Sunday, November 7, 2010

EYES WITHOUT A FACE!
-or-
Tell me, WHO ARE YOU? Who, Who... Who, Who?
A Review of New Avengers v2 # 5
(and much, much more!)

With only a few days remaining until the NEXT issue ships, allow me to FINALLY
present my long-delayed, and much-anticipated review of
NEW AVENGERS v2 # 005
and the extensive insight into the continuity-heavy ramifications surrounding the circumstances of the events within.

Get ready... this is a LONG entry.
Seriously. Pack a lunch.

NOTE: Due to the need for past canon reference material, many scans are NOT from New Avengers # 5.
Whichever scans are NOT from NA # 5, I have credited which title and issue # from which they originated.

Remember - clicking on images makes them all "HEROIC AGEY" in size.
---------

 Not content to merely be IN every character's comic, Wolverine will soon BE every character.

WRITER: BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS
COVER and PENCILS: STUART IMMONEN
INKS: WADE VON GRAWBADGER
COLORED BY: LAURA JEAN MARTIN
LETTERED BY: NEUROTIC CARTOONIST, INC

Before I get to New Avengers issue # 5 let me get this out of the way, right off the bat and start by gloating a little.
I WAS "RIGHT"!

Yup.
Nearly everything I wrote in my review of issue # 4 – found [HERE]
was correct…at least as far as the end of issue # 5.
The next issue could reverse it all.
(Damn Bendis and his make-it-up-as-you-go-along story “writing”).

Actually, I even predicted all this going back to issue # 3 (as I related in the comment section of the most excellent "Strange Occasions" blog's post for that issue [HERE].

So, I will take my falsely bloated sense of self-congratulatory jerkiness and cry… because what good is it to be right… when what you’re right about is so terribly WRONG.

Sad. Isn't it?

But, that is over and done with.

I am here now to say that, as usual, Bendis isn't dealing us the cards from the top of the deck.
He is bottom-dealing, and is, in the terms of "stage-magic; "forcing" cards to us.

Like the end of each issue thus far, the end of issue four was an obvious cliff-hanger with falsehood written all over it in bold letters.
It screamed of the classic "Republic Serials" wherein the hero is doomed by whatever impossible threat or blow is to befall him, only to miraculously appear in no such peril by the start of the next installment.

This is how issue # 5 resolves the situation.

Gone is the menacing threat of Iron Fist's challenge (and implied bodily injury) of Doctor Strange.
Over is the anger and misunderstanding, all seemingly swept under the rug.
All off-panel...between issues.
Shoddy scripting. Classic Bendis.

---
Now. Before I go all "Bendiz haz no cheezburger or friez" with the rest of this post, I will say (as I have on other occasions) that if Brian Michael Bendis wrote a Spider-Man, Luke Cage, non-continuity, "Marvel Team-Up" type title, I would be ALL over it. I would eat that stuff up.
Especially if he tossed in Spider-Woman and Iron-Fist (for a little extra oomph).
Seriously. Because it would give BMB the freedom to pull all the "no-such-thing-as-continuity-or-character-history-save-what-he-needs-to-tell-his-story" crap that he pulls, and would allow him to write all the snappy patter that causes those characters to blossom under his pen. (At least superficially, which would be fine in a Team-Up style title.)

That good grace aside, I need to now dive into the supposed meat and potatoes of what makes issue # 5 a bad-for-you, indigestible glut of MSG (Mono-Sodium Glutamate) and mystery meat.

---

Starting the issue is a scene from "years ago" with one-time Doc-villain MR. RASPUTIN trying to make a deal with the Hand Ninjas in order to get his own hands on the Eye of Agamotto.

This is seemingly from a time where Mr. Rasputin (originally from Strange Tales v1 #145 - in 1966) was still a bad guy, evil-sorcerer wanna-be and wearer of heavy eye make-up.

 Mr Rasputin; Member of the KISS Army since 1966.

Despite having no idea what the Eye of Agamotto is - or Agamotto himself, for that matter - Rasputin is hell-bent on killing Dr. Strange for it, and has come to the Hand for assistance.

It is here that Bendis already ignores published history.

For in the story from Strange Tales # 145, Mr Rasputin seems to be completely unaware of the existence of the Eye (for when Strange uses it to attack the foe, Rasputin wonders what it is).
By that issue's end (the same day), Strange is victorious and erases all memory of magic from Rasputin's mind (again, with the Eye).

Rasputin would then retire from villainy and become an insurance claims adjuster (as seen in Cloak and Dagger v3 # 1). No. Seriously. If you have never read that account, anything you need to know about Mr Rasputin can also be found on the "Unofficial Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel U". [HERE].

So, at no time would Rasputin have the kind of meeting with the Hand that is shown in this issue.
In fact, in that 1966 issue of Strange Tales, Mr Rasputin is SO secure in his own power and abilities that such a meeting wouldn't have even crossed his mind.

Brian "makes-em-up-as-he-goes-along" Bendis, strikes again.

Don't take my word for it, here's a page from Strange Tales v1 # 145.

Ain't no disputin', Mr. Rasputin.
A Lee / Ditko joint.

The continuity snafu's aside, however, to move the story along, the subject of who Agamotto truly is must be addressed.
So, Bendis has the only logical person available to do so, tell of such things.
...WONG.

  Only a Manservant may serve up such a helping of exposition... best with tea and finger cakes.

Wait...what???  WONG!?!?
That's not right (that's SO "wong")!
At NO time in their early history is it even hinted at where Doctor Strange has Wong along for any adventure.
Such a relationship was simply not the case in those early Strange Tales issues. As Mr Rasputin states in the flashback scene in New Avengers, Wong was Dr Strange's manservant.
Nothing more.

In fact, such a "Holmes and Watson", or more accurately; "Mandrake and Hojo"-like duo-of-equals history of having Wong along for the adventures is something that was started in the 1990's Amazing Spider-Man animated series (1994's season 4, episode 1: Sins of the Fathers; Dr Strange).

That relationship would be hinted at in the comics in 1999's "Doctor Strange; Flight of Bones" mini-series
and then the "kung-fu and mystic" team-up would be pursued deeper in the excellent "Doctor Strange; The Oath" mini from 2006.
In one or two regular issues of Doctor Strange's titles, would Wong be an active participant to the adventure, but such things were rare, and at first purely by accident or chance.

At no time anywhere near where this flashback occurs would such a teaming have happened.
(It took a serious falling-out between the master and servant for Doc to treat Wong as a true equal, and for Wong to not want to kick Strange's ass. Mid-1990's arcs. Looooooong story - but in the course of explaining other pertinent info, that is also touched upon briefly a little later in this post.)

Still, even Bendis gets ONE thing right...sorta.

Having Mr Rasputin pull a handgun on Wong is a tip of the hat to the events of that Strange Tales story, since, in that tale, Dr Strange is near fatally wounded by a gunshot wound delivered by Rasputin. But that merely points out the time-line problem and brings us BACK to the point where Rasputin had no idea about the Eye. (Or after the fact of that issue when he would have been mind-wiped.)

And moreso, why would he pull a gun on Wong?
Rasputin was secure in his mystic abilities - only pulling the gun on Strange in that Strange Tales issue after a long mystical battle had proven to him that Strange was his better.
Surely, Wong would pose no such threat.
Argh.

I'm going to skip past this opening scene, because if I didn't, I could pick apart the mistakes all day. -  **

Instead, I'll just show the last segment of that intro scene because, even though it is erroneous, it is still an awesome visual by Stuart Immonen.

Doctor Strange and Wong "educate" the Hand Ninjas. "Old School" education!

---

What happens next is a set-up to how the spirit of Daniel Drumm (the previous Brother Voodoo) is now separated from his brother (Jericho Drumm, the most recent Brother Voodoo and current Sorcerer Supreme; Doctor Voodoo) and seems to be about to meet the architects of this entire mystic menace.
 I... I really hope this doesn't mean what I think it does. ***
(I'll explain in footnote # 3 at the end of the post)

We also see the current Sorcerer Supreme, the aforementioned Doctor Voodoo, trying to study up on whomever or whatever could be behind these chain of events and how to best remedy the situation.

However, unlike his predecessor; Stephen Strange, Jericho Drumm doesn't seem to have the natural aptitude and is struggling with his studies.

The spirit is wailing and the flesh is weak.

Here we FINALLY see the current location and status of the Cloak of Levitation.
(check the first panel).
It seems that Voodoo has no use for it (or has yet to master it) and so it sits, unused in his "Sanctum".

Actually, that's a minor nitpick with me as well.
Bendis keeps calling Dr Voodoo's location as his "Sanctum Sanctorum" and while that nomenclature is apt, it is not truly accurate as Voodoo's "sanctum", is called the "HounFour" (as most Voodoo Temples are so called - wiki here).
This was detailed in the truncated Doctor Voodoo series, but... as I said, a minor nitpick.

All told, that little scene with Doctor Voodoo and his brother tell us a great deal as to how this entire story will end.
Oh, I'll get to that before I wrap up this post, don't you worry.

It is now that we finally get a wrap-up to the angst of last issue's end.
Instead of the sidewalk smack-down that was seemingly unavoidable at the end of last issue, we see the New Avengers sauntering down the road back to Avengers mansion to have a watered-down scene of a penitent Stephen Strange and a thick-skulled Iron Fist having a talking-heads exposition-fest.


So you see, Iron Fist, as anyone who has been a super-hero for more than 5-minutes knows...
...bad guys LIE to you.

Skipping past the slightly confusing and momentum-sucking scenes with Hawkeye just showing up to state that he is going to be on the other team of Avengers, we find that, after much discussion, Spider-Man states (in jest) exactly what I stated in my review of the last issue:

Maybe AGAMOTTO just wants his Eye back?

After shared (implied) head-slaps, and without any further questioning of that hypothesis, both Stephen Strange and Daimon Hellstrom realize that this is indeed the case. And if so, that this would be seriously bad joob-joob.

Why?
Because Agamotto is seriously one of the big guns in the Marvel Universe.
He is hardly ever handled as more than a joke (I'll get to that in a moment), but as one-third of the Immortal Vishanti, and as the power behind the Eyes and Orb of Agamotto, he empowers much of the magic that gets tossed around in mystic battles.

If he were to become a threat... an actual participating enemy... then the scales of magic have just gone ass over teacup. In a handbasket.
Although... it really wouldn't (as I'll get to a little further on).

Now, even though I foretold the "Agamotto wants his Eye" scenario, I am willing to buy into it ALL being a massive "TEST" by Agamotto to get Strange back to the level of Sorcerer Supreme.

That wouldn't be outside of the line of reason or past example.

Agamotto frequently alters his appearance and he has presented challenges to Doctor Strange on several other occasions.

Usually, Agamotto appears in any one of a few different guises:

- When in the presence of the other two entities of the Vishanti, Agamotto usually appears as a Tiger's head with flaming eyes. This is how he first appeared to Dr. Strange.
Visions of the Vishanti.
Marvel Premiere # 5.

 - When alone, he appears as the Caterpillar from 'Alice in Wonderland' (because that "down the rabbit-hole" image is what was the image in Stephen's mind when Strange first entered Agamotto's realm)
Strange harshes Agamotto's mellow.
Dr. Strange; Master of the Mystic Arts # 1

- In battle conditions, Agamotto has changed his caterpillar shape from one of cartoonish friendliness to a frothing, fearsome insectoid creature that uses its mandibles to attack and spinning web-silk to bind his foes.
 Agamotto attacks.
Dr. Strange; Master of the Mystic Arts # 1
- He also appeared as a variation of that when fighting Galactus to a standstill.
 He was a One-Eyed, Multi-Horned, Flying, Purple-Planet-Eater-Beater
Dr. Strange; Sorcerer Supreme # 43


- He has, on a few occasions taken a form of an ant-like insect - and allowed Hoggoth to use the tiger head (possibly an artist/writer error). It was in this form that he granted secret knowledge to Strange, aiding him slightly, although he had also, in the company of the Vishanti, agreed to empower an enemy to defeat Strange.
Agamotto plays both sides to the middle.
Dr. Strange; Sorcerer Supreme # 72

- In a test to see if either was worthy of using the Eye(s) of Agamotto, the entity tested both Stephen Strange and Silver Dagger by allowing the villain to "steal" the lesser eye in order to battle Doctor Strange for the "greater" eye.
If an Eye offends thee... kick its ass.
Doctor Strange; Sorcerer Supreme #  32

- Agamotto has also been portrayed as a strange otherworldly sojourner (however, it was an issue of "What If?" and while that might not technically "count", it was here that the origin of the Eye was first truly explored. A history that has been accepted, as per the "Marvel Tarot" as being possible for the main "616" universe, as well).
Agamotto finds something better than a lucky-penny on the side of the interdimensional road.
What If? v1 # 18: What If Doctor Strange were a disciple of Dormammu?

With the possible exceptions of the case being with Agamotto leaving Strange to fight alone against Sligguth and Shuma Gorath (Doc's Marvel Premiere run) and testing a "powerless" Strange against a Vishanti-empowered ex-Sorceress Supreme; Salome' (Sorcerer Supreme # 71-75), those other instances were not to this level of threat to the universe as we know it.
However, thus far, the only threats in these New Avengers issues have been more or less "implied" (a few hundred demons and a torn sky notwithstanding).

But, even with the next scene, where the emissary of Agamotto appears, first in Agamotto's tiger-guise, and then as the "Ancient One", and then finally as a glowing humanoid... nothing is really being done to harm anyone (physical possession and threats to Strange notwithstanding).



Note the last thing this entity says:
RESPECT ME, STRANGE!

The entity is not Agamotto himself (since it refers to him in the 2nd person; "Give HIM what he wants"), nor is it the Ancient One... so who is it? He certainly seems malicious and malevolent, but... nothing really happens.
(Is that by the entities design or is it because Bendis needed to pad out an arc and we wont see any more real action until next issue?)

In issue # 3, there are two distinct voices speaking to Iron Fist.
One of them was this apparition.
Was the other Agamotto - or not?

And what (or where) is this "Light Dimension"?
It's not a stretch of the imagination to surmise that if there is already a so-called "Dark Dimension" that the balance of things would mean that there must be a "Light Dimension".
Of course, the Dark Dimension wasn't always named as such.
That nomenclature was coined after Dormammu and Umar took over.

So, who are the rulers of this "Light" Dimension?
Agamotto?
Was this one of the realms that he discovered / created during his mystical journeys while he ascended to near godhood?
Those selfsame paths of discovery when and where he first discovered / created the Orb and Eyes?
And, either way, who are the "hoards" that are described as existing there?
Is that what Daniel Drumm saw in that strange, dimensional plane?
Will they be the "midichlorians" of the new Marvel Magic? ***


Either way, this could seriously ALL be a massive testing.
...Or not.

The hints given by the "Ancient One" in previous issues (# 3 specifically), where it is stated that he considers Stephen Strange to be "...my greatest failure" might have some weight to it in the coming denouement.
After mentoring other "star" pupils, including;
Mister Jip, Dr. Druid, Baron Mordo, and Nicodemus West,
citing a "greatest failure" is a matter of the pot calling the kettle black!

There have been prior canonical references made to the Ancient One citing Stephen Strange as potentially being his greatest failure.

Among them:

  • Strange Tales v2 # 8 (Strange reads a scroll written by the A.O., where such fears of Stephen being his greatest failure cut Strange deeply)
  • X-StatiX presents; Dead Girl mini (although, this is quite probably out of continuity as it also presents a scenario where the Ancient One's spirit resided in hell.)
  • Doctor Strange; The Oath # 4. (Nicodemus West - the "last" pupil states that he was chosen in case Strange failed to meet expectations.)
  • And, to an extent, in the "Into Shamballah" graphic novel (as a test was given to Strange... one that he would eventually pass, but would cause him doubt and dismay.)
If you keep the canonical references in mind, the Ancient One has had many pupils:
  • Kaluu (a co-student, learning at the same time as the Ancient One)
  • Mister Jip
  • Anthony Ludgate Druid (Dr. Druid)
  • Baron Karl Amadeus Mordo
  • Dr. Stephen Strange
  • Dr. Nicodemus West
With the exception of Doctor Strange (and, for the majority of his life, Dr. Druid), each of them pursued evil intents, so calling Strange his greatest failure could only mean that Stephen was the only one with whom there lay any hope of success. Thus, the loss of the one "good son" would seem to be the deepest cut.

Perhaps Bendis and Marvel editorial will produce yet another long-lost pupil of the Ancient One. One whom finds favor with the aged mentor.

Perhaps this will factor in somehow.
(Personally, I doubt it. We only have one issue left in this arc - barring a continuance later.)

It could also be that the Vishanti are indeed disbanded - or worse...Dead - and Agamotto needs to bolster his power reserves to keep himself safe.

The Vishanti consist of "All-Seeing" Agamotto, "Omnipotant" Oshtur (Agamotto's Mother), and "Hoary" Hoggoth. Three nearly all-powerful eternal entities who reside in their own realms, but, when united, become the "All-Knowing" Vishanti.
If anything were to happen to either or both of the others, Agamotto would lose his cool like this and prepare to do battle with who or whatever the enemy was that defeated his fellows.
Basically, he'd take his toys back and go home.

That's how he behaved when Galactus invaded his realm, so at least his behavior is in keeping with past instances.

In such a way would the powers-that-be at Marvel be able to take away much of Strange's arsenal of magic and artifacts.

There has been some discussion in fan circles that the Eye is not necessarily a vestment of the office of "Sorcerer Supreme". That is true, in that it hadn't ever been stated as being as such. At least not explicitly.
It had been noted as being an article of power that was wielded by those who have ever opposed Dormammu.
The Ancient One bequeathed it to Strange after he first faced and "defeated" Dormammu, even though the Ancient One was Sorcerer Supreme and Strange was still but a pupil.

However, seeing as how Agamotto, ostensibly the first Sorcerer Supreme of our dimension was the one who first opposed Dormammu, while in that capacity, it could stand to reason that since the Eye is worn by the primary opposition to Dormammu, that such a person would be the Sorcerer Supreme.
Ergo, the Sorcerer Supreme would wield the Eye.
(It could have been at that moment after Strange first bested Dormammu, that the A.O. decided that this student would be his true successor and thus, bearer of the eye.)

Certainly a bit of circuitous logic, but it could answer many niggling doubts and nay-says on the matter.

Of course that could also be seen as a case of "post hoc ergo proptor hoc".

Still, either way, in truth, it hasn't really been stated one way or the other, so whichever way Marvel wishes to go with this still "works" from a canonical perspective (and that right there will get me some hate-comments).

Still, all of of this flies in the face with the fact that the EYE of AGAMOTTO was stolen (not to mention the many times that its theft was ATTEMPTED) all. the. time.

Many instances it was indeed carried off by various ne-er-do-wells.
Just a few of those occurrences include:
  • MARVEL FEATURE # 1 - back-up story (Mordo "steals" the eye and cloak as he takes the guise of Dr. Strange)
  • DOCTOR STRANGE v2 # 1-5 (Silver Dagger steals and uses the eye after he "kills" Strange to get it.)
  • DEFENDERS v1 # 58-60 (the excellent XenoGenesis arc with Devil Slayer and Vera Gemini. The eye is indeed used for an act of "evil".)
  • UNCANNY X-MEN ANNUAL # 4 (While in a magically-created "Hell", Marglai Szardos is able to summon the Eye from its Amulet and Strange can not prevent it.)
  • CAPTAIN AMERICA / NICK FURY : THE OTHERWORLD WAR (1shot) (Red Skull and Dormammu steal the eye from the Ancient One). 
  • DR. STRANGE; SORCERER SUPREME # 32 (Silver Dagger actually implants the original Eye of Agamotto into his own eye-socket and uses it against Strange and the newer, more powerful Eye. Although, it was all allowed by Agamotto - as a test for both Silver Dagger and Strange.)
Each time, while Strange was upset because he truly revered and cherished the Eye, it was never hinted at that the loss of the Eye would lead to the end of life as we know it. Instead, Strange would go retrieve it - either alone or with a team (usually the Defenders) and reverse whatever nefarious plot the thieves has set into motion.

One instance, shows quite the opposite of having the Sorcerer Supreme be the bearer of the Eye.
In Doctor Strange; Sorcerer Supreme # 61, after Salome' (a former Sorceress Supreme) defeats Strange, she seeks to take all the artifacts of that mantle.
Doctor Strange vanishes with the Cloak AND the Eye (much to the furious anger of Salome' - who screams for her treasured prizes)!
Ostensibly,  Salome' was the Sorcerer Supreme, and yet, Strange kept his artifacts. Robbing her of total victory.


However, on the other side of the equation, Agamotto DID INDEED take back BOTH the EYES and the ORB when he thought that Strange was allowing Galactus to have access to them (back in Doctor Strange; Sorcerer Supreme # 43 - scan seen above with the others of Agamotto's many guises). It negates any supposition of mine or Bendis; that he is unable to merely take back what is his out of some semblance of mystical rules of etiquette.
Of course, he does let Doc retain the artifacts in the end - but only at the behest of the others in the Vishanti; Hoggoth and Oshtur.

However, in that same Doctor Strange issue, Agamotto flatly states that he cares little what happens to our universe since he already has it all "on tape", and can re-watch its every event at his leisure. It is this lacking attitude towards our very continued existence that Agamotto echoes in New Avengers # 5.

And if the other Vishanti are indeed gone, there is no one to talk Agamotto into relenting in this quest to regain his possessions.

However, the argument being given by "Bendis/Agamotto" is that Agamotto currently NEEDS the Eye and all his power.
Well, if he "needs" all his power, mightn't he wish to regain some other mystical artifacts belonging or originating from Agamotto?
These include:
  • Orb of Agamotto (currently in the possession of Doctor Voodoo)
  • Amulet of Agamotto (the Original square-shaped "lesser" Eye - theoretically in Dr. Strange's possession - or at least tucked away at the Sanctum.)
  • The Oracle of Agamotto (Seen in Marvel Premiere # 4. A back-up scrying device used by Dr.S.after the ORB was broken and before Clea mended it.)
  • The Spine of Agamotto (an artifact used by the Minorus' of "the Pride" to instill individuals with power)
  • The Moebius Stone (an artifact created by Agamotto, which can traverse time. It's been destroyed, but heck... it's comics.)
Agamotto might also wish to obtain the following items created and/or co-created by his mother; Oshtur:
  • The Book of the Vishanti (created by all three of the Vishanti)
  • The Tome of Oshtur
  • The Sword of Bone (created by Oshtur as one of the "cornerstones of creation", but to be utilized by Agamotto's avatar; "Cadaver")

The reason that Agamotto states for needing all his power is that "the Vishanti are no more".
The fact that the "Eternal Vishanti" are no longer unified, is not a totally bad idea.
At the very least, it could lead to some interesting stories and/or choices.
Maybe.
That, of course, depends on their being a consistent editorial dictate that will monitor this course of events.

With the Vishanti out of the equation, much of the mystic power structure of the Marvel Universe will shift.
This could theoretically lead to spells not working, or old ties and allegiances being declared null-and-void.

It could also mean squat. Zilch. Nada. Bupkis.
Face it, it's fiction.
And fiction with a bad history of no known parameters, which is WHY Marvel wanted to change the rules of magic to begin with.
If the power base of magic is altered, and without any clear-cut diagram of what that meant to start with, such a change is arbitrary and frankly, useless.
It's like changing Thanos from a villain into an anti-hero (which he has been on occasion).
As long as he is able to cause some mayhem along the way, it's no different than when he was evil, but constantly setting himself up for defeat.
You've changed the name of the dance, but you're playing the same song and making the same moves.

Agamotto and other hardly-seen entities walking off the board and taking their spells and items with them will only leave a vacuum that will be filled by a writer who needs some way with which to portray magic.

Bendis has already broken the seemingly binding new dictum of "magic must have rules" by having his spells in these issues simply be Strange and company waving their hands and a glowing footnote tells us what made-up spell (complete with book title, page number and author) is being used.
Hell. The only thing he hasn't bothered to fake is the Dewey Decimal numbering and/or ISBN for the tome. Or...y'know... any rhyming for the random spells.

Unless an actual outline of what spells will be allowed going forth (possibly with a published "Book of Spells" issue; $4.99 with 10 holographic, foil cover variants) then this is all just a case of sound and fury - signifying nothing.

Certainly, it is not a likely concept. Or, at least, it is unlikely that it will be properly maintained.
Back in the 1980's famed (and infamous) editor; Mark Gruenwald had dictated that there was too loose a system for time-travel, and that everyone was using it as a magic "back-door".
So, he created a moratorium on time-travel with the exception of certain, explicit manners of utilizing it.
That policy was adhered to and strictly monitored in all the titles that not only he edited, but across the Marvel publishing line-up.

THAT is the only way to re-write, create, or enforce any new "rules" for magic.
Sadly, such an editorial landscape is nonexistent today.

And what if the Eye, Orb and other trinkets are removed from use?
While they are, and have always been, very cool looking badges of office, and "important" status-symbols, frankly the Orb is nothing but a cliche'd Crystal Ball and the Eye hasn't been used properly in years - if ever.

Since the first usage of the first "minor" Eye, the Eye(s) of Agamotto have been used as a can-do-whatever-is-required "sonic-screwdriver".
It has been used to do any and all of the following:
  • Repel ancient evils with its "pure light of truth".
  • Dispel illusions
  • force those in its gaze to tell the truth
  • Read minds 
  • Observe memories (even those of FISH - no. Seriously.)
  • Rewind and view past events.
  • track both ethereal and corporeal beings by their psychic or magical emissions
  • Use its light as a tractor-beam thus lifting others in flight along with Strange
  • See through dimensions
  • See through matter
  • Cause the amulet's casing to expand in size and be used as a dimensional doorway
  • create a mystical shield
  • transport those who are bathed in its light to other dimensions
  • put those who are bathed in its light into a state of suspended animation
  • much, much more...
Basically, the Eye of Agamotto is the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card.

If Strange were to lose it (or if writers were to... I dunno... specify its uses) then his too-powerful status might not be a factor. 


Thus far the story is that the Eye was discovered and/or created by Agamotto.
It having floated amongst the stars for untold eons and/or blinking into existence when Agamotto peered into new realms of consciousness and paths of existence.


Perhaps, we will see an official origin to the Eye of Agamotto.
It could be that Marvel has decided upon its beginnings and determined its end.

One irritating facet to the Vishanti's being removed from the board (and a sure-fire way to return them, should it be needed), is that the Vishanti are still (by all rights) still embroiled in the "War of the Seven Spheres", and shall be for the next 5,000 years (give or take a year or fifteen).



--- A now, a brief aside to explain the "War of the Seven Spheres" ---

The War of the Seven Spheres was a huge mystic battle that was an on-again, off-again subject from the mid-#40's issues to near the end of the "Sorcerer Supreme" title.
It was also touched upon in issues of the Avengers and other titles all during the mid-1990's.
Obviously, it was going to be a big deal.
Sadly, due to the sales of Strange's title fluctuating (and floundering), that never happened, and it popped up now and again, until it was all wrapped up quickly and with little fanfare (mostly off-panel).

It was a battle that was to take about 5,000 years and incorporated every mystical entity in this and every other reality.
The Vishanti were among the many entities that wished to draft Stephen Strange to their cause and to fight under their banner.

Long story short, after Strange refused to participate (because he would not leave Earth mystically unprotected for that long a time), he gave up nearly all of his "power", and ties to ALL mystical entities - removing himself from being able to call upon them for aid or empowerment, and eventually created his own power-source for magic.
It was then that the Vishanti returned to insist that he fight on their side or face destruction.

Having little choice, he assented, but requested that they return him to Earth only mere months from the time that he left, so as to coincide with a celestial syzygy from which he would use to create yet another new magic base.

 5,000 years of exposition in 3 pages.
Doctor Strange; Sorcerer Supreme # 80

Oh, heck... here's another (but there are more).
Remember before when I mentioned the whole Wong hating Doc story?
This touches upon that as well.
Doctor Strange; Sorcerer Supreme # 81

Some (including the most honored, revered and esteemed Strange-o-phile; NeilalieN) believe (due to a one-panel explanation in an issue of Spectacular Spider-Man - shown below) that the reason Strange returned to Earth only months after leaving was that time flowed differently in the realm where the War took place. ****

 It was a storyline meant to last for years. It was wrapped up in a heartbeat.
Sensational Spider-Man # 22

 However, there is a lot of actual dialogue and "Marvel Handbook" entries that state otherwise, and that indeed, Strange fought by their side for 5,000 years and was returned via mystical time-travel to the time-frame mere months from which he left, at his request.

