Saturday, November 27, 2010

ROM : SPACEKNIGHT Illustration
A Work-in-Progress
For the Spacenite2 Bill Mantlo Fundraiser

I'm hurriedly trying to complete an illustration for the SPACENITE 2 - Bill Mantlo fundraiser event held by those fab folks at Floating World comics - link to site HERE.

Long story short, they have had some events in order to raise money for the medical bills of creator BILL MANTLO, writer of every issue of ROM and many other Marvel comics - who has been incapacitated since 1992, after a hit-and-run driver struck him, causing irreparable brain-damage.
(I mentioned this at the end of an old post - HERE ).

Sadly, while I KNEW about the fundraiser, I thought the artists commissioned were by "invitation-only", and so I never thought to inquire about submitting a piece.

Then, David H, over at the "Blog for ROM Fans Who Aren't Dicks" sent me a note that submissions are indeed open for one or two more slots (his fine submission located HERE)... BUT (and here's the rub) they have to be completed and submitted by Sunday, November 28th!

I only found this out on Thanksgiving day (Thursday).
So, I worked up a few sketches yesterday, and one "semi-final" rough, but still need to redraw it, to smooth out the rough spots, rearrange a few of the figures, add a bunch more and add tons of details to the background and such.

Unfortunately... with all that I have going on today... I'm not sure if I'm going to make it.

BUT, I will work on it anyway.

In the meanwhile, HERE is the "semi-final" rough (minus a TON of details and ideas that are present on the other sketches - which will, hopefully be added in the final image. Such details will include: A Deathwing, more Male and Female Wraiths, a Wraith getting blasted into Limbo, a few other Spacknights - shown in cameo and whatever else I can cram in from the ROM comic lore).

The original is to be 11x17, and this scan crops off a big chuck of it all around.

Be kind. It's just a rough sketch.
ROM: SPACEKNIGHT vs from top left to bottom right:
Female Dire Wraith, Watchwraith robot, HellHound,
Hybrid, Hellhound
and Male Dire Wraith getting blasted into Limbo by ROM.

And wish me luck.

Original artworks will be auctioned off some time in December, and prints will be sold of many others, all to raise funds for Mantlo. So, save your pennies and bid early, and often.

If you've EVER enjoyed an issue of ROM, or any of Bill's other comics (of which there is too long a list to recap here) feel free bid OR... if you aren't the bidding-on-artwork kind of person, feel free to make a donation.
Those wishing to make direct donations may send them to Bill's brother Michael who has long been caregiver of his brother.

Michael Mantlo
425 Riverside Dr #12-E
New York, NY 10025

Of course, if PayPal is more your speed, drop by this link to make a direct donation at the Floating World Comics site.
Make a private donation to the SPACENITE - BILL MANTLO FUND directly from your Paypal account. 100% of the funds go to Mike Mantlo.
Or, if money is tight, drop a letter to tell how much you love Bill Mantlo's work.

"Tamam Shud!"

Thursday, November 25, 2010


...and as such, besides being a day for the giving of thanks for what we have, it has also become a day synonymous with stuffing a turkey (or tofurfky for the vegans) and stuffing your face!

A lavish table of many courses, side dishes and deserts is usually in the offing, and in many places, extravagantly prepared fine-dining experiences are to be had.

Surely one would expect one such as Doctor Stephen Strange, a man surrounded by the trappings of wealth and taste (as well as a live-in man-servant) to be well versed in the culinary delights of Haute cuisine.

One would expect the likes of Doctor Strange to always be seated at a well-laid table, spread with every type of delicacy.
And yet, I tell you that is not the case.
Doctor Strange is a man of basic food tastes!
No gourmand, he.

Oh, certainly... scenes can be found that will show Strange sitting at a lavishly prepared table, but those are few and far between, and in the instances that I found, he is not eating. He may be reading a tome at the table, or in the company of others, but more often than not, he is not actually eating the fine cuisine. being late Autumn, on the cusp of Winter, many may say that the season for BBQ (Bar-b-Que) is over and done.
Well, those fickle, fair-weather feeders are NOT the Master of the Mystic (and Masticating) Arts.

It seems that Doctor Strange has a deep hankering for hot-dogs, hamburgers and the Roving Rings of Red-Onion!

As they say, the proof is in the pudding... or the potato-salad as the case may be, because as of late, I have seen many instances to prove my statement.

I received the following trading card by the awesome blog-master over at "Strange Occasions" (check him out... he's fab!)
The card, a rare promo for the Super Hero Squad collectible card game features Doc making a CheeseBurger. A sorcerous "slider", as it were.

(readers under 30 will have no idea what I'm referring to here)

By coincidence or design, the original sketches for Doctor Strange for the Super Hero Squad show have him conjuring a singing, dancing hot-dog.

    "Oh, I wish I had an Oscar Mayer wiener..." 

    Lest you think that all I can procure are SHS images... from DEADPOOL and CABLE # 49 (reprinted in the recently released Deadpool & Cable Ultimate Collection Vol. 03 TPB ) is this little scene...

      "By the Onion Rings of Burger King - - You Are Undone!"

      And, to show that this is not merely relegated to recent happenstance, and that Doc's more mundane taste in foodstuffs goes back a bit further in history... readers of this blog well remember this shirt (that I blogged about along with many other Dr. Strange related garments [HERE])...
        "By the Salaminous Buns of Poupon!"
        DOCTOR STRANGE conjuring forth some eats while wearing a Bar-B-Que bib!

        "I want a hamburger... no, cheeseburger. I want a hot dog..."

        Designed as the OFFICIAL shirt worn at the Marvel company PICNIC in 1996, it sets up an early precedent for Strange's more "American" palette.

        But, that's not even the EARLIEST such example of Dr. Strange's unrefined gourmet leanings...

        From 1972, in the pages of Marvel Premiere # 4 is THIS little scene:

        A deeper unfathomable unknown than even the most cosmic mysteries is... 
        from what exactly is a hot dog made?
        Doc don't know. Doc don't care.

        "Oh, sure," I hear you say... "Pick the few scenes of Strange eating junk from a few sources"...
        Well, what would you say if I showed you proof positive that Doctor Strange not only EATS such street-level meals, but he also PREPARES recipes for same?

        The 1977 MARVEL SUPERHEROES COOKBOOK featured several "recipes" by Dr. Stephen Strange:

        "Add 1 Eye of Newt. 2 Wings of Bat. A pinch of powdered dragon scales..."

        One such recipe was for "DR. STRANGE's MYSTERIOUS STEW".

        Now, while stew may be one of MY personal favorites, and while it might entail some "cooking", it is basically tossing whatever you have into a pot of water and putting it to a near boil.
        Hardly anything fit for a banquet table.

        Strange also offered a little side-dish:

        Doctor Strange tosses salad... oh, man... And a fruit salad at that.

        Strange's tossed salad isn't specified on the page, however there is one for "Deviled Ham Salad". That sounds appropos...
        Still, the illustration shows Doc levitating FRUIT into a crystal vessel of some sort, so... it's most likely a fruit salad (another favorite of mine).

        Basically, nothing more than chopping up whatever fruit you have lying around and tossing it into a bowl.

        Sensing a pattern yet?

        OK. This last one will definitely set it all to light.

        Bachelor Chow!

        "Doctor Strange, INSTANT EATERY!"

        And I quote:


        And that is Awesome!
        Judging by our shared style of food preparation... it looks like perhaps I AM INDEED Doctor Strange.

        So, as many of us sit to sup with friends and family and (hopefully) enjoy a well-cooked meal, let's remember poor Stephen Strange and his hot-dog and finger-food tastes.

        It's a good thing that WONG is around to cook his meals.

        Oh, Nevermind.
        Happy Thanksgiving, to all! 

        Tamam Shud!

        (For those in the United States it is always on the 4th Thursday in November. Canadian Thanksgiving is on the 2nd Monday of October. Sadly, most other countries do not have such a holiday. More so's the pity)

        Saturday, November 20, 2010

        EYE CARAMBA!
        F*** YOU, IT'S MAGIC!
        A Review of NEW AVENGERS v2 # 6
        (and an overview of 1-6)

        What follows here is a review of issue # 6 and an overview of the first story arc (issues # 1 - 6).

        One of these Avengers will DIE!
        Not a real tough mystery.
        Predictable outcome from a predictable visual trick and a lame story set-up.



