Saturday, December 31, 2011


To Celebrate the END of the OLD YEAR - and to ring in the NEW, let's all drink a toast * and sing a chorus of Auld Lang Syne... like the Marvel Superheroes!
(* If need be, it can be a drink of Non-Alcoholic cider. No one will judge you here.)

 From Avengers v1 # 60.

Yes. This scene originally depicted a gathering to celebrate an Avengers' wedding, with all of superherodom in attendance, but so what? Taken out of context, this could be a New Year's Celebration! And thus it is!

In this coming New Year, let's all make a resolution to be as heroic and awesome as we know we all can be!

At least to be as awesome as Doctor Stephen Strange...

 Doctor Stephen Strange - the Most Interesting Man in the World!

Stay Magical, My Friends!


Friday, December 23, 2011


I just want to take this time to wish everyone all the Happiness of this
Holiday Season!

And to help celebrate your 

...I present to you this scene of

(click to make FESTIVE-SIZED)

This YULTIDE TABLEAU featuring; Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Luke "Power Man" Cage, Nick Fury and the Hulk, is my own re-staging of the CLASSIC cover to the 1975 MARVEL TREASURY EDITION; GIANT SUPERHERO HOLIDAY GRAB-BAG!

It was bigger than most kids, and only $1.50! (sigh)

I wasn't going to use any photoshop re-touches, but I didnt have a Santa-Suit small enough for Hulk.
I didn't even have a "classic" Hulk figure, but had to substitute my "Professor Hulk" as a stand in. Nor did I have any dolls, er... action figures of a young, tow-headed lad. If I did, that would be weird. So, I had to draft a holiday elf as a stand-in. Then, I figured, what-the-heck, and tossed in a little colorful glow for Doctor Strange's mystic zaps - which otherwise is just a red twisty-tie thingee from a bread bag.
With the exception of Hulk and Kilkeel Elf, these are all MARVEL LEGENDS Action Figures (which, aside from the old MEGO figures, are the very best Marvel action figures - ever).

I was originally going to make it an animated gif with glowing and blinking lights on the tree, like on my "Sanctum Window" graphic, but then one might wonder why no one else was moving... so I nixed it. Sorry.

However, to keep up with modern trends of VARIANT EDITIONS of cover images, I present to you this alternate take, with the MAN-THING in the place of the Christmas Tree.

(click to make Giant-Size Man-Thing sized)

Dr. Strange, Man-Thing, Spider-Man, Luke "Sweet Christmas" Cage, Nick Fury, Hulk and Irish 'Kilkeel' Elf
- all balanced by hidden props and MAGIC!

Let's all sing a chorus of "O Man-Thing Tree"...
"O Manny-Thing, O Manny-Thing, Thy leaves are always burning..."

Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men-Things.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Writer: Matt Fraction, Penciler: Terry Dodson,Inker: Rachel Dodson 
Colorist: Sonia Oback, Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99


“And there came a day, a day like no other…” Oh wait. That’s the other “Avenging” guys.
So, what’s the Defenders’ raison d'être? Traditionally, since the team was first formed in 1971 within the pages of MARVEL FEATURE # 1, it has been to gather together and to DEFEND the world from the forces of darkness, most usually those of mystical origins, which are so great that they threaten to overcome the world, if not all of creation.

A new # 1 Issue of a new volume of DEFENDERS hit spinner-racks in December 2011 and its new tagline is “Protecting Humanity From The Impossible”. While that might sound somewhat like the métier of the Fantastic Four, writer/co-plotter Matt Fraction and penciller/co-plotter Terry Dodson feel that it would better suit these Defenders.

Of course, if one wants to nitpick, “Protecting Humanity from the Impossible” – while not a bad line, kind of makes it seem like they’re not really doing ANYTHING. I mean, if it’s IMPOSSIBLE, that means it CAN’T happen, so why the need to defend against it? It just smacks as the inception for the line is that it “sounded cool”. But again, that’s just nitpicking to the degree of my being a jerk. While I still feel a better tagline is out there, I will gladly accept this mission statement, because, hey… I want to see some “impossible” stuff.

