Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Review of New Avengers v2 # 4 :
The EYE of the BEHOLDEN
-or-
Possession is EYE-tenths of the Law.

A "review" of the events in NEW AVENGERS v2 # 1-4.

 Spidey faces the dreaded "Peering Peeper of the Prostate".

Oh... I've put this off for as long as I could.
I've been busy with a lot of personal things (and as such expect an "important" announcement to be made here in a few days) and have been hoping to keep my face out of the spanner/blades equation that is the internet fan-frenzy on stuff like this, wherein a story is not yet completed, and yet everywhere - the fanbase is frothing at the bit, trying to make some semblance of sense of - what seems to be - a poorly written story (at least from a 40 year canonical point of view) dealing with Doctor Strange, the Ancient One and the Eye of Agamotto.

I am not going to write a review of all of the first 4 issues, and the many things that I would normally examine in infinitesimal detail.
Like:
  • The ridiculousness of writer Brian Bendis' including little footnotes as to which mystical spells are being used and from which tome they originated (with page numbers and everything).
  • The amazingly drool-worthy artwork of Stuart Immonen.
  • The awesome astral rescue Doc performs to save Ms. Marvel.
  • The whiny-bitch that Daimon Hellstrom is being shown to be.
  • The lack of respect for Doctor Voodoo.
  • The fantastic nature that Dr. S. (and to a lesser extent, Dr. V.) insist that knowledge is the true path to power.
  • The B-S attitude of "the Ancient One".
  • Iron Fist and his drinking of the mystical kool-aid.
  • Wolverine: Apparent "Mystical Crossroads" of the Marvel U.
  • and much much more...


I'd love to, but that way leads to madness.
No.
Instead, I'm only going to deal with the "mystery" surrounding the Eye of Agamotto (and the Ancient One).

Before I start, here are some scans of the last four pages of issue four.
These are pertinent to the subject at hand.
*So...y'know... SPOILER ALERT*

Everyone still with me?
OK.

*click pics to make Supreme Sized*
 
 
 



It seems that every review I have read online takes the dialogue as written - at face value.
I don't think that should be the case.

It's hard to do in a static form like comics, but I think there is a "layers behind layers" bit going on with what Iron Fist and Dr Strange are saying.

Look at Strange's face in the next-to-last page.
He is skeptical - not "guilty-looking" (as others online have written).
Strange is savvy enough to know that what is being said isn't as important as what isn't being said.
There is deception at work here.
When Iron Fist asks; flat-out - WHO the Eye "belongs" to, he is basically leading the answer.
He (and the entity behind this) could be deliberately phrasing the question so that the answer is "AGAMOTTO" - even though, Doc really SHOULD say; "Well, the Eye chose Jericho Drumm to be its wielder, so... it belongs with him".
(Of course, even back during the events wherein the Eye chose Jericho Drumm, Doctor Strange stated that this sort of thing had never happened before... so, aside from Bendis' usual "making stuff up to fit his stories", it could be that perhaps things aren't what they appear to be with the Eye.)

Also, check out the almost casually thrown-away line, also on that third scanned page, where after Iron Fist states that he spoke with the Ancient One, Doc asks; "The Ancient One came to you?"... "IN WHAT FORM?"
In what form, indeed.
That might lend a clue as to what is going on.
Since the Ancient One passed on, and is now "one with all there is", why would he be in a "physical" form?
And what was the deal with his glowing cane?
That seemed a bit ostentatious and obvious.
Of course, it could just be a "piece of flair" that artist Stuart Immonen tossed in to make it look even more visually interesting, but I'm one who is inclined to "see" clues in things like that.

Actually, speaking of clues, a multitude of clues could be hidden on that same "next-to-last" page, as while Iron Fist rants about "ownership" of the Eye, Doctor Voodoo looks on intently.
I mean, it IS his eye now, right?
Words and names are (usually) very important in magic.
Perhaps to NAME an owner outright, would cause some kind of "spell" to take effect.

If Doc said "Doctor Voodoo is now rightful owner" than maybe that would cause a domino-effect that could cause some other dilemma, since Voodoo isn't a true acolyte of the Vishanti, of whom Agamotto is one-third.
If Doc said "It is AGAMOTTO's Eye", then it would shift back to him/it.

Heck, maybe another illusion is being perpetrated and that isn't even IRON FIST at all!
Maybe that is the adversary in disguise!

I don't know.
All I can say is that something deeper seems to be afoot.

I am saying here (as I did on other forums elsewhere on the interwebs) that in MY opinion (and I have been known to be wrong) AGAMOTTO wants his eye back and simply can NOT take it unless it is surrendered.

I know that others believe that Agamotto can simply take back what is his, but I say that is probably not the case.
The same would go for anyone of us as well.
You give something of value to someone.
You can not simply just take it back.
If you LOAN someone something (which, really the Eye can be seen to be a "loaner" from Agamotto), then you usually need to ASK for it back as well.
Can you take it back? Well, yes. But that isn't the right way to do so.
The rules of etiquette are that you should ask for it back.
"Hey, Jimmy... y'know that thingamabob I loaned you? Well, I kinda need it. If it's ok with you, I'd like to get it back soon. OK? Thanks."

That's how it is done.

Even "U.S. Law" states that "possession is 9/10th of the law" and the one who HOLDS the item has the rights of it, even if it doesn't belong to them.
So, who is to say that MYSTICAL LAW isn't just as strong (if not stronger)?

That's not unheard of; even Vampires need to ask permission to enter a dwelling place. That could be seen as a part of the rules of mysticism.

The Eye has been given - handed down - from one Sorcerer Supreme to the next - STARTING with Agamotto (the 1st S.S.).
One can not simply take back what is given.
One may ASK for it back, or in the case of Agamotto, employ illusions to trick others into giving it up.

While I have NO idea what the heck the deal was in the first 3 issues, with the possession of physical bodies and the teleportation of Iron Fist (with the supposed rationalizing that it would be ok for him to be killed in doing so - which he did not, due to his mystical protection - much to the disembodied voices' surprise), but that aside, I believe that it is Agamotto.

The only time in comics canon that he ever reclaimed one of his "eyes" (the ORB of Agamotto) was after Strange attempted to destroy it to prevent the other-worldly "Urthona" from taking possession of it and all of Strange's other artifacts.

Doc thought it best to destroy such powerful items rather than let them fall into the hands of an evil sorcerer.
However, Agamotto sensed this and whisked the Orb and all the other items away to himself.
He later gave it back to Strange (interestingly enough, only after Doc threatened to destroy Agamotto's best-version, personal "Orb"; the "Omni-Visor"- aka; his Hookah).

So, it is with this sequence of history that we hope Bendis will play:

- Ancient One gives Strange the Eye after Doc beats Dormammu the 1st time.
- Strange Tales v1 # 127

- Doc keeps the Eye for many years - despite the many attempts of others to take it (Silver Dagger chief among them. See Dr. Strange; Master of the Mystic Arts # 1 - 5.)

(- Doc tries to destroy an Eye (the Orb) to keep it away from Urthona.
- Dr. Strange; Master of the Mystic Arts # 81)

(- Agamotto secretly retrieves it.)

(- Agamotto later gives it back to Strange. - Dr. Strange; Sorcerer Supreme # 7)

- Strange keeps the Eye until he performs dark magic (actually, he did this three times):
  • 1) During Strange Tales v2 - when he's forced to use the "Wings of Needless Sorrow".
  • 2) During "The ORDER" - when he's relegated to using the "Star of Capistan".
  • 3) After the events of New Avengers Annual # 2 - which led to his giving up the title of Sorcerer Supreme.

- The HOOD and DORMAMMU actively seek to gain the Eye.
- New Avengers v1 # 51 - 54

- The Eye (and Agamotto / Ancient One) seeks out a NEW S.S. - finding it in Brother Voodoo.
- New Avengers v1 # 53

- Hood/ Dormammu are defeated by Strange, Voodoo and Hellstorm.
- New Avengers v1 # 54

- SOMEONE finally decides it is time to get the Eye back.
- New Avengers v2 # 1 - 4 (and more issues to come)

Now - as the the WHY... I have NO idea.
Maybe Agamotto just wants it.
He could see that maybe it's too powerful a "weapon" to be on Earth with the mystic upheavals going on, and decided that it would be best not to leave it as a tempting bauble for evil entities to try to plunder.

Does that make any sense?
Well, no.
Not if you keep the 40+ years of Strange mythos in mind.

But, there may be NEW turn of events going on that would predicate new reasoning.

Sure, it's basically just Bendis and Quesada effing with the "rules" of magic, but they were going to do SOMETHING to "fix" it... looks like this is all part of "the plan".

Could it be someone pretending to be the Ancient One?
Well... that's my theory - and see my first "footnoted" Tangent below.
If that is the case, then it could be any number of baddies.
But none moreso than the one whom I speak of in that tangent.

Either way, it would make the MOST sense for Doc to use the Eye in its primary function and use it to REVEAL THE TRUTH!
Shine its lights on "the Ancient One" and see what is going on here.

---

Of course, this all could be meant to be read JUST as it is written;
Strange needs to be taken down a peg.
Magic needs rules.
The biggest magic "gun" is the Eye, so take it off the board.

Since, as I already posted [HERE], Doctor Strange is to be featured in an upcoming HULK storyline, dressed as he is now, in raincoat and civvies, we know he isn't getting the Eye back any time soon.

Whether there will even BE a titular "Sorcerer Supreme" is up in the air.
Could Doctor Voodoo die and Doc become the default "Master of the Mystic Arts" and continue to safeguard the Earth-dimension while in a de-powered state?
Well... sure.

It's also a matter of record (online - you can find it easily) that Bendis is using a tip from a fellow writer (Ed Brubaker, if I recall?) to use Stephen Strange as a plain-clothed kung-fu mystic.

That might be the default setting for Doctor Strange for the near future.

Sadly, all I can say is... we have to WAIT and SEE what the EYE shows us to be the TRUTH.

--------------------
 Tangent, the 1st:

Now, allow me to posit a brief "wish" on this story...
The Ancient One isn't acting "in character".
Not his "good" natured character anyway...
But... he could be exhibiting a facet of a darker manifestation... one that inevitably caused Doctor Strange to be forced to slay his master in the first place (waaaay back in Marvel Premiere # 10).
The reason for the Ancient One's dark tendancies?
He was possessed by SHUMA GORATH!
If there is anything right in this world, it will be revealed that this so-called "Ancient One" is nothing more than another attempt to gain access to our world by Shuma Gorath (but by hiding behind the facade of Dr. Strange's former master).


--------------------
Tangent the 2nd:

Another wish?
Well...
There have been a lot of comics and events at Marvel as of late, in which mystical upheavals are occurring in much more frequent procession than "normal".
To name but a few:

- The X-Men's dealing with Vampires
- New Mutants' battles in Limbo.
- Asgard's fall and the events that spiral out of that.
- Thanos and the Guardians of the Galaxy fighting in the dark "cancerverse".

With more on the horizon (if Previews and other advance sources are any indication).
So, maybe.... just maybe, the forshadowed "Hell War" that was teased for several years in many Marvel books from 2004 - 2007 (Knights 4, Nightcrawler, Spectacular Spider-Man v2... basically anything written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa) will soon come to pass.
While this New Avengers story won't be the start of a major mystical "event", perhaps it is more seeds being planted to produce that dark fruit.

15 comments:

Mario said...

Sorry, but I don't buy it. The Reasoning Razor of Occam tells me that there are just a few many "what if"s in your theory. And some of your assumptions are at variance with known facts and characterizations. But let's take it from the top.

"AGAMOTTO wants his eye back and simply can NOT take it unless it is surrendered."

Except Stephen never actually surrendered the Eye. It vanished of its own accord, and took a trip around the mystic Marvel U before choosing Jericho.

You mentioned the Urthona arc, but there's another couple of appearances that suggest Agamotto (and the other Vishanti) don't bother with politeness when they want something.

DOCTOR STRANGE, SORCERER SUPREME #48-49. They try to draft Strange in the War of the Seven Spheres. He only escapes their call (among others) by rejecting ALL exocentric magic.

Same title, issue 80. After he masters the Gaian Aura, they ask him again. The alternative "involved incineration".

Does that sound like someone who needs to play word games to reclaim his property?

As for your tangent...

If the Ancient One is under the control of Shuma-gorath, why would Agamotto choose him as his emissary?

I honestly can't see Bendis doing something that subtle. More likely, he's going to reveal some ridiculous retcon that removes the Eye from play, probably killing Drumm in the process, so he can write magic as something more "street-level".

(Jericho is always being written as second fiddle to other adepts... even in his own BOOK. By the way, would you be interested in a guest column about his mini? I think it'd fit better here than on my blog)

~P~ said...

Oh, Mario... don't worry... I KNOW that my "theories" are filled with more holes than the "sea of holes" (Beatles reference).

No offense is taken.

I was merely tossing a few ideas out into the interwebs.

ALL of my ideas take Bendis' usual "pay-no-attention-to-what-has-been-published-before" method of writing, so I'm trying to second guess him here.

I do realize that Doc didn't surrender the Eye this go-round.
He did claim to be unworthy (such as he had done several times before), but unlike previous instances, he didn't give up the eye this time.

That was done because Bendis seems to think that the Eye goes with the Mantle of Sorcerer Supreme.

There IS a possible precedent for that, as the Ancient One gave Doc the Eye when the A.O. was S.S., but Doc was merely his pupil.
So, at that point, Doc wasn't S.S., but the then-current-S.S. gave it to him so... maybe that counts.

