Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Search for, Nature and History of...
the Sorcerer Supreme :
What has led up to New Avengers # 51

Since this was delayed a day or so, I'm going to make it up to you by doing a VERY in-depth analysis of New Avengers #51 and the back-story involved with how it all got to this point.

If you're looking for a light read... move along.
But, if you're looking for answers to all your questions about HOW Doctor Strange could lose the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme - with lots of scans and specific issue references to follow up upon... then brew a pot of tea and settle in.
(If you've ever noticed that the word "anal" is in analysis... well now you'll understand why.)

THIS post will detail what has led to the issue and the Search for a NEW Sorcerer Supreme.
The NEXT post will handle a review of the issue itself.


New Avengers # 51 "dropped", this week, to an eager and anticipating (super-hero) comics-reading world. It was so desirous an issue, if for no other reason, due to it's starting, in earnest, the long-anticipated "Search for the next 'Sorcerer Supreme' " story-arc (because, really, who truly cares about Norman Osborn and his destined-to-be-short-lived "Dark Reign"?).

To properly address the current story-line, we must first look back several years - for the groundwork of the story therein, by Brian Michael Bendis, has been a long-gestating one, having seeds strewn across the 4-color world of the Avengers since at least as far back as "House of M"...

Don't believe me?
Let's revisit THESE scenes (from House of M # 8 - by Bendis and artist; Olivier Coipel):

*click images to make Supreme-sized*

It was at that point in time where it became painfully obvious, that if Bendis continued his handling of Strange, this would eventually be addressed - to detrimental effect.

As bizarre as it seemed to see his version of Doctor Strange, in the "House of M" world, was a therapist of some sort, this final admission of fault and defeat leaped off of the page as a foreboding harbinger of what was to come.


With those three words, it became clear that Bendis (and/or Editor-in-Chief; Joe Quesada) felt that Doctor Strange was due to receive some sort of comeuppance. Or more likely, a tear-down.

It was evident in much of his treatment of Strange over time (even starting in that mini-series "event") that sadly, as talented a writer as he could be, Brian Bendis just didn't quite "get" Dr. Strange. I would be hard-pressed to believe that he had performed much in the way of research into the character's past - to garner even a cursory knowledge of Strange's abilities or history of using them.

This next bit from a page later in that same issue proved that:

Uh... what? The magics don't work like that?
Doc mind-wiped people ALL. THE. TIME.
Many an instance he would remove entire chunks of memory from people;
  • Villains whom he felt had dangerous knowledge? - That information erased.
  • Fellow heroes whom he needed to forget his presence? - Memory altered.
  • The entire planet need to think that he's deceased? - One spell does the trick.

Believe me, I am no fan of the "magic-eraser" technique. It's lazy and all-too-convenient (and in canon more times than I care for). I don't disagree that Bendis should have had Doc deny Spidey's request, I just think that since the mind-wipe is a well-known and oft-used ability of Strange's, there should be a better way to NOT do it.

Truly, I can understand if Editorial edict stated that Spider-Man shouldn't lose those memories, but if so, as the writer it befell to Bendis to have found a LOGICAL REASON for Doc being unable to remove them.

Just off the top of my head...

Perhaps, because the spell that caused the "House of M" was created by the Scarlet Witch's unique "brand" of mutant pseudo-magic - which affects REALITY as we know it, that the memories created from living in that world were not something that he, using "real" magic could affect.

Or, he could have stated that since those who remember the event, do so because of his and Emma Frost's combined abilities, those abilities mixed with the instability of the collapsing reality, that any further tampering would be impossible.

See? I didn't even take time to think of anything. Just typed it as I thought it.
And my two half-assed suggestions made far more sense than Bendis' "Magics don't work that way".

However, this bit is merely brought up within this discussion in order to delineate the fact that Bendis wasn't playing by "the rules", he was going to make them up as he went along.

Lest it be seen that I find only fault with Bendis' handling of Dr. Strange (although, the bulk of his treatment of Doc has been poor), there had been some shining moments as well.

While the "pig-latin-esque" mystic mumbo-jumbo that he has Strange emit is less than inspiring, a few of the causal effects of those spells have been well received.

Whether causing ninjas to call for their mommies...

Dr. Strange's Ninja Day-Care Center is doomed to failure.
New Avengers # 27 (Brian Michael Bendis - words / Leinil Francis Yu - images)

... or bringing Avengers to soil themselves...

The "Images of Ikonn" will knock you on your ass!
New Avengers # 29 (Brian Michael Bendis - words / Leinil Francis Yu - images)

... Strange's nightmare-fuel was a breath of fresh air from the usual boring spells that he had been relegated to using as of late.

The latter example was even more impressive and appreciated an outing as it was shown that his abilities worked in a power-dampening field - thus acknowledging that what Strange possesses is the ability to harness forces beyond our ken - he does NOT have "powers", and that the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme is not a power-set in and of itself, but a title - earned.

Bendis truly gives Strange some respect with this event, when Iron Man and his government forces recruit Brother Voodoo to try and capture the hiding New Avengers...

Brother Voodoo do that voodoo that he do so well.
New Avengers # 29
Brian Bendis (words)/ Leinil Yu (pictures)

Brother Voodoo creeps everyone out - then tells the creeps to bug out.
New Avengers # 30
Brian Bendis (words)/ Leinil Yu (pictures)

Voodoo states, plainly that Dr. Strange is the Master of the Mystic Arts - and is called such for a reason.

Still, it became clear that in Bendis' hands, the Sorcerer Supreme would certainly be less than "supreme".

Whether it was Strange's inability to prevent Iron Fist's jet from falling from the sky...

Perhaps Doc forgot about the "Winds of Watoomb"
which could have had the plane float with winds at his command.

New Avengers # 32 (Brian Michael Bendis - words / Leinil Francis Yu - images)

...or his claim that the Cloak of Levitation would be unable to allow Strange to fly from the soon-to-be-crashing aircraft...

(red circle added by me to better show who was speaking)
New Avengers # 32 (Brian Michael Bendis - words / Leinil Francis Yu - images)

... Strange's abilities were being dismantled - not with a surgeon's blade, but a reaper's scythe.

Alright. Even taking into account that Doc has survived travel back down to Earth from outer space, I'm willing to give a pass that maybe (maybe) winds that strong would be problematic for the Cloak of Levitation to properly operate. Unlike members of the Avengers or X-Men, to whom it was an almost everyday occurance, Dr. Strange was hardly ever the victim of an aircraft that crashed or exploded mid-flight.
That said, the aforementioned "Winds of Watoomb" (or a conjured protective aura) would allow for Strange to travel safely in any adverse airspace conditions.
It would also have been easily within his ability to open a portal that would have allowed for he and his teammates to simply appear safely on the ground (problematically, leaving the plane to gravity's harsh reality).

Still, the fact that they were even ON a plane is, in itself, somewhat of a departure from Strange's usual power-set of "mystic taxi" wherein he would cast a spell that would allow for long-distance travel for entire teams of heroes. Suddenly, he wasn't able to cast a spell of teleportation anywhere further than the nearest airport where Iron Fist had his jet hangered.

That also can get a "pass", since there had been instances wherein, to conserve energy (or if he was just too tired already) Strange would book a flight on a mundane airplane to travel long distances. It also gets a pass because, quite frankly, it's an annoyingly, habitually overused trope that writers had tacked onto Strange whenever large numbers of characters needed to go from "point-A" to "point-B" (and beyond). It grew to a point where Strange would be useless (or ignored) as anything BUT a shuttle service (or magic-eraser). To that end, I (and I'm sure others) are glad to see Strange stop being used as such.

The tripwire to this situation is that, again, like the mind-wipe, it was never stated WHY Strange suddenly couldn't (or wouldn't) be able to perform these once-everyday tasks. Bendis merely has Stephen's dialogue state; "No. I can not do this." and that was it.