Just as a head’s up; this review might at times veer into “jerk” territory, but hopefully I should be able to explain my way of thinking satisfactorily. But also, fair warning, it is a FULL REVIEW – so, even though absolutely NOTHING really happens in the issue until the last 2 pages, I should nevertheless state:


-----------JUDGING A BOOK BY ITS COVER----------

So, let’s start at the beginning. The cover being the logical place to start, and thus the first real item for me to critique... or criticize, especially as I should say covers (plural) since there are 6 (SIX!!!) COVERS for this issue. One standard cover and 5 (FIVE!) VARIANTS! To make matters worse, only one of the covers is really any good (or maybe two, since the standard cover by Terry and Rachael Dodson isn’t half bad). No offense to the legendary Neal Adams (who provides two variants – well, really one variant illustration, as one variant cover is in color and the other is just the line-art)…but his artwork here is horrendous. Well, ok... maybe not as bad as that, because he obviously still has the chops. Still, it's not that good.
Yes, it’s cool that he is paying homage to his own 40-year-old cover to Marvel Feature # 1 (the first appearance of the Defenders), but it’s much more "wonky" than his older work. Also, if you look carefully, he basically swipes the poses for Iron Fist and Doctor Strange from The Dodsons standard cover. The other bit of bad artwork is that here, Adams draws a giant-body for the Hulk with a pea-sized head. No, he’s not the only one guilty of such a thing, but I thought that style of anatomical aberration ended after the 1990’s. I’d expect better from an illustrator of Neal Adams’ ability.

Neal Adams' new homage variant covers.
 Adams' 1971 classic.

The best cover (in my opinion, anyway) is the Doctor Strange solo cover by Stuart Immonen. Immonen is a phenomenal illustrator and once again has delivered nothing less than greatness.

 Awesome! And yes, I WANT it.

The other covers are; a BLANK cover – ostensibly so one could bring it to a convention and have an artist illustrate the character of their choice, and an “I Am A Defender” cover, which showcases the teaser artwork that were used to hype the project (as can be read about in this prior post [HERE]). The first issue uses the image of Iron Fist from that series. It is expected that each of the next 3 or 4 issues will utilize the other similar images; each showing a silhouetted image of the character from a classic pose and within the outline is multitudes of words, definitions and clues about the character.

Do I want all the covers? Well, yes. As a die-hard collector of all-things Doctor Strange, I do. But I fully expect to have to wait a few YEARS to be able to get them, well after the mania and high-prices have subsided to lower, more manageable levels.

Next, we can look at the logo. Personally - and I feel bad continuing on a negative streak here - I think it sucks. It does nothing for me. The letter style isn’t dynamic or eye-catching, so it fails in its task of drawing in a buyer’s eye, and there is some inexplicable zig-zag line above it that just sort of ends at the letters. The line would work better as a sort of border, encasing the logo, instead of it just being this half-finished bit of design. I know that famed letter and logo-designer; Todd Klein has often stated that comic publishers love pointy logos, but this one, while filled with all pointy angles, just falls flat. I don’t know who designed it (no idea if it was Klein or any of the other multitudes of designers out there), or if an editor passed over a potentially better logo for this one, but I’d have loved for them to have taken another crack at it.

As for the title itself, with the nature of their mission (not fully disclosed in the issue, but more than done so in interviews online, as being a threat that they are unable to speak of) as well as with Marvel’s infatuation with the appellation, the title should be “Secret Defenders”. Just sayin’.

The last thing of note, which can be seen first on the cover, is that this team’s costumes seem to almost have a theme; and that theme is “SASHES”. Red She-Hulk wears a black bodysuit whose sole ornamentation is a red flowing sash at her hips. Doctor Strange’s new costume, much like his original, has a belt sash, although this one is red as opposed to his original orange. Iron Fist has two – one on his waist and the other trailing from his headdress. Only the Surfer, (who is, for all intents and purposes, naked), and Namor fail to have a sash adorn themselves, and I don’t think Namor’s costume would be hurt by one. Perhaps he can have one across his chest, to join with another at his waist, like a buccaneer.

-----------ISSUE REVIEW----------

The issue starts with pre-amble scenes the world over as madness, mayhem and molestation (!) memories via Motorola are made manifest. These things are shown and it is suggested that they occur now that Nul: the World-Breaker - and one-time Hulk-invading evil entity - walks the Earth.

Unfortunately, this entity is one who had possessed the Hulk during the Fear Itself “event”, and was only mentioned a few times in some spin-off comic or other, until the last issue of ‘Fear Itself’ (# 7), where it is shown that Hulk has split from the invading spirit. As such, Nul is a new, unknown foe – and one who is given no real description in this issue. All we are told is that weird stuff is happening, and it seems to be because NUL is on Earth. A very poor intro for the “big-bad” of a new series.

The story quickly brings Doctor Strange into the equation, as he is shown in a post-coital scene of shared regret. I have already discussed the awful missteps of this “Doc diddles debutante” debacle – and it can be read [HERE]. (If you haven’t yet read that recent post, it might make sense to go there first and then come back here.)

I won't get into it all again now. Seriously, go read my post on this scene [HERE].

Although, a new thing to add to my critique of that scene is the notation at the bottom of the page;
“Who loves Doctor Strange? Defenders # 4!”

That, and the other, similar notations on bottom margins of other pages, is a sweet touchstone to a halcyon time, now long gone by, when every Marvel comic would tease its other publications in exactly the same way. Let me tell you, as a young lad, reading copies of 1960’s and 1970’s comics, those little blurbs always filled me with eager anticipation and made me want to hunt down the other issues being hawked. To see them return, if even in such a minor way, is a nice touch.
It also fills me with an interest in actually sticking with the book to issue # 4 to see WHO loves Dr. Strange. (For those of you who haven’t yet read it, I have an old post that lists EVERY romantic involvement that Stephen Strange has ever had. It can be found [HERE]. Feel free to check it out. It always gets updated whenever a new love is introduced.)

However, I have a bad sense of what these page margin notations can also mean.*
* But since it is too early in my review to touch upon that theory, as it does come up again later, I’d be best to make it footnote # 1 at the end of this post.

Doctor Strange’s diner scene – as I wrote in my review of the preview pages [HERE] - makes use of minor, ‘practical magic’ and is a welcome display of non-nigh-godlike sorcery. Not everything has to be the Crimson Bands of Cytorrak, or the “Gooey Kablooey of Calvin the Angry”.

Sadly, whether by a slip of art or story, one character nuance of Stephen Strange was missed here.**
** Since it is a perceived slip of no great importance, but merely one of interest to fans (new or old) of Dr. Strange, I’ll toss it at the end of this post as footnote # 2.

Next we see Doctor Strange in his Sanctum Sanctorum proper. Studying and trying to resolve the mystery of the vision he saw in the POINT ONE issue (review of same [HERE]). Here Matt Fraction sets a good tone for Stephen Strange, as one who “seek(s) refuge behind the ramparts of knowledge”. A positive touchstone for Dr. Strange is that he gains his ability through study. Knowledge is ever his weapon. And it is one he will need, as the Hulk comes, pushing past Wong, seeking aid.

Here, Wong is portrayed as a typical Manservant, calling Strange ‘master’. But that is slightly problematic to the character - unless the reset button has been hit for Wong, casting him back to a former mode of behavior and comportment. ***
*** See the final footnote #3 (“Collect ‘em all!”) at end of post for more info.

Fraction slips up on Strange’s characterization again, soon after, when he addresses King Namor (by the way, I prefer KING Namor to PRINCE Namor. It has a much better ring to it). Fraction tries to play up the familial bickering banter between these two long-time allies, but drops the ball by Doc saying; “’Tis Doctor Strange”, and then having Namor retort; “I know… You’re the only man alive that still says ‘ ’tis.’”
Except, that NOWHERE in my memory do I think I have EVER read Doctor Strange use the word; ‘tis.
I’m nearly 100% sure. (And just for sureness’ sake, I just checked out the one issue that I thought – perhaps – Doc may have uttered the word (Strange Tales v1 # 139), but no. He always states “It is....” and never ‘tis.)

This is a small nit to pick, for certain, (maybe somewhere, some-when Doc might have said ‘tis,) but when making such a definitive statement as he has Namor speak, Matt Fraction must know that will just draw attention to it.

King Namor is seen in the Aegean Sea, threatening corporal punishment to a bunch of surface men who are in the process of slaughtering some form of fin-backed sea-mammals (what could be sharks or dolphins. - I’m thinking Sharks since shark hunts are prevalent these days.) Namor, dressed in a variation of his X-Men uniform - itself a variation of the old black, scaled, ‘sharkskin’ outfit he wore in the 1970’s, makes me wonder why they just don’t return him to that great old outfit good and proper, instead of ‘watered-down’ (sorry for the pun) versions of it. Either way, anything is better than the green Speedo.

One of the fishermen has a red colored circle on the back of his glove. This reddish circle design is seen again later in the story, as a part of Danny Rand’s new plane’s interior, although there, it is more of an orange circle. Matt Fraction has hinted that there will be any number of repeated patterns, numbers and phrases within the issue(s). Coincidences that are really patterns of the universe on display. However, with the exception of one phrase repeated by the Captains of two different doomed aircraft, I have seen no other coincidental patterns, and as with the case of the red circle, have begun actively searching for some. Fraction stated in interviews that two people say the phrase; “I hate myself and want to die”, but with the exception of the title of the issue (as that is the title) only one person (Hulk) says that phrase. In this issue anyway. It’s a bit weak if we have to wait for more issues to see the re-utterance of the phrase(s). If that is the case, this is being “written for the trade”.

Another character being used in (slightly) new ways is the Silver Surfer. Since he is a being of energy (I guess) – previously shown to be able to transmutate his personal form and that of his board, the Surfer has begun to experiment further. In this issue, he appears to have taken the form of a snowfall on the Cantabrian Mountains, where the Defenders have gone to find him. Having recently been shown to be seeking a reconnect with his lost humanity (as in recent issues of THOR), the Surfer is now a child-like, wide-eyed, wonder-filled being of exploration and delight.
One slight problem with this scene is that since the events in THOR, the Silver Surfer has begun a new (mortal) life in Broxton, Oklahoma.

The scene also contains a problematic utterance by the Hulk. He states the aforementioned; …I Hate Myself And Want To Die…” (the title of the issue) but the Hulk has ever only been the embodiment of the spirit of survival. I find it odd that he (and not Bruce Banner, of whom he is now separate) would espouse such a sentiment. So, is this a new, more penitent, Hulk? Or is it an example of a writer missing the point of a character?

Next we are brought to Pamplona, Spain and the running of the bulls… and the bullish, to find Red She-Hulk. There’s not all that much to her introduction with the exception that she asks if she can bring her “big-ass sword”. The sword in question is the one that she was given by Tony Stark, as forged by the Asgardian dwarves and blessed by Odin. Hers is the only such weapon that wasn’t re-melted to ore when the “Fear Itself” battle was over. I can’t bring myself to decide whether the usage of the term “big-ass” is a sign that comics are now more interested in being “cool” than being good, or not. It just struck me when reading it and tore me out of the story for a moment.

But, Wait... They needed a strong woman with a "big-ass" sword to be a DEFENDER?
Uh... VALKYRIE, who has been a Defender more consistently than ANY other character (even Doctor Strange) would have been the perfect choice. *Sigh* Oh well, she is currently busy gathering the "Worthy" Hammers over in the 12 issue maxi-series; 'Fear Itself: The Fearless'.

The Red-Shulk scene continues, with Strange relating to her how they arrived thence. The fact that all travel methods were via conventional contrivance shows us a severely sorcery-poor Master of the Mystic Arts, unable to transport the team via the means of magic. The subsequent scenes of travelling also present a few character slip-ups (which I say “slip-ups” instead of “F#@k-ups” just to be nice).
First off, there is a panel showing Doctor Strange in a railway car, levitating in the lotus-position in plain sight of the other passengers – something that he would never do. So often, in times past, Strange would go out of his way to obscure his abilities from other ‘mere mortals’, and would most likely have either cast a spell of illusion about himself, to make it appear as if he were sitting normally, or would have let loose his astral form, so that it might perform any mystic searching while his corporeal form would sit dormant, as if asleep. This just seems like again, either writer or artist is just trying something cool, despite how a character would normally behave.

Secondly, as Strange is explaining his theories to Red-Shulk, Namor accuses Strange of acting like a “spooky old conjurer” as a means of trying to sleep with her. What-the-what?  Never mind the continued, questionable sexual references, which I find myself wondering if they serve the story or just the adolescent whims of the writer, but, this is poor characterization for BOTH; Namor and Strange. It is wrong for Namor, because, as a known philanderer, he truly would not care if Strange got it on with Red-Shulk or not – unless he had desires for her himself. It is damaging to Strange, because since when (aside from Fraction’s own poor portrayal of Strange a few pages earlier) would Strange have ever done such a thing? What would give Namor the slightest idea that Strange would even attempt to “impress” a woman in such a manner? Is this comment, reflective of Strange's earlier sexual misconduct supposed to be one of Fraction's "coincidences"? Either way and even so, Matt Fraction is so off-base here it makes me wince.

Next up we are given the intro to Danny Rand; A.K.A. Iron Fist, as he is on an experimental airplane prototype for performing zero-G tests. His appearance, while – to me – seeming out of character, has him express a sentiment that I all-too-often also echo;

“The older I get, the more life seems to be the stupid, frustrating stuff that gets in the way of you and reading comics…”

Amen, brother. Amen to that.

Iron Fist’s “Zero-G Kung Fu” is fine and an interesting idea, but the artwork is far too static to do the concept any justice. Dynamism was called for and not delivered, thus, the opportunity was lost.

In an example of clunky storytelling, however, as I felt that my copy of the comic must be missing a page, the next page jumped to a scene of Rand in bed (with the issue’s 2nd example of a regretted sexual hook-up, and the 4th sexual reference). He is being awakened by the Astral Form of Doctor Strange who is requesting to use Rand’s new plane. (Here, Strange is shown for the first time in the issue in his new costume – which nowhere in the issue is explained in any way: ie; WHY a new look? What is the significance of it? What do the gauntlets do? These are all things that a Stan Lee joint of old would have addressed).

 But wait again... They needed a RICH superhero with a plane? Was Kyle (NIGHTHAWK) Richmond too busy running his "Last Defenders" team (in the 6-issue limited series; 'Vengeance') to join the REAL Defenders?  *sigh* (again). Actually, I like Iron Fist, and with his recent linkage to Doctor Strange's mythos and Agamotto, I look forward to his inclusion on this team.

Finally, the team assembled and aboard the experimental aircraft, Dr. Strange is asked to explain the mission at hand, as well as the destination of Wundagore Mountain, as newbie Red-SHulk has no idea of it. Strange makes a few curious word choices, as he says that the mountain is “a place of WEIRD SCIENCE and ASTONISHING TALES brought to life.” Again, the subtext of comics is alluded to since both; WEIRD SCIENCE and ASTONISHING TALES are the names of old comic series.

The fervent comic-book reading of Danny Rand is also revisited again here (as he is reading a comic seemingly titled “Marvelman”), and as such, it must be a clue as to the story at large. Of course, if the “secret of the Marvel Universe” is that it is all a “breaking-the-fourth-wall” comic book within a comic book universe, I will officially give up reading Marvel comics. 
(And even the "Red Circle" design from the fisherman's gloves and now on Rand's plane could allude to the old "Red Circle Comics", as Weird Science alludes to EC Comics of old.) 
I would hope that Matt Fraction would be aware of the fact that such plot devices were started as far back as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the Fantastic Four work, and later expanded and expounded upon by John Byrne in his She-Hulk series. There’s nothing original there, so let’s pray that doesn’t factor into the series.

Strange also states that it is a mystery place, a strange place filled with secrets and impossible things. “It is our job to protect the world from the impossible.” To that I say; Wait. Since when? I thought the job of this team, as laid down in the first few pages, was to defend the world from the NUL-HULK. To destroy it and stop the damage that it causes by being manifest on Earth. Or, even as Strange has seen in his prophetic vision from POINT ONE # 1, to find and confront the mysterious cosmic machine. So, when did the job title get changed to “protect the world from the impossible” (as is obviously the header of the comic title)?

While Iron Fist is reading old comics, Strange has been researching within an ancient tome; “something very old and rather FRIGHTENING…”  This would grab my curiosity if my faith in the writer hadn’t been subjected to numerous disappointments already.

Of course, the plane is soon in trouble,  with its captain repeating the same phrase as the Captain from the first page (one of Fraction’s “coincidences”) and then their plane explodes around them - a first for the Defenders (of any incarnation).

As is the norm for such situations, flying characters must hurriedly rescue non-flyers, as the Surfer aids Iron Fist and Namor carries Dr. Strange, whom without benefit of his old Cloak of Levitation might be able to do some minor levitation on his own, but is most definitely unable to fly outright unaided. The Red-She-Hulk however, like any strong-guy type is left to plummet earthward to thus prove to the reader that she is nigh-invulnerable.

Once again, sadly, a vital piece of characterization is mauled by Matt Fraction. He has the Silver Surfer, who is currently trying to reconnect with his own humanity, enjoying the experience of the plane burning around him as he thinks; “This is New.” Since when would explosions be new to the Surfer? In his first appearance in the book, the very first thing he states is that the team only gets together when things are exploding. How would the Surfer not have been privy to the experience of a vessel being blasted apart (even with him aboard) as I am sure that such a thing must have happened to him while either in the service of Galactus or else on his own adventures. So I am left wondering just what the heck here is “new” to the Surfer?

The issue ends with the shooting of Iron Fist, and the apparent surrender of the team to Prester John and the Evil Eye (something that will come as a treat for all really old-school Defenders fans- as it was this artifact that led to the Defenders attempt to rescue the Black Knight and thus the impetus for the Avengers / Defenders Clash [War]).

Thus are we left with this cliff-hanger for the next issue. 

-----------WRAP-UP OPINIONS----------

My overall opinion of this issue is a mixed one to say the least. It doesn’t suck outright, but neither is it truly any good. The writing contains SO many character flaws while it attempts to come across as writing “cooler” than it is. The artwork, that at times seems neat and beautiful, at other instances seems to be a rushed mess of weird anatomy and spilled ink. Colors, by Sonia Oback, that enhance the art and story nicely, but the colorist can’t seem to make up her mind about how to handle blacks on reflective surfaces, as some are left on uppermost photoshop layers (to let the black stand out) and other times to have the black layer lie below a color effect layer, to thus mute the black) - oddly, sometimes both on the same page or even same panel or figure! The lettering, by Clayton Cowles, is very good, and utilizes a computer font that looks like a handwritten style.

One nice touch is that each of the characters’ “voices” are given their own color shade, so that you always know who is speaking. Except for one “voice”; the unknown, omniscient narrator, whose text boxes are in yellow. This narration is yet another possible clue as to the nature of the Defenders’ overall mission. Perhaps, this entity is watching their actions from afar? Or, perhaps, as I made mention of my fear, it is the narration of a comic book writer.

Still, the story hums along and gets the team together (mostly, as teasers show Nick Fury and Ant-Man also being a part of the team, if not perhaps a part of this assemblage), and builds to a head by the last page. However, it still feels like a rip-off. A mere 20 pages of comic story (well, comic story build-up) with neither a single true battle, nor spell cast for $3.99? 
Aside from the last 2 pages, NOTHING HAPPENS! I would have been happier paying $5.99 for a double-sized, first issue spectacular where we at least get to SOME sort of SOMETHING happening.

It's just hard for me to imagine finding many DEