NEW AVENGERS (v.2) # 32
END TIMES – PART 2
BENDIS – story
CARLOS PACHECO – pencils
ROGER MARTINEZ with CAM SMITH and SCOTT HANNA – inks
RAIN BEREDO – colors
*SPOILER WARNINGS ARE IN EFFECT*
Starting off where last issue left off (see review [HERE]) this issue finds the New Avengers all gathered inside the mansion as Doctor Strange administers to Victoria Hand, who, while under the influence of a possessing spirit, attacked several practitioners of the occult and then came to Avengers Mansion only to faint dead away.
Doctor Strange instructs the team to get out of the room, but since they see Doc as usually a mellow cat, instead mill around debating what course of action to next pursue. It is then that Strange explodes in an angry command of: “EVERYBODY OUT!”; much to the dumbfounded shock of all assembled.
(Also with that angry outburst, Dr. Strange simultaneously joined the ranks of the gak-mouthed, spit-string-afflicted - a phenomenon hardly seen since the grim-n-gritty 1990’s.)
Next, Dr. Strange casts one of Bendis’ trademarked “book-and-page-number” spells and recreates a favorite scene from GHOSTBUSTERS (“I find her interesting because she sleeps above her covers… four FEET above her covers!”) as he semi-levitates Victoria Hand while extracting her astral form.
(Just as a “by-the-way”… Victoria Hand with her black-&-red two-toned hair [and her black-and-white clothes] would make an awesome girlfriend for the newly black-&-red clad Strange – who also has two-tone [black-&-white] hair). At least visually. And besides... he’s already got her in bed and showing her a few tricks that have arched her back, caused her to grip the sheets and have her breasts nearly pop out of her blouse. …OK. I’ll stop, but really… everyone else saw that too, right? Not only that, but when he brings her to the Astral Plane, he also makes a field of flowers – complete with falling flower petals cascading all around her bed. I mean… c’mon! How ELSE am I supposed to see this? She even admits to having checked her dating websites; saying this to him while her blouse is falling open. And don’t get me started on the “But we barely know each other” panel OR the panel near the end where Doc grabs some side-boob. C’MON!!! …OK… I’ll stop now. I promise. But sheesh!)
Still with my (only slightly joking) aside, this is as good a time as any to discuss the artwork for the issue. Each of these final issues (of both; New Avengers as well as the ‘Adjectiveless’ Avengers) feature a rotating cast of illustrators who have worked with Bendis before – this issue’s penciller being Carlos Pacheco.
Carlos Pacheco has long been one of my favorite comic artists. I can best describe his style as a marriage between Salvador Larocca and José Luis García-López - or perhaps - Alan Davis and Neil Adams-inspired Michael Golden with some Jackson Guice pseudo-realism thrown in, all the while being uniquely his own. Needless to say, I (normally) LOVE his work! But here… something is wrong. Most likely a by-product of a rushed deadline and different inkers, Pacheco’s work looks nothing like it has ever done. Flat and lifeless, with none of his usual dynamism and style, this issue is a visual let-down.
Still, that wasn’t enough to deter me as this issue proved to be a rare piece of excellence by Brian Bendis! No. I’m quite serious. I truly liked it!
Of course, that’s not to say it didn’t have several “Bendisisms” and errors, but the overall story of the issue was solid tension and heart-gripping (literally) excitement!
After last issue’s obvious tease, the menace of Daniel Drumm (“Brother Voodoo”) is revealed, appearing to Strange (and Victoria) on the Astral Plane. Of course, this is itself but one of the weird errors that Bendis writes into the story that found me baffled.
Dr. Strange, thinking that the Astral Plane would be the safest place to speak with Victoria Hand (since he didn’t know if any of the other Avengers had been possessed by Drumm’s invading spirit) then asks Drumm to reveal himself! This of course leads to a direct attack leading to the ***SPOILER ALERT*** astral heart-ripping and real-world killing of Victoria Hand!
Add to the typical Bendis slip-ups that he is still having Strange cast spells which would entail empowerment by the Vishanti – even after Bendis had already stated that the mystic tribunal had ceased to be. Does he not understand that spells are allowed to activate by the Deity to whom they are supplicating? Evidently not. That or the Vishanti are NOT dissolved, but then wouldn’t Strange also know this – immediately?