However, in published canon, the Eye is not usually something that goes hand-in-hand with the mantle.
I've just gathered that Bendis and co. think that it does.

That said, the issues that YOU referenced were more along the lines of the VISHANTI throwing their weight around.
If you recall, in the instance where Doc is dealing with Salome, Agamotto actually went behind the rest of the Vishanti's back to WARN and HELP Doc.

He is more inclined to play nice-nice with Doc, whom he had always liked.

But that too presents problems.
Why would he turn and do a 180 now?

Oh, and I wasn't saying that Shuma was possessing the Ancient One.
No, he'd done that before - and the A.O. is dead.
I was suggesting that he was DISGUISING himself as the A.O.
And yes, it would make no sense for Agamotto to ally himself with Shuma Gorath.
IF he knew it WAS Shuma (although, he would almost HAVE TO, right?).

But honestly, I have NO answers.
I have the same questions everyone else does.
But I kept getting requests to address the issue.
(Although, what I might be thought to know that anyone else doesn't, or HOW I might be thought to possess that knowledge is unclear to me.)
I guess I should be flattered.

As for killing Drumm and playing magic as "street level" well... I did say that was a distinct possibility.

Thanks for your offer of the guest content.I've read some of your writings on marvel magic and Drumm and found them to be excellent.

I'm not sure how I stand on guest-content.
I think I'd like to do that... just not 100% sure.

Thanks for the comment.
It is always appreciated when people spend time to reply to my thoughts and we can join in discussion.

Best part of blogging.
:-)

Best to you.
~P~

~P~ said...

Oh. One last thought.
While Doc didn't give up possession of the Eye himself, the EYE took the opportunity (with the aid of the REAL Ancient One?) to seek out a new owner.

My statement about how Agamotto can't take it back without it being given up deals with the events of these new issues.
Agamotto may be seeking to have Doc say that it belongs to Agamotto so as to reclaim it.

If I was merely going to go by stated canon, I wouldn't buy into ANY of my theories.

But Bendis just writes what he wants.
Marvel magic for the past bunch of years is written however the writer wants.
So, I'm just trying to figure out what the heck they're playing at.

~P~

Mario said...

That's fine. Let me know if you change your mind about the guest content. I already have a title:

"Voodoomed, or Drummed Out Of The Club"

:D

plok said...

Well, I like yours, but...it's Bendis. And why on earth anyone would want to get rid of Dr. Strange's most useful prop...er, well, that and the Cloak...say, where is the Cloak, anyway?...is beyond me, but then again it's Bendis. So it isn't the account not squaring with old stories that's the problem (Bendis hasn't read them anyway), but it's the account squaring with itself: Danny says he knows Doc's master gave him the item they're all talking about, and in the same breath says Doc did something, to take it. Later he says Doc stole it from its rightful owner in what seems to be implied (BUT IT'S BENDIS!) as a direct action. So there are only a few ways of parsing this. One way is if everything is wrong: Danny never mentions the Ancient One by name, in fact does not answer a direct question about the Ancient One as so-named. So Bendis could've decided that Doc's had another master, who gave him the item. Also, the item in question may not actually be the Eye of Agamotto -- Danny scare-quotes "Eye of Agamotto" in a way that suggests it's never been the Eye of Agamotto, and perhaps even means to say that the Eye as we know it hasn't ever existed at all...

I know!

But it's BENDIS!

So if you put these together you get a couple different kinds of possibilities. If Strange...oh, I don't know...had struck a deal with Dormammu not to invade the Earth-Dimension if he'd only kill the Ancient One, and then Dormammu said "hey, nice job...tell you what, token of respect, here's something you can call "the Eye of Agamotto" to take away with you", or even "hey, he keeps a funky amulet in that drawer over there, you might as well take it"...then that would make that dialogue make sense, right? Hey, could've been a devil's bargain thing, the only way to keep Bad Things out of the Earth-Dimension is to use the Eye, but the Ancient One won't let Doc use it and he can't get at it while the old man's alive...

(shudder)

So Doc might've been skating along all these years on good intentions, maybe you could call it a "Faust Gambit" (yikes!), but then when he uses bad ol' Dark Magic "the magics are angry with him", isn't that what Bendis had him say before?

Or, another possibility...slightly less nightmarish but I just thought it'd be fun to GET YOUR ATTENTION there, hah...the original Eye was destroyed, and Doc got his hands on either a facsimile or (gulp) travelled back in time to get the REAL EYE from before it was destroyed! In which case perhaps the business of "who does the Eye belong to" is best answered "Urthona"...

Double-yikes.

This is the kind of thing I see happening, in general terms, potentially.

plok said...

I have no idea if that took. It told me it was too big, but it's also telling me it was published...

Oh there it is.

Sean Aaron said...

I much prefer reading your takes on these things than buying the actual books.

I don't think a de-powered Strange is a bad thing, but the whole premise that he's over-powerful is so lame. You've said it all before - yes, compared to Spider-Man and the other "costumed freaks" he is over-powered, so don't put him a super-team - why is that so hard?

Mario said...

After the comments Bendis made over at CBR (http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=28599), my cynical side is only getting stronger.

It's going to take years to recover from this tripe.

plok said...

Guys, where are my gasps of horror, seriously. I worked hard on that Nightmare Scenario ("Nightmare" Scenario?)...I demand some alarm!

...

Or...

Maybe it should be a post on my own blog: how would the real Doc, the one we all know and love, be dealing with these Bendisian changes to his world?

plok said...

Nah...I know what he'd do.

He'd go to Eternity, and say "okay, point taken, POINT TAKEN...!" "You see now, Stephen Strange, that every kind of world has a soul...and that soul is replicated in every person in that world..and are you so certain that you want your identity back, now? Having seen the horrors that might result?"

One thing I love about the post-Crisis DCU, is that its top conceptual level is Morpheus and The Dreaming...might not Doc's encounter with Eternity, taking place in a timeless time and a spaceless space, be an MU version of that? "You see what your errant thoughts have wrought, Stephen Strange...how will you ever get back to the world you know as "real"...when I have spoken against it? And you must have something else, or nothing at all. Nor do you remember what "real" is."

~P~ said...

plok,

As usual, you go far beyond what the actual Marvel writers will in the way of thought and logic.

Truthfully, I also had similar thoughts as your own, particularly of the many other possible "reasons" for Bendis' storyline going in this seeming direction.
But sadly, I just couldn't bring myself to list and put to words all the horrid "Nightmare" scenarios.

I'm glad that you did.
So, let's have some more discussion from the fan-base...
What say you of the goings on being perpetrated in the New Avengers?

~P~

Mario said...

Well, this is what I think WILL happen, but not what SHOULD happen.

The answer to the question "Who does the Eye belong to" is actually some uber-powerful demonic being (Daimon's father/Mephisto/Dormammu/a new character). Stephen stole it, with the collusion to the Ancient One, early in his career. In the process, the Ancient One died and his soul became the servant of Evil Demon Guy (EDG for short).

EDG set up Jericho as "the new Sorcerer Supreme" when Strange's dalliance in magic allowed him to seize control again.

After a lot of banter, Hellstrom will join EDG, Jericho will be killed, and a revived Ancient One will retake the role of Sorcerer Supreme, allowing Bendis to write his "non deus ex machina" Strange to his heart's content, since nobody is going to bother writing about some old Asian guy on the top of a mountain.

Now, what SHOULD happen is this:

The whole storyline is an attempt by Dormammu to bypass the blockade put on him in DOCTOR VOODOO #1, by sending a fake Ancient One to destroy the talismans that are imprisoning him.

In order to preserve the balance, the Vishanti send the spirit of the true Ancient One back to the earthly plane to awaken Strange & Drumm's true powers.

They kick the fake AO back to the Dark Dimension, Jericho becomes Sorcerer Supreme full-time (along with Daniel), Strange goes to the Dark Dimension to keep an eye on Dormy (and finally stay with Clea for good), and Hellstorm decides to slum with the New Avengers for a while.

(Although if Logan doesn't stop using his hair to light his cigars, Daimon will skewer him. ;) )

Thoughts?

Mario said...

Oh, and my backup theory has Daniel Drumm dying (more than he is now) and Jericho turning heel in consequence (hence the "Drumm of Revenge" thing), but I can't see Bendis being THAT blind to the implications.

Cirdan said...

I am way late to the dialogue and everything has already played out. I just wanted to agree with one of the bullet points in the first section. Yay to knowledge is power! The "we're leaving" and "no" to all the "but-- but--!" is so cool! And unexpected because it's not what you'd see in the other comics. "We're the magic guys and better suited for the fight so we should fight" really is the more normal angle for a superhero type thing. This was the type of Strange stuff that makes Dr Strange who he is.

Anonymous said...

A random place to say this but a part of me wants to see Agamotto the Caterpillar in New Avengers vol 3. :p Considering his vast experience in multi-verses, Dr Strange should be taking a stronger leadership role in this New Avengers team. Oh well. Arguably he could've/should've in the other New Avengers too.

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