Let's go back a few months first, shall we?
When the release of a new DEFENDERS series was announced back in July of this year, I blogged favorably [HERE] about the promise of this new volume of the title. Sure, I wasn't won over 100%, but I was more than willing to give all benefit of the doubt to Matt Fraction to deliver something worthwhile.
However, after reading the 4 page preview, those doubts are now growing, and the benefit of my good nature is starting to wane.
Well, "starting" isn't all that accurate.
Even in that original announcement blog post, I showed some dislike over the looser art style that artist-team of Terry and Rachel Dodson were putting forth for the promo materials and initial cover art. I hoped it would be of better quality when it all came to press, but I did state that it didn't seem that was going to be so. (The jury is still out on that one.)
Also, readers of my Twitter feed will know that yesterday I tweeted about my disdain over Marvel's producing 5 covers (yes, that means 4 variant covers) for DEFENDERS # 1.
*UPDATE: There were 6 COVERS! (5 VARIANTS!!!) - GAH!
This multiple cover B.S. is getting to be worse than it ever was in the dreaded boom-and-bust 1990's.
At least THEN there was a thriving economy. Now, we are still mired in the worst economic environment since the Great Depression, and comics cost $4.00 cover price. No telling how much of a price gouging retailers will put on "rare" variants.
So, for Marvel (and any other publisher) to be trying to pull this kind of predatory practice smacks of all that is wrong with the "anything to get a buck" mentality of corporations. (Hey! Let's start the "Occupy Marvel" movement.)
Just for the sake of complete transparency, here's my tweet:
"SanctumBlog So. DEFENDERS # 1 will have 5 covers!? This is getting worse than the 1990's. But there was economic BOOM then. F#@% YOU, Marvel. Seriously."
Anyway, Marvel's greedy practices of nerd-fleecing are not the point of this particular post.
What IS the point of the matter is this brief, but totally uncharacteristic portrayal of Stephen Strange, wherein he is shown to have just bedded a young grad-student, taking advantage of the young lady, who had basically contacted him to help her with her thesis on occult something-or-other, out of her probable respect and fan-worship of his status as head mystic of the M.U.
Bad form, Stephen.
Is that his place or hers? And is she wearing CLEA leggings? Was there some role-playing going on?
OK. So she IS pretty hot.
Sexy, smart, nerdy girls just DO IT for me, okay?
And she's into magick (with a "k"), so she's also a little on the goth side of the street. I'd fall for her too.
A point could be made that she is of legal age, and as such, is not an improper sexual partner. Even for the far older Strange (seriously, according to Marvel's OFFICIAL bio of him, he was born in 1930). However, she came to him in his capacity as a role-model and more experienced scholar of mystic lore. Any kind of activity such as this scene shows is a serious breach of trust on his part.
As she also points out, in a morning-after accusation, that no matter how much he may be able to help her, Stephen Strange's taking advantage of this young, eager "groupie" has hurt her far more.
Oddly enough, Strange then allows himself to ruminate upon the dalliance as something both moreso and less-than anything more than just a night of sex.
"What he wanted most wasn't on the menu"
In one narrative breath, Stephen Strange admits to a deep longing for the girl, the admission that she was "just" a girl (and thus, a toss-away hook-up), and the admission that perhaps his indiscretion was due to the deep human fear of dying alone.
In what previous scenario has Stephen Strange ever shown an inclination for ANY of those three thoughts?!? With perhaps the exclusion of the "height-of-his-own-hubris", "pre-nerve-damaging-career-ending-accident" years as a surgeon, Stephen Strange has always been on the opposite end of the spectrum of each of those beliefs.
NONE of this makes any sense to anyone who has read the character for more than a few issues (of non-Bendis-era stories), and as of the time of this writing, this is taken from a 4-page preview of DEFENDERS vol4 # 1 and as such, I have no way of knowing what the explanation for such a poor piece of character assassination might be.
Either, this new Stephen Strange is a by-product of a new "laid-back" acceptance of his no longer being the Sorcerer Supreme, and his own willingness to try "living" like one of us regular folks, or it is a detrimental by-product of the ill-effect caused by the baddie of the story (NUL, the WorldBreaker - last seen possessing the HULK in Fear Itself) - OR - worse still... is a by-product of Marvel editorial and yet another Marvel writer just not understanding the character and/or history of Doctor Stephen Strange (and possibly trying to "Peter Parker" him a bit to appeal to the younger demographic).
I can only hope that my 2nd theory is the accurate one, and that the reality-twisting, despair-raising events being caused by Nul, that are being portrayed in the first two pages of the preview are indeed what has caused Strange to take leave of his senses and abuse his position as a respected and learned man in order to get some hot-college-girl action.
Am I a prude who is against seeing Doctor Strange get some "strange" (the slang term for sex with an otherwise unknown partner)? No.
I'm not offended by the sex. Nope. Give him Night Nurse or Clea, or Sister Nil or someone that makes SENSE... but this? It just seems "beneath" him (sorry, that is not meant to be a euphemism or double-entendre'. If I wanted to make one of those I'd have noted that having the much older Strange on top of the younger girl would make it an "Improper FRACTION" - and thus play up writer Matt Fraction's name).
In fact, I have posted a long list of every known instance of Stephen Strange's loves and hook-ups and it shows the character to have had a fairly consistent pattern of sexual growth and activity, against which that this particular liaison just fails to be justified.
Sadly, I have to add this incident to that list.
You can check out all of Strange's other loves, lusts and hook-ups there - [HERE].
Now, I will say that right after the panels that I have shown, in the same diner scene, Doctor Strange uses a little rudimentary divination spell to try to determine what kind of event is on the horizon. I appreciate the practical magick. Small, subtle uses of the craft can be excellent touches (it doesn't always have to be the Crimson Bands of Cytorrak, y'know). That was where the 4 page preview ended - and so I have no way of knowing - for sure - how this will all play out and if any of my theories will come into play and if my fear of Strange's being mishandled in the series has any merit, or if Matt Fraction will indeed pull off an interesting, odd and different Stephen Strange - for good or ill.
Go and check out the preview for yourself [HERE] (since the CBR preview was an exclusive for them, and as such, I do not wish to usurp their position by showing more than a brief portion of the pages).
Then come back and check out that thorough and complete history of all of Stephen Strange's assorted romances. Presented to you in order of their appearances IN HIS LIFE (not in publication history) - [HERE].