Even before all that, starting the trend of being incompetent with his magics, was Strange's failure to determine that the "body" of Captain America was a fake (something the Eye of Agamotto should have been able to do "blindfolded")...

Uh... Doc? That hub-cap you're wearing at your neck?
You might want to give THAT a try.

New Avengers # 28 (Brian Michael Bendis - words / Leinil Francis Yu - images)

Really, it was as far back as this that the writing began to form on the wall.
Whether it was an attempt to lay red-herrings about the possibility that Doc was a "damn, dirty Skrull" (otherwise coined as "skrulliness"), or just tiny seeds of ineptitude that would later grow into a giant "Titan Arum" plant... for die-hard Strange-fans... things were staring to "stink".

The warning signs were clear.

Eventually, Bendis stopped pussyfooting and hinting about it and made it obvious; Strange's tenure was soon to end.
This scene from New Avengers # 34 lays it all out quite clearly.

Dr. Strange : Foreshadower Supreme
New Avengers # 34 (Brian Michael Bendis - words / Leinil Francis Yu - images)

So, it simply became a case of waiting for the other shoe to drop.

At that same time, the true mystical nail in the supreme sorcerer's coffin came not from a Bendis-penned title (although, I have no doubt that he was in the brain-trust at the pitch-meetings), but from the "World War Hulk" event, written by then-Hulk-scribe; Greg Pak.

Here's where it gets complicated...

Due to having his hands crushed by the Hulk (although, it really made little sense how it happened, since Strange was in his astral form at the time even if it was within the "reality" of Hulk's mind - and I don't care that Doc stated that they were "inside [Hulk's] mind, his dreams, his rules"... yadda yadda... that doesn't enter into it, since a "physical" psychic attack on an astral form should have no lasting effect upon the physical form - unless possibly the attack was mystical in nature - or if just a psychic attack, then perhaps physically manifested mental damage may occur. But since Hulk isn't a mystic and it was all in his mind, the physical damage makes little sense beyond the need to incapacitate Strange... ,) Strange becomes desperate to find a way to combat the many fronts from Hulk and the green goliath's fellow "warbound" ally, and powerful mystic - the Shadow-Priest; HIROIM.
As such he consumes the essence of ZOM, an eons-old mystical menace whom he had only been able to defeat - and literally put back in the bottle - by the aid of the Living Tribunal -waaaay back in Strange Tales # 156 - 157 - (although he did have a brief altercation with a tiny aspect of Zom's essence - a "Zomling" - much later in Doctor Strange; Sorcerer Supreme #20 -but the less spoken about that rediculous story the better)...

For the benefit of conservation of space (yeah, I know... too late for that), I'll just go over this next point briefly, - mostly utilizing page-scans - but I recommend with the highest level that you read my previous entry that dealt with the ZOM incident in great detail, as a part of a different series of posts *
(I'll post the link at the end of this entry for your convenience - Trust me. Good stuff there).

Hands crushed, power waning, death imminent; Doc is forced to take drastic measures.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, when a Red-Bull just isn't enough.
World War Hulk # 3
Greg Pak(words)/ John Romita Jr. (pencils)/ Klaus Jans0n (inks)

Strange ingests a portion of the very essence of the ancient demonic entity; ZOM, and is transformed into a demonic godling of giant stature and berzerker, destructive fury!

Doctor ZOM : Master of Disastrous Arts!
World War Hulk # 4
Greg Pak(words)/ John Romita Jr. (pencils)/ Klaus Jans0n (inks)

After the Hulk War was over, and the heroes went back to their regular routine, so did the villains. When the Hood started making his play for power, Strange and the New Avengers were there to put him down.
It was then that Doctor Strange got up close and personal with the Hood's demonic benefactor and barred his path.
This was the last of Brian Michael Bendis' "cool moments" for Doctor Strange, few and far between as they were.