        Wait... that sensation in the air... an intangible wave carried in the aether... that touches the base of your skull, the dormant corners of your perception, and raises the tiny hairs on the back of your neck...
        Do you feel it?

        It is the psychic residue of readers' collective anguish after reading NEW AVENGERS V2 # 006.

        It is the death of an Avenger.

        It is the death... of MAGIC!
        (OK. Not really.)

        To start off; that cover "mystery" of which Avenger will DIE wasn't even a hard one.
        Even if you couldn't tell from reading the previous few issues, and how Bendis set up the soon-to-be-dead Sorcerer Supreme; Doctor Voodoo to be an ineffectual (even more so than Bendis' usual handling of mystics) "pretender" to the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme, that cover image totally gives it all away.

        As I noted in the comments section of the "Panels of Awesome" blog post about the odds of which character would take the big sleep - found [HERE], but I also called it (and foresaw, with fairly accurate detail, what happened in the issue) in my last post about New Avengers # 5 [HERE].

        Basically, the ONLY character who is totally in darkness (i.e; "eclipsed by the shadow of DEATH") is Doctor Voodoo.
        Sure, Doctor Strange is half-lit, but that's both a red-herring to mislead as well as a hint that Stephen Strange doesn't quite escape unscathed either (as we'll discuss when we get to the ending of the story).

        If only the cover blurb said;
        Then, we'd have a good shot at finally being rid of Bendis.
        NO, I'm NOT wishing any ill will or poor health to the man... just saying that since he's so eager to mete out death, perhaps he'd be a little open to "equal opportunity".
         If only, the "death" of his "career" as a comic writer, at the very least.
        Perhaps, he'd be better suited to writing prose fiction. Novels dealing with the themes of super-heroes and/or crime fiction. I think he'd be much more palatable in that medium.
        Give him several hundred pages to run amok in and perhaps he'll be able to tell an engaging - and COMPLETE - story.
        For some reason, he is unable to do so in the confines of comic book periodicals.
        Even with the annoying modern practice of "decompressed" storytelling, wherein several pages can be dedicated to every minor event (like 3 pages of no dialogue or action, except for the eyes of the characters going back and forth watching a tennis match - *minor exaggeration there*) it is amazing that Brian Bendis still leaves out vital events that are crucial to the story at hand.

        If you've ever read any (or heard an audio) interviews by Brian Bendis, you'd think to yourself, "This guy has some half-way decent ideas".
        Unfortunately, MANY of them never seem to make it to the printed page.
        SO many concepts and story segments seem to be cut due to space and end up on the "cutting room floor".
        So many things happen off-panel, or unseen between issues, or are only implied long after the fact by a brief text bite, that it's hard to imagine anyone who has been working in comics as long as he has is still able to:
        1. continuously fall prey to the "Oops. Did I forget to include that?" aspect of omitting vital information.
        2. get further work with such shoddy workmanship.

        Take this latest issue for example; after the previous issue had "the-unknown-entity-believed to-be-AGAMOTTO" (I will call it as such, because NO WHERE in the issue is that mystery truly solved) state that the reason he needs the EYE of AGAMOTTO back is because the VISHANTI "are no more"...
        However, in this issue we find that is not the case. In point of fact,. the Vishanti seemingly kicked him OUT of the trinity (three beings comprised the Vishanti; Agamotto, his mother; Oshtur and Hoggoth).
        And where does this information get laid on us?
        In the brief text passage of the RECAP PAGE!

        The recap page, as its name implies, is to recapitulate what we have THUS ALREADY READ (either for those who are slight of memory, or who may have missed an issue prior).
        It is NOT the place where NEW and VITAL information is revealed for the first time.

        THAT is some lazy-assed, hackity-hack-hack-hack writing, right there!
        I'm not sure who is more to blame in such things;
        • the writer - Brian Bendis?
        • the "editor" - Tom Brevoort?
        • the associate editor - Lauren Sankovitch?
        • Editor-in-Cheif - Joe Quesada?
        • ALL OF THE ABOVE?!?
        My answer is ALL OF THE ABOVE!

        That said, the entire story arc was lacking in any real cohesion, pacing and/or direction - save to kill off a character who was given a too-little-too-late chance to shine, and to take away one of the longest-held artifacts in Marvel canon (not that it really makes any difference, as I noted in great detail in my previous examination of this arc [HERE])- all in a failed attempt to create "rules" for magic in the Marvel Universe.

        Issue # 6, the apparent pay-off to the arc, has left more unanswered problems than what it seemingly "solved".

        Starting off with "Magic-Bullet Wolverine" being mystically sent off to the newly revealed "Light Dimension" to do battle, one-on-one with Agamotto (or at least, an entity seemingly supposed to be Agamotto) for the fate of all there is, the issue, and the creative team totally miss the point of how to choreograph anything other than straight-up super-punch-up fisticuffs.

        "Agamotto", an all-powerful mystical being, does nothing more than shape-shift into likenesses of those from Wolverine's mind (people from his past and present).
        While, Wolvie slashes with his omnipresent claws - said pigstickers enhanced by magic spells - mystically infused within them, so that all he need do is slash around wildly in order to perform complex spells and mystic attacks.

        Oddly enough, if it weren't for all the footnoted spells, cited with which book and scroll, it would seem to me to be nothing more than a typical Wolverine "berzerker-barrage" against a foe who doesn't seem to be putting up all that much of a fight.

        Oddly enough, "Agamotto" (yes, I will use the "quotation marks" since nowhere in the issue is the real identity of that entity truly proven)... an entity who was around when the Earth was young, and who has either discovered or created entire magic systems, spell-sets and artifacts of power, starts off by utilizing a disguise spell created by BARON MORDO; a 20th-century mortal, whose spell is on the "Scroll of Loki"... Loki being another ancient-immortal mystical entity (godling) who also out-dates and overpowers Mordo, and so it makes little sense for a spell by such a mortal to even be of consideration for such publication on parchment.

        The entire thing makes no sense.
        But, alas... that is merely the start of the issue.
        Bendis' confusion and stupidity (or at least; utter lack of regard) continues unabated and unchecked by so-called "editors".

        At the very least, to Bendis' "credit", he does have Wolverine state his lack of awe or fear of a foe who stoops to altering their appearance as a means of "psyching-out" a combatant.
        It remains unclear whether he was using that dialogue to truly portray disdain at "Agamotto's" sub-par means of combat, or using that comment in an attempt to proactively deflect from any criticism of the story (since it would seem that he can't come up with anything more creative in terms of mystical combat).

        Perhaps one of the most telling - and damning of Bendis' new "rules" of magic - is that already it would seem that he had grown tired of coming up with new and interesting names and references for his "spells", since the preponderance of those "cast" during the fight were all from a single source.. the "Scroll of Wabawab".

        My immediate thought, upon reading the many, many Wabawab spells was that Bendis was merely using that nonsensical name as a "placeholder" in his script, until he would later go back and choose new names and sources for the spells.
        However, he either never got back to it, or lost interest in the storyline... either way, proving my previous points of his being a sloppy writer who pays little attention to details - either those of previous canon or those of his own making.
        Also proving my point (made in the examination of the last issue [HERE]) that such a system of magic is doomed to misuse and decay by future writers.

        My secondary thought was that Wabawab was a sadomasochistic entity, since most of his spells were those that dealt with the dealing of attacks and punishment.

        But, either way, since the GIANT--ALL-OR-NOTHING-MYSTICAL-BATTLE-TO-DETERMINE-THE-FATE-OF-ALL-THERE-IS was nothing but the same three or four spells from the scroll of Wabawab
        (offensive spells being; Evenodor Attack Spell and/or Evanodor Punishment Spell with subtle variations to those two, and defensive spells being; Evanodor Compatriot Defense Spell and Evanodor Compatriot Boost Spell), I am wavering between my belief that Bendis merely used those as placeholders, and my belief that Bendis is a hack with no mind for magic.
        (Of course, nothing is preventing BOTH from being true.)

        Yet, to give what minor credit is due, Bendis at least utilized a spell or two from a previous issue (# 4 to be exact) repeating both; Carelli's Forced Mortal Astral Extraction spell - from the Book of Fire Appendix 309, and the Houdon-Lou Visualization Spell of the Real, so perhaps he has a crib-sheet of spells used, to help keep a sense of cohesion.
        (Or, more likely, he thought it best to at least revisit a few earlier spells to give the veneer of a cohesive "spell-check".)

        However, one of the most telling examples of Bendis' problematic grasp of magic-systems, and the failing of his "rules", as well as the lackadaisical aspect of his writing is that on several occasions, spells are cast that are attributed to the Vishanti.
        If the Vishanti are indeed "no more" (or at the very least, disbanded) then those spells will have NO BACKING, no one from whom power or energy will be provided, and as such, will not be able to be cast.
        You can't cast a spell that entreats an entity who will not (or is not able to) empower it.

        For someone like Bendis to understand, it's like holding an old, rusty pistol that used to have, but no longer has bullets in it, and expecting it to fire just because you pull the trigger.
        Or, having a electrical appliance, and expecting it to work without having it be plugged into an outlet - or even having electric power supply at all.

        Also, in point of fact, having the Eye of Agamotto being used AGAINST Agamotto is something that has already been shown to be impossible (of course, one would need to recount and care to utilize past canon as well as believe that the entity being combated against is indeed Agamotto and not some pretender).

        Unless, of course, Agamotto is so totally devoid of power that he has no ability to turn the eye away or do much else but use minor illusion as his primary defense. But that is almost unbelievable, and had not been established or supported by the story, since he obviously had enough power to rip open the skies and cause all the other mystical havoc of the previous issues.

        The entire "mystic battle" comes across as nothing more than a backdrop for the portrayal of Doctor Voodoo's rapid loss of detachment and purpose as Sorcerer Supreme, instead becoming frantic at the reappearance of the spirit of his brother Daniel.
        Although, long-deceased already, Daniel's spirit is in dire peril of final dissolution as he enters the battle to aid Wolverine against "Agamotto".
        Unable to perform his duties and aid his brother from afar, Jericho Drumm breaks the mystic circle of all the Earth-bound Avengers and leaps into the dimensional portal, Eye of Agamotto in hand.

        This proves to be the worst possible strategy, for not only does it remove the mystic anchor from the Earth-defense, place him in harms way, as well as expose the object of desire to the enemy who wishes to possess it.

        However, such a power-grab is unmade by "Agamotto", as upon moments of his appearance in the Light Dimension, Doctor Voodoo announces that the Eye is the only thing to be able to defeat Agamotto, since the Vishanti have cast him out (a supposition that, unless you read the Recap page, is the first a reader has been exposed to such a concept) and as such, "Agamotto" must have been stripped of much of his power.
        To that end, Voodoo casts a series of spells and seemingly destroys "Agamotto", the power of the spell turning Doctor Voodoo to dust as well, before the Eye of Agamotto fades away into nothingness.

        Watching these events, Doctor Strange can not but help to shed tears of loss.

        For of all things, Doctor Strange had always held the Eye of Agamotto among his most treasured of possessions (the Book of the Vishanti, and the Cloak of Levitation being the only others held in as high esteem).

        He counted Jericho Drumm as a close compatriot, enjoyed a friendly (if not always totally positive) relationship with Agamotto, and revered the Vishanti as among those "gods" to whom he would supplicate himself in prayer and meditation.

        Yet, in the span of a few moments, all of those have been lost - seemingly... forever.

        The world of Stephen Strange has been dealt multiple blows, all while, admittedly, causing the effect of the saving of the world and reality as we know it.

        Still, perception is reality, and what is the perception of a man who has lost most of what he has held dear - his friend, his treasured responsibility and his god - in essence - much of his reality - for the sake of the world?

        To a man like Doctor Strange, the understanding that such losses are possible ramifications of such a task, but still... they are hard-felt losses, nevertheless.

        I'm sure that part of his sorrow is that there must have been another way - any other way - to succeed without such high cost. Or, if not, that it should have been he who was faced with the challenge.

        The take-away subtext being, that if he hadn't "failed" as Sorcerer Supreme, that none of these following events would have happened, or if they did, that he would have been better positioned, by experience and connection with other entities, to have best solved the crisis with a potentially less catastrophic finale.

        To add to his injury, the spirit of Daniel Drumm comes back to Earth and takes temporary possession of Luke Cage, to accuse Strange of causing Jericho Drumm's demise.
        Daniel attempts to attack Strange, but is cast out - all the while swearing vengeance upon him.
        This is all as I partially predicted (in my review of issue # 5 - once again [HERE]).
        It was also foreshadowed  in the giant map of the time-line shown in (adjectiveless) Avengers # 5.
        Remember the "Drumm of Revenge" note I blogged about a few months back? [HERE]).

        One other thing that I posited was that, if the entity was not Agamotto, or even if it was, that the other entity with whom he consulted (in issue # 3) who appeared as the Ancient One, was none other than "He Who Sleeps but Shall Awaken"; Shuma Gorath!
        And, perhaps as a tantalizing clue... at the end of the mystic battle, just prior to Doctor Voodoo's casting out of the entity, the appearance of "Agamotto" shifts to a large tentacled creature... a single eye (the Eye of Agamotto) superimposed over the shape.
        All that giving the look of the elder god, Shuma Gorath!
        A potential story avenue that I predicted in my review of issue # 4 [HERE].

         C'mon... try to tell me that isn't some visual foreshadowing right there.

        Before I begin my wrap-up of the review, I have to state that, as always, it is a pleasure to pore over the artwork of Stuart Immonen.
        Every line, every figure, every expression is perfect!
        I mean, look at the faces in the spread shown above: so many subtle emotions being expressed perfectly.
        Even Spider-Man's facial expression is made obvious, all-the-while thought a full stocking mask - all without falling into the oft-abused trick of having the "eyes" on Spidey's mask change shape to convey complex feelings... all with a few well-placed lines on his brow.

        Kudos to Mr. Immonen!
        I hope he stays on the title for a long, long while.

        But, sadly, he is but one portion of the creative team.
        We are still left with Brian Bendis' half-formed stories, and an absent editorial staff who seem content to let his glaring shortcomings proceed to printed page.

        If this entire arc was to establish new rules for magic, then it is an abject failure.
        As I related in my review for issue # 5 (ok. once more... [HERE]), not only have the rules NOT been established, but there has been almost NO change whatsoever - barring the loss of a magic Swiss-Army-Knife such as the Eye Of Agamotto and temporary loss of several mystic entities.

        No rules have been made.
        The new parameters are flimsy and easily subject to abuse or decay.
        No explanations have been offered to the situations behind the break-up of the Vishanti, the identity of the "Ancient One" (remember, there were TWO distinct voices being used in issue # 3).
        Perhaps... just perhaps, since this story is far from being complete... that those two are the voices of Oshtur and Hoggoth, the two remaining entities of the Vishanti, who were trying to gain access to the Eye before Agamotto could do so.
        But then, why would the "Ancient One" visage also be utilized by "Agamotto" in his dealings with the Avengers.

        The entire thing makes little sense, and is lacking in details or anything even remotely resembling a resolution.

        Instead, we are offered a half-formed concept, a failing set of "rules", and a loose "ending".
        We are denied the Eye of Agamotto, (but seemingly still retain the lesser Eye; the "Amulet" of Agamotto, the ORB of Agamotto, and other artifacts of power belonging to him and/or others in the Vishanti, such as the BOOK of the Vishanti)...
        However, since modern Marvel have stated that the EYE is the badge of the Sorcerer Supreme, it seems that we are to be denied an "official" Sorcerer Supreme?
        Bendis' story also stated that without the Eye, our reality is "forfeit"... so... who will come to collect?
        Or is that another dangling plotline?
        We are given no answers.
        Basically, we are told;
        "F*** YOU, It's MAGIC!" *  **


        Oddly enough, it's not the first time that such a sentiment was offered by Marvel in recent years.
        Writer Joe Michael Straczynski stated that when the questions of the multiple errors, plot-holes and canonical conundrums of the "Deal with Mephisto" in the Spider-Man "One More Day" storyline, was presented to Editor-In-Chief; Joe Quesada, he was met with a reply of "It's Magic... we don't have to explain it!" [source]
        Here, for those who are unaware of the reference, is the original stand-up comedy act that brought to life, the term;
        "F*** YOU, IT'S MAGIC"

        (Warning: N.S.F.W. due to NONSTOP usage of the "F"-word)


        "Tamam Shud!"

        Sunday, November 7, 2010

        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.


        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"!

        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.

          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.

        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.

        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:

        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?
        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 " 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.
        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.)

        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!"