If the war ended in a "nanosecond" here on Earth, then why would Strange have the Vishanti bring him back to Earth several months later? Why not just reappear after that "nanosecond"?
In fact, if this issue of Spectacular Spider-Man was correct (in that once the war was over, that Strange regained his ties to the Vishanti), then why did he need to invent / create several new magic resources after his return?
The answer... Marvel lost interest in the storyline, and lost interest in the "new and improved" magic Strange was using, and in order to bring Strange back to his status quo, merely retconned the "over in a blip" wrap up just to move on.

Either way, whether or not if the war lasted 5,000 years and Doc was magically time-shunted back to within a few weeks (which, the Vishanti - and all participants could have done for themselves - which is why they'd be around NOW), OR if the war indeed was a blip in "our time", the Vishanti (and Strange) should still have aspects of themselves embroiled in that war. *****

Such could be the way a good magic writer can undo any changes later seen to be "Bendis Blunders" TM.

---

However, granted that the accepted "time passes differently" rationale, the Vishanti splitting up isn't as unheard of as someone claiming that the Christian "Holy Trinity" have split up.
In the case of the Vishanti, they are three very powerful and egocentric entities, unlike the Trinity who are three aspects of the same entity.

Still, tales of Gods and mystic entities are filled with epic tales of their bickering and falling out of favors.
Such a schism in the hierarchy of magical personage would certainly do some shaking up to the status quo of the mystic power scales.

Especially if the entities all needed to retain their power and were to stop bequeathing it to anyone who entreats them. Unless, of course, the other Vishanti (and possibly other entities) are now deceased.
This would relegate the magic of the Earth to just the manipulation of natural forces - and the granted energies of some lesser beings.

Of course, this has already been done in that "Strange refuses to fight the 7-Spheres War" story.
He gave up all ties and allegiances, cutting himself off from all outre magic.
This merely created new magic systems and they were far more confusing and random than the tried and true methods of rhyming and calling on names of power created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

Still, if this is Marvel's big idea for setting new standards and practices for magic, it doesn't seem to be a very sound or concrete idea.
While Bendis is citing little footnoted spells (complete with name, book and page number) it is a system that can soon become too unwieldly, or simply become just as crazy-all-powerful as the old "hocus pocus" style of spell casting.

I still see no difference between ANY of these styles of magic or having someone like Reed Richards whipping up some cosmic doohicky, as anything other than playing comic book science and magic as one in the same in all but name.
Except that there is the double-standard against magic seemingly needing "rules".

This brings us to the end of the issue.
While it is thoroughly enjoyable to see Doctor Voodoo finally stepping up the plate as our Sorcerer Supreme and creating a plan that is outside of the box, the execution of that plan is patently ridiculous.
Basically, Wolverine is being transformed into a mystic warrior - imbued with the collective powers and abilities of all the Avengers - magic abilities and all.
Despite having zero actual aptitude or knowledge in the arts.

 Bang, Bang... Shoot, Shoot. Happiness is a Warm Wolverine.

This simply embodies the sad fact that Marvel doesn't understand magic.
Magic isn't physical violence.
It also isn't a "gun". A weapon to be aimed at someone and fired.
Using Wolverine's body is the same thing as using him as a magical weapon.
Bendis even uses the words "Point me!" in the dialogue.
Wolverine is now primed, cocked and ready to fire whatever "magic-bullet" is required to wrap up this story.
His now being used as a "virtual video game controller" in order to combat a mystic foeman is exactly what makes it obvious that current MU writers are not thinking of magic as an ethereal manipulation of energies, but more of a super-hero fight of strike and counterstrike.
Wave your hands and make some kind of force against your opponent.

Sure, using Wolverine makes sense from a "he is unkillable" point of view, but only until you realize the scope and enormity of having a mortal battle an eternal entity like Agamotto.
It's like having Ant-Man battle the Living Tribunal or Eternity. ******
(Actually, that really happened. I was poking fun there.)
*Sigh*

I had a thought that I wanted to add here, but couldn't get in on time, as I was driving off to work, and intended to include... but seemingly not before it was also thought of - and commented upon in my comments section below - by the esteemed "Estate of Tim O'Neil", but...
How would having Wolverine help against an entity like Agamotto, who, as a master of illusion, can become ANYTHING!? How do you combat against that with mere physical violence?
The point is that Wolverine is the unstoppable fighter that will  continuously forge ahead and ignore whatever shape or form his opponent may transform into will be his primary strength. *******
Especially if appropriately empowered with mystic wards and spells.
Still, if the dimension's continued existence were on the shoulders of either Wolverine (an unstoppable berserker) or Doctor Voodoo (an untested, "scab" of a Sorcerer Supreme)... well... my money is on the maniac.

-----

As for how this will all end...
Well, the way I see it, according to the solicit copy for the next issue, characters are going to change allegiances and/or die... so, I can surmise that something will happen to the spirit-form of DANIEL Drumm.
Either he will finally move on to the "spirit loa" and that will push JERICHO Drumm to the point where he will do something dire - thus removing himself from Sorcerer Supreme status (if not to be a villain outright), and Daniel will somehow regain physical form and the two siblings will become enemies (Daniel the good, and Jericho the bad?) - or they will switch sides of the curtain and Jericho will be the spirit while Daniel animates their form.

OR Jericho will make the ultimate sacrifice and Daniel will take over the body - as a possible wild-card (remember the "Drumm of Revenge" note I blogged about a few months back? [HERE]).

On the cover for issue # 6, the only one who is obscured by shadow is Doctor Voodoo.
That seems like a visual clue.
Strange is partially shadowed.
Also, a possibly telling visual.
I think Doc will also take a bit of a "darkening" to a possible half-hero ... no longer quite the man he was.
(Also possibly foretold in that post I just linked to - [HERE])


Agamotto is a harder entity to parse.
He has ever been nebulous and chimeric in his reasons and actions, so determining if he is the dark-villain or guiding-light of the arc is still anyone's guess.

If Agamotto IS to become a dark entity, it would only remove his various tools from the chessboard and not much else.
If Agamotto passes beyond the care of this dimension and no longer supplies energies to those who call upon him, well... that's pretty much the same thing.

I would have liked to see the dark-entity who was the big-bad from the Doctor Voodoo series continue his promised emergence and be the threat here - thus wrapping up that dangling plotline and bringing the Sorcerer Supreme some closure on that front.
A cool character, OGOUN the Slayer has some (seemingly) deep ties to the lineage of both the "Brother Voodoos" and "Sorcerer Supremes" of Earth.
It was left off that he was "coming" - having opened the gates between his realm and ours.
This would be a perfect time to wrap that up.


As for Stephen Strange... as we've already seen in upcoming solicitations for upcoming issues of (adjectiveless) Avengers and Incredible Hulks, he is still around, and, while no longer wearing his old costume, is still wielding magic - for all accounts, as a hero.
He IS one of Marvel's true founding characters,y'know.
As such, I would hope that they would not turn him into a villain or kill him off as of yet - especially not with a feature film deal in the near future.

I am fairly confident that whatever changes and "fixes" are implemented by Quesada, Brevoort, Bendis and company, can and shall be undone in time by a writer (and/or new guard) with an idea as to how to handle mysticism.

Comics are like our own lives - nothing stays the same, but everything eventually comes around again.
As long as the lead character survives long enough.

---------

I mean, when and where was that newspaper photo of Doctor Strange standing next to Spider-Man supposed to come from?
The earliest meetings between the two heroes always dealt with Strange maintaining the utmost sense of mystery and security.
Amazing Spider-Man Annual # 1 = Doc is only in astral form.
Amazing Spider-Man Annual # 2 = the two were only together at the final battle, and after that, only for a quick goodbye.
Sure, Peter Parker could have theoretically had one of his cameras webbed to a wall or something, but that seems unlikely as he had no idea where he would end up.
Even the ret-conned "first" appearance between the two;
Untold Tales of Spider-Man: Strange Encounters - oneshot (1998) dealt with a time when Doc was wearing his original blue/purple cloak.
So... whatever.
I'm going to accept the Parker camera explanation and give myself a No-Prize.


** 
And how can Rasputin say that Strange is the "unchallenged and uncontested Master of the Mystic Arts"?
Doc was challenged and contested all the time! Mordo alone would negate that statement, if there weren't many others seeking the title and artifacts of the Mystic Master.


***
Midichlorians are the microorganism in the fictional Star Wars galaxy that act as the structure behind the "mystical" power called the "Force". If those white amoeba-looking things seen in the Light Dimension that Daniel Drumm perceives are like that, well... Marvel magic will suck more then the last three Star Wars films.


**** 
I will admit to being a party to helping "affirm" the whole "7 Spheres War ends in a blip" story, because, due to an interweb discussion several years ago, I had emailed Warren Ellis, who wrote some of those issues, and inquired what he had intended.
He replied (which was nice of him) stating that it was a long time ago, and he hadn't thought about it in years, but that it all basically worked out that time flowed differently between the planes. 5,000 years there equaled a few moments here.
Not wanting to possibly insult him (or call his answer into question) by bringing up the words that he himself had wrote, I let it drop and posted his basic reply on the old Defenders Message Board (R.I.P.).
That doesn't mean that I agreed or bought into it.
Just that I wasn't going to get into a "thing" with a creator about a few issues he wrote a decade or so before - and may not really remember - or care about, pertaining to an abandoned plotline on a title for which he wrote one or two issues.


*****
Such is the same theory that was used in the Star Trek : Generations film.
Both Kirk and Guinan were caught in the "ribbon", which was timeless and could be returned to - or escaped from, with no loss of time. Kirk is dead in the real world? No problem. A facet of him is still in the ribbon. Just have that part of him come out. Guinan was both in AND out of the ribbon - at the same time.

Thus, Strange and the Vishanti (and all mystic entities involved) can be rebooted by emerging (or coming into contact with themselves) from the War.

******
Actually, Hank Pym has had his ass kicked by Eternity (when he was determined to be the "Scientist Supreme" - Mighty Avengers # 30).
Just another instance of Marvel losing sight of the majesty and mystery of their eternal mystical entities.
(Although, Loki later claimed that it was he posing as Eternity just to mess with Pym - Mighty Avengers # 34)

*******
I'd liken it to the scene in the original Star Trek pilot episode; "The Cage", where Capt. Pike is fighting against one of his illusion-casting jailers, and despite whatever fearsome visage they would transform into, Pike just kept his hands tight around it's neck.
Hmmm... lots of Start Trek and alt-sci-fi references in this post.
Cool. Cross-pollination of pop-culture.


------------------
"Tamam Shud!"
~P~

12 comments:

Mario said...

I think I've figured out what rules Bendis is using for magic:

http://media.photobucket.com/image/player2527s handbook second edition/dantiques/40000b/40668.jpg

Think about it. What are the two ways we see people use magic in New Avengers? Either a magic item (the Eye), or something that was memorized from a book.

It also explains why the Eye is suddenly so important. The XP bonus :P

The Estate of Tim O'Neil said...

I think the logic behind Wolverine is not so much that he's unkillable - which, as you correctly surmise, is useless against entities who could flash-fry an adamantium skeleton in the blink of an eye - but that he's the best, most brutal fighter of the group, and if he was amped-up with sufficient raw magical power would be fierce enough to catch any opponent off guard. Which I guess makes sense if you've already bought into the story's numerous other flawed premises. I'm not saying it's a *good* idea, mind you . . .

whitworth59 said...

You spend a lot of time on this stuff, don't you? I'm impressed. Most of all, though, I'm tickled by the mention of Vera Gemini... I'd forgotten about that Defenders run where the writer had obviously been listening to way too much Blue Oyster Cult.

mike said...

I like what you have to say about what's happening to magic at Marvel these days. Have you read the latest Thunderbolts? I think that series is fantastic right now, but I had a quibble when reading the latest issue. Man-Thing gets shredded by hand ninjas. They bring his head along because Ghost says that Man-Thing can recover . . . with sunlight! I was like, "What!?!" In that moment they transformed Man-Thing from being a creature linked to the power of the nexus of all realities to a plantlike creature that can be explained by science, a species that just needs "sunlight" and perhaps a bit of fresh topsoil. ARGH!

I long for J. M. DeMatteis to re-energize Marvel's magic characters again!

~P~ said...

Ah... Mr. TIM O'NEIL...
You thought of the exact same thing that I did (although, my thought was at 8am, the morning after the post, while I was in my car, driving to work, and as such, would have to wait to add it.

Sadly, by the time I got home, I was so tired, my eyes slammed shut and I didn't get to it until this morning.

But, still.. it is a valid point:
Wolverine will just keep coming at you no matter what.

Anyway. I added the thought (with a nod to you), and my Capt. Pike vs the Talosian jailer simile, which was what originally sparked my AM commute-time thought, into the end of the Wolvie section of the post.

---

MARIO,

I have NO idea what the heck Bendis is using for the rules of magic, but as I already stated... it's not going to be any different from the random make-it-up stylings that we've had for decades - UNLESS some kind of bible or treatise is maintained.

---

WHITWORTH,

A lot of time? You have NO idea...
Actually, most of the time is just internal thought processes. Composing mentally long before I start typing. The typing is actually pretty rapid-fire.
Gathering scans is one time-eater.
Luckily, I have a near photographic memory of back-issues, and can usually recall what comic and issue something was in.

Yeah. I know. A real "productive" use of a great ability, right? Sheesh.

However, the REAL time is spent in trying to gather the TIME an/or drum up the ENERGY to actually START the post - especially after my usual days, filled with insanity and exhaustion.
THAT is the primary reason for delays in posts.
Maybe, if I won the lottery and could afford to spend my idle time deep in reflection of comic's goodness... ah well... to dream.

As for the Blue Oyster Cult tie-ins, I think I recall that one of the writers had an affiliation with B.O.C. and was why they used their lyrics in a few different stories over the years.

---

MIKE,

Yes. Thunderbolts is awesome!
The Man-Thing head scene has some precedent though.
Both in a
Legion of Monsters: Man-Thing one-shot special
as well as issue # 12 of the latest run of Marvel Comics Presents.

Manny is reduced to merely a head and regenerates from that.

Actually, I think he did much the same thing in an old issue of QUASAR.

The fact that he DOES require the SWAMP / NEXUS in order to achieve regeneration is valid.
However, as GHOST is lifting Manny's head he says that with sunlight AND NUTRI...
Before he is cut off by Moonstone, he was trying to say NUTRIENTS. I would hope that he would also mention the SWAMP, but he never gets that far.

A slip into treating Man-Thing as a walking, immolating ficus?
Maybe, but I hope not.

But your fears are justified when taking into mind the simplification of magic in the M.U.

We'll have to keep a watchful eye on it.

Thanks for the comments folks.
Anyone else out there?

~P~ said...

Gah.
I recalled a few other thoughts I meant to delineate a bit better, and found that they were either lacking or missing outright.

SO... I added them.

Sorry for the post-posting edits.
I do that on occasion.
My mind is filled with too many concepts to get down concisely.

So, take a re-read.
It'll be worth it.
You may have missed something good the first time around anyway.


OK.
Who else has thoughts?

Strange said...

Okay, I have had some time to think about this post now and I am quite impressed. Some of what you bring up from Strange's past had fled my mind entirely and getting these pertinent reminders allowed me to make considerations I hadn't before.I think the most telling part of your post, and something that has been echoed elsewhere many times, is that none of this changes anything. Marvel wanted to quantify magic and for some reason allowed Bendis to do it in a title he obviously does not care to put much time or effort into. Now big things are happening, but the end effect can only be negligible for reasons you stated above. Tomorrow we will get to see how many of your predictions come true, and I would wager money that you are correct on most accounts. At this point we are all just along for the ride.

Arachne Solara said...

Excellent exposition, as always, and a pleasure to read. I can always count on coming here to feel cheered up about my Strange fandom, even with the current sad state of the doc and mysticism in general in the MU. It reminds me, coming here, of what a truly awesome character Bendis is in the process of unnecessarily deconstructing, and reassures me that the cyclic nature of the comics medium will come around to favor the good Doc again...someday. Awesome post, thank you so much!

whitworth59 said...

Bendis has made a few continuity glitches of late. Avengers Prime featured a use of Hela completely at odds with current events in the main Thor title, "fixed" with a nod to "hey, we must have time-traveled" an issue or two later. Probably the weakest current Avengers title. The Thor / Iron Man mini (not by Bendis!) is a lot better than I thought it would be, and features a brief appearance by Baron Mordo -- not to mention a last-page revelation of one of my favorite Marvel characters.

Just read New Avengers #6 -- some nice art for the mystical battles, but... well, I'll wait for your review.

whitworth59 said...

Just read Avengers Prime 4... the time travel "explanation" in a previous issue was a sop, as dialogue in this issue ties in with current Marvel continuity, specifically with regards to the condition of Asgard. Bendis, Bendis, Bendis...

Cirdan said...

One of the many things I don't understand is why Iron Fist gives Strange the eye even though he was so adamantly against it in the last issue. Did Dr Strange just insist with the right tone of his voice? I wouldn't have minded a one-liner explanation. But I've kind of caught on to the Bendis thing that you keep mentioning.

Yeah, that using Wolverine thing was utter crap. It's the opposite of what Strange says in Thunderbolts 155 about how magic isn't a charge, point, and shoot thing. Part of what makes that issue cool, right?

I always appreciate the scans of the past because I don't have access to all that and it does help with understanding how Dr. Strange should be. Thanks!

Cirdan said...

I found the comic with Silver Dagger that you mentioned above. Agamotto aside, Steven Strange is smooth. No wonder Clea loves sex!

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