Dr. Strange, like Gandalf before him; "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!"
New Avengers # 37 (Brian Michael Bendis - words / Leinil Francis Yu - images)

It was this confrontation with the Hood that caused the retaliatory strike against the Sanctum, by the Hood and his forces. During the melee, Dr. Strange was effectively "killed" in a hail of gunfire. The residual ZOM-energies, and darker magicks, that Strange had still maintained to counter the damage to his hands (damage that he was hiding), kicked in and caused Strange to go berzerk - effectively decimating the Hood's forces.

Zomtor Strange - Tormentor Supreme!
New Avengers - Annual # 2
Brian Bendis (words)/ Carlo Pagulayan (pictures)

After this incident, Strange knew that he was done, and departed the company of his fellow heroes, so that he could take stock of his abilities and his position as a mystic master.

Taking Strange off the chessboard.
New Avengers - Annual # 2
Brian Bendis (words)/ Carlo Pagulayan (pictures)

The most tragic aspect of this departure is that it is hinted at, but never followed up on, that Strange will wander the Earth, searching for himself and a way to atone for his transgressions against the magicks and his role as Sorcerer Supreme.

As I had detailed in a previous post ** about New Avengers # 50, there was ONE LINE in that whole book shone out as a BEACON of hope for Bendis' plan for Doc.

When asked where Dr. Strange is, Bendis has Luke Cage (natch) say:

"Walking the Earth like Caine in Kung Fu".


That's a story I'd like to see.
And a way of TREATING Doctor Strange that, while not completely original, is dire missed lo' these last 15 - 30 years. Doctor Strange as spiritualist and MYSTIC!

Contemplative and seeking.
Learning as well as learned.

However, that potential story seems to have been wasted (as many of Bendis' big-picture plot points tend to do - intriguingly suggested, but ultimately left on the "cutting-room floor").

While the recap page for New Avengers # 51 states that Strange hadn't been seen since his departure after the events of his Zom-fueled outburst in New Avengers Annual # 2, that's not entirely accurate.
Within a few months of that event he did make one appearance in Last Defenders # 3.

The Sorcerer and Satan's Son - Defenders and "friends".
Last Defenders # 3
Joe Casey (story) , Jim Muniz (pencils), Cam Smith (inks)

That (apart from a few cameo appearances in other titles - which present a bit of a time-line delemma), was the last time that Strange was seen acknowledging the events that led to his departure.

In the meanwhile, the HOOD, defeated by Strange and his allies, slinks back to his lair to determine just WHAT or WHO is the power behind his enchanted garment.
"Mirror, mirror - on the wall... whose is the power behind it all..."

New Avengers # 46 (Bendis - writer / Billy Tan - art)

He may well wish he never asked.

That is where things have been left New Avengers # 51 begins with Strange in mid-search for a replacement!


--- In the next installment of

The Search for, Nature and History of...the Sorcerer Supreme
series, we can look, in earnest into NEW AVENGERS # 51 ---

The ZOM incident, as well as the events surrounding it (Civil War, Registration Act, Skrulls, World War Hulk) are dealt with as one of a series of posts dealing with the many times the Sanctum Sanctorum had been destroyed. (HERE).

As mentioned above, I go into the wonderful case of Doctor Strange's spiritual journey and what was and could have been (HERE- check it out, it's another good one)


Shadow Mood said...


Thanks for the extended "background check" on Bendis' portrayal of Doc Strange's current downfall. Like you I am a big fan of Stephen Strange, and am somewhat frustrated by the current handling of his character. But like all Doc Strange fans, I buy just about everything he's in, simply because I miss seeing/reading about the character. And I continue to do this, even if I experience disappointment in what's currently going on in Doc's world.

Let me confess that I sincerely enjoy Bendis' writing, at least on New Avengers and Dark Avengers which are two of my favorite books. That said, that doesn't mean I entirely agree with how Bendis is writing Strange.

BTW: Your anal-ysis of Doc's current troubles is both comprehensive and witty. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the rest of us! I look forward to your review of NA #51 and the rest of the arc as it is published.

Rather than comment on various points you raise, all of them good, I'd like to present an alternative view. This is not to defend Bendis, but perhaps to help all of us Doc Strange fans experience future enjoyment of the character's appearances, no matter what happens.