A minor visual nit to pick: Wouldn’t the Astral Forms of Doc and Victoria be “ghostly” as is usually the case? I’ll earn myself a No-Prize and say that Doc “colored them in” so as to lessen Ms. Hand’s disorientation. (I’ll also No-Prize myself by saying that Daniel Drumm’s usual human astral self has been corrupted by his hatred so as to resemble the demonic entity he appears as here.)
With her death scream, Strange is shunted back to the physical plane, where he is discovered, looming over the bloody corpse of Victoria Hand, by the New Avengers and Acting Director of SHIELD, Maria Hill. Framed for Victoria’s death, Doctor Strange is forced to go on the run; both to protect the rest of the Avengers, as well as distance himself from anyone who can, in turn, be possessed and attack him directly.
Strange teleports (something he has hardly ever done since his giving up the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme), first to Greenwich Village to better contact and warn his friend & manservant, Wong – instructing his Tibetan acolyte to hide himself well, even from Strange himself – because Strange can not be allowed to trust anyone, or trust that he will not be possessed himself and thus used as a weapon against his friends.
Yet, despite this (and the fact that Hellstrom has been a villain for much of the past year’s worth of comic stories – as I spoke of in last issue’s review) Strange teleports again to New Orleans to see Daimon Hellstrom. Now, if I were worried about a powered individual being possessed and attacking me, the very last place I would go is to see the Son of Satan. However, Bendis gives an admirable and plausible rationale for this visitation; Strange says that even while he himself requires help, he would be remiss if he did not at least try to warn Daimon of the dire threat. Heroes being heroic? It’s BEEN awhile!
I was, at first, under the impression that the teleportation spells cast on Dr. Strange were not of his own doing, since he was, upon reappearing, manifesting at great heights and plunging to the ground below. This belief was also reinforced by the fact that Strange, upon crashing to a rooftop in the “big easy”, clutched at his heart and pleaded with himself not to have a heart-attack!
But, then I thought that the “forced” nature of “Mordune’s Forced Teleportation Spell” is that there is no graceful segue from Point A to Point B. Just a quick lateral shunt. Since Doc was in an upper-floor bedroom in Avengers Manse, when appearing in the Village he was also at the same height and plunged to the ground. Then, a New York ground-level Strange might appear above a house’s rooftop when travelling to New Orleans - a city below sea-level. If so… a NICE touch by the creative team!
This is seriously a GREAT series of scenes for Doctor Strange! Bendis perfectly captures the feeling of Doc on the run, which has been done well only a few other times in the past - this issue felt much like Lee & Ditko's classic 'STRANGE TALES' 130 - 146! Higher praise I can not give. Bravo, Mr. Bendis!
And yet… and yet… Bendis, with his little scene of Strange hoping against a myocardial-infarction, forgets that Strange is (or at least should be) immune to such a thing. When passing one of the Ancient One’s final tests (as seen in Doctor Strange; Master of the Mystic Arts # 4), Strange accepted and defeated Death, and was granted immortality – of a sort.
While he can die in battle, from wounds received, his body does neither age nor suffer from disease affiliated with mortality. Thus a heart-attack should be impossible (or at least improbable). Now, is that ‘Death Test’ rendered null & void since Strange is no longer Sorcerer Supreme? I can’t rightfully say.
Either way, Strange is too late, for as we saw last issue, the Son of Satan was the first victim of the vengeful Brother Voodoo. Strange is speaking to, and in time reveals the desiccated, eyeless husk of his friend/foe/fellow-mystic/former-Defender…Daimon Hellstrom!
The issue ends with the highly improbable appearance of Maria Hill and some SHIELD agents getting the drop on Doc as he is standing above the corpse of yet another dead mystic - informing him that he is under arrest (improbable because she was just at Avengers Mansion investigating the attacks and deaths associated with this arc). I can only surmise that Ms. Hill; acting Director of SHIELD has got herself from nifty L.M.D.’s (Life Model Decoys) of her very own.
I wonder if an artificial entity can be possessed by an invading, malevolent spirit? I guess we’ll see next issue.
Come back to read my review of next issue [HERE]
Come back to read my review of next issue [HERE]