his influences his own and not obvious, and this still reads well. Stan Lee’s dialogue shouldn’t be under-estimated either.

Len Wein and Sal Buscema reprise the situation in the first of a selection of 1970s stories originally from Marvel Team-Up that haven’t dated well. They lack the unique stylings of Ditko, and lack sparkle. Bill Mantlo’s contribution is decent enough, but suffers from missing the first two chapters, which don’t feature Doctor Strange, while Chris Claremont’s team-up swamps Howard Chaykin’s art in unnecessary dialogue. The best of this section is Claremont and Mike Vosburg’s tale of Doctor Strange becoming a werewolf.

The Team-Up selection is interrupted by the only story not featuring Doctor Strange, but while Sandy Plunkett’s art is gorgeous, his collaboration with Mike W. Barr starring Scarlet Witch is standard supernatural horror. However, Frank Miller channelling Ditko on Denny O’Neil’s feature involving Doctor Doom still looks great and reads well.

Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway collaborate on ‘The Road to Dusty Death’, the longest inclusion. They pick up on a plot point from the Scarlet Witch story and also look back in on Xandu, while Michael Bair draws a strange, rounded Spider-Man, and exploits the leading woman. However, as the sample art shows, he puts a lot of effort into detail, and breaks down the story dynamically. It’s a desperate battle in an ever-changing environment and a collection highlight, although there’s a casual dismissal of what the story’s unfortunate victim may or may not want.

Another writing team-up supplies the closing story from Kurt Busiek and Roger Stern, with some first rate cartooning from Neil Vokes (sample right). It’s a continuity implant set early in Spider-Man’s career, and the writers enjoy exploiting the problems he had then, along with his early uncertainty. Spider-Man’s supporting cast transported to a strange environment is well exploited, and this is a lot of fun closing an inconsistent collection featuring several treats.