Clearly, Doc Strange has a devoted following, and all of us feel very passionately about our favorite Master of the Mystic Arts. But I wonder sometimes if we are quick to jump the gun on our assessment of what's happening. Yes, we could probably all attest to how we've been severely disappointed with what Marvel's done with different characters and comics over the years. I've been there too. However, as of late, I am finding that I am more in the mood to wait and see what happens and just enjoy the ride. Comics are too expensive these days, and if I really indulged my feelings, I might be tempted to stop collecting and reading them altogether. I'd really rather not do that though, so I am learning to adjust my attitude and appreciate what is happening for what it is, rather than what I think it should be.

That said, one of the things I find so refreshing about the S.S.C. blog is that it is intelligent and balanced while seeking to validate pros and clarify cons in reviews and anal-ysis. At S.S.C. there isn't the constant moaning and groaning about how Marvel has done this or that and how utterly horrible things are. I am glad that S.S.C. can do quality reviews that are insightful and entertaining. All the while, the writer is looking for the positive in the midst of change that could be perceived as negative, either demonstratively or subtlely.

All that to say, that I think we are both trying to enjoy what's happening in Doc Strange's appearances, even when our experiences alternate from "WA-HOO!" to "BOO!"

With all of that in mind, I honestly don't believe that any of the less than pleasant happenings for Doc Strange are an immediate result of Bendis' writing. Yes Bendis is immediately in contact with the character. But isn't the entire moood of both Marvel and DC superhero comics these days one of bringing their characters to their ultimate extremity? And to do so, some characters (maybe too many) are killed, or radically changed. I've never thought much about the "mood" and climate in which Stan Lee wrote Doc Strange. Or the mood in which Steve Engelhart wrote Doc. But a superficial anal-ysis would indicate that the 60's and 70's were as different from each other, as they are different from the new millenium when it comes to the context of writing Doc Strange.

Again my goal is not to defend Bendis' writing. But perhaps call attention to the bigger picture. To be candid, if one could say that Bendis is radically changing, perhaps even ruining Doc's character; one could also say that this is the "new normal", and the readers must adjust to enjoy what is happening, or become critical, or quit reading comics altogether. I think I have avoided the 2nd and 3rd options with the continued joy of adjusting to what is happening.

Am I happy that Strange is portrayed as weak or even incompetent. No, I am not. But then just maybe, there is more to all of this than our limited perception of either Bendis' writing, or the current mood at Marvel. Perhaps, just maybe, Strange is undergoing what all comic characters must experience. Call it rites of passage or perhaps something else. But at the end of the day, the true comic book hero is always brought to the end of themselves in order to ultimately triumph. And maybe, just maybe, what we are witnessing isn't a long term burnout of Dr. Strange (to the point of disappearance or death), but a trial by fire that will reveal a new Strange who is better, purer, more powerful and able to reclaim his title as this world's sorceror supreme. If Bendis can bring back Hawkeye and Mockingbird, certainly he can do this with Doc Strange! And what better place to do so, than in a book entitled the "New" Avengers. In other words, "New" doesn't just mean new characters, but characters who have been changed for the better. And in order to get better, to become "new", they must be brought to a place of utter extremity.

To say it simply, I believe there is hope, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We just need to take the long view and not jump to conclusions to soon. And the excellent anal-ysis here at S.S.C. is clearly taking the long view and looking for that very same hope. Peace!

Sean Aaron said...

Thanks much for this review; I haven't bought "floppies" for years and the only graphic novels I do buy are stuff by Alan Moore, Busiek's Astro City and Ellis's Planetary (whenever that comes out).

Of course I'm also buying Essentials and getting Spider-Man and Power Man & Iron Fist comics I missed on the newsstands as a kid. Lastly on the rare occasion they do come out I buy the Marvel Masterworks editions of Dr. Strange because I just cannot read the good Doctor's adventures without the Technicolor (tm).

I stopped buying Dr Strange after the 3rd or 4th issue of Dr. Strange Sorcerer Supreme. I read the news of newer tales with curiosity, but I cannot say I feel like I'm missing out. I'm a Silver Age comics fan and really the endless retcons, the reboots and all that has no appeal for me. They were what they were.

Having said that if the Marvel Masterworks series continues and someday in the far future there's a Dr. Strange volume that's completely post-Master of the Mystic Arts I'll still buy it...

plok said...

You know, reading this, it suddenly occurred to me what Bendis (with the encouragement of his higher-ups, as is correctly noted above), is probably trying to do with Doc. Outside some things which, as P-Tor says, pretty much just plain indicate he hasn't read very many comics with Doc in them, and isn't what we would call a fan (!), I think there's a couple comprehensible intentions in his mucking-around that can be separated out from his sometimes-annoying writerly tics. First, of course, the clever definition of what "New" means in current Marvelspeak (good point, there! This is an attempt at a new kind of superhero dialectic, I'm sure: "New" vs. "Dark", right?)...there's no doubt in my mind this is a true shift in philosophy about what Marvel ought to be, and ought to be concerned with, in the minds of its big bosses: in other words, for better or for worse Quesada's identified a need to do a philosophical makeover, and Bendis is the man he's chosen as the best guy to make it happen the way Quesada would like it to. That seems pretty straightforward, to me: even sensible. To say that Quesada's not primarily a writer-type is probably fair: after all, we knows he sets broad editorial direction by holding corporate writer retreats and seeing what results from the brainstorming, which isn't a bad managerial tactic if you don't happen to be a guy who jumps onto desks and acts out stories...nor is it a bad idea to have a particular go-to guy in a room like that. Bendis is that guy, I would imagine, because his work seems to concentrate on the refurbishing of classic beats from the world of cinema -- and even though I personally think those are really clunky, I also have to admit that having a Doc whose story is all about just how difficult it is to survive his job identifies some reasonably fertile ground between "my" Doc, who's so on top of his regular duties and skills by now that to make exciting stories with him is usually a matter of finding ways to take him beyond his established competencies, and the Doc we sometimes see Bendis write who's barely ever any good for anything at all. But in between the two is maybe something a little like the 1602 Doc, whose skill never guarantees him an easy ride -- whose mastery doesn't show itself in anything ever being a snap for him...just represents a wider array of deadly risks he can get himself in the middle of on a daily basis. Plus it occasionally means he may act like just a tad of a dickhead.

And I prefer my Doc, but if you for some reason really wanted a "depowered" Doc, there are worse ways of depowering him than saying his job's a lot harder than we've previously thought. I mean -- it's Screenwriting 101, not Comics Writing 101, but that doesn't make it bad in and of itself -- if Bendis wants to ape the post-Tarantino style of witty action movies rather than the post-Roy Thomas style of esoteric superhero comics, that's his (and Quesada's) business; even though I find it repetitive and tiresome, and a poor choice, it does open a door or two. For example, Doctor Doom using his time machine to find out stuff Doc doesn't know..."my" Doc would never be able to be "one-upped" by Doom this way, forever remaining so far out of Doom's weight class that the time-travel-derived knowledge would just never be a real factor. But: it is kinda cool to give Doom a way to "cheat" at magic by using technology, and that coolness comes right out of Bendis' approach that I don't really like, so...gotta hand it to him on that one.

Sorry, long comment...

However, what this development also shows (I think) is where Bendis' weaknesses and strengths collide. It's obvious to us that he doesn't understand Dr. Strange's magic in at all the same way as it's always been understood previously, tacitly, through a massive heap of details built up over decades. So when he has Strange somewhat opaquely refer to "the magics", he's concretizing his own lack of familiarity with what's gone before -- clearly "the magics" can turn on Strange! They can bite him in the ass! In Bendis' formulation, they're no longer knowable quantities, but can flex and turn in mimickry of authorial whim. The Hulk crushes Doc's hands in his ectoplasmic form? Complete nonsense, to anyone who's at all conversant with the way this stuff has always worked, but for Bendis it isn't about the way it works, it's about making the Hulk a bigger threat, making Doom a bigger threat, Wanda, the Hood, etc etc. Even Dormammu, more Satanic than he's ever been before. So, none of it fits, but that's the thing about Bendis: he's looking for ways to change the stuff he doesn't get, so he can make a new niche for Doc to live in that he does get, with a lot fewer details in it to step carefully around. And before this, I just thought he was getting it wrong, but I think you've opened my eyes. Obviously Jennifer Kale is the one to be Sorceror Supreme, but Bendis doesn't understand Jennifer's world so he can't use her: what he needs is a theory of magic he can live with, and characters that support that theory. Like, Dakimh and Zhered-Na won't work for him, it's just all too Seventies, you have to know too much, you have to make up too much -- he needs stuff that's a lot more like a Jet Li movie, stuff that flows in the channel of Accepted Fan Wisdom of the current day. If Bendis was doing SF, he'd have spaceships on which computers call out what the current deflector-shield strength is, you know? He needs psychic nosebleeds -- I think he's looking for handles, so he tells us about Jennifer to show he knows about her, but to signal he just isn't prepared to go that way. What good is Jennifer to him, if she has to come along with the silver bikini and Dakimh and Korrek and Zhered-Na and Thog and Man-Thing and Howard and Richard Rory and God knows who else? What point is there to that, if who Jennifer is now is some chick wearing body armour in the Florida detachment of the Initiative?

We should be grateful: I don't need to see someone other than Gerber writing Richard Rory, you know?

Anyway, yeah: "New"-ness, I can see the point of it all of a sudden. Doesn't mean I have to like it, of course! But I think I'm willing to cut Bendis just a little bit more of a break than I have been doing -- "the magics", okay. It isn't my Dr. Strange, but it's possibly a Dr. Strange, so that's something anyway. Also, as you mention, Bendis also makes much of the title "Master Of The Mystic Arts", this is interesting, what if he means to make explicit that the title of SS and the title of MMA are totally different things? So it's the MMA who "must be pure" -- is it also the MMA who inherits the Eye and the Orb and the Cloak, gives the Amulet to his disciple, keeps the Book of the Vishanti, possesses the greatest mystical knowledge? Or what? It would involve a little able retconning to make it perfect, but we've all seen Bendis doesn't mind retcons even if they're far from perfect (or able, for that matter), and if elevating the MMA title is really his intention I think maybe we could give him a little bit of credit for that even if it involves flipping all kinds of things on their heads. All the business about "the magics" he trying to say that being SS is especially wearing on an MMA, that those duties make it harder to stay "pure"? Like "sometimes you want to have a dumb President", hmm...but, you know, it's Bendis. Warren Ellis would probably whip up something like "the really high-level magics are practically living things, tough to reconcile or control...ya gotta be a meditative guy to use 'em", and who knows? Maybe that's just as important as being SS. Doc himself has said MMA is the only title that holds meaning for him -- and basically, Bendis seems to be equating this to "most enlightened"...

It isn't a wholly bankrupt strategy. I'd be willing to bet he hasn't thought it through very carefully, and of itself I suppose it doesn't utterly suck. Hmm, how about the Hulk seems to crush Strange's ectoplasmic hands because Strange subconsciously wants them crushed, as an emblem of guilt...Doc's spells won't work, give false positives, escape him etc., because he's losing the mental focus he needs to employ them properly, because he was already "not-pure" before the Zom thing even happened...heck, maybe the "New"-ness of all of this is that it's hard to be good and pure, at the same time! Doom certainly couldn't manage it, nor Mordo either...

I mean, I'm not giving Bendis the benefit of any doubts, here, because he hasn't earned any benefits like that. But this post and its comments is making me think maybe he does have some sort of a plan after all.

Of course every time I've thought that about Bendis, I've been proven dead wrong, haven't I?

Wrote this while feverish; apologies if it's a bit scattershot, or even incoherent.

Do not know when or if I may get to the meme, concentration's hard to muster this week, so I'm having trouble making predictions and plans. Heck, I think this is a four-day email, by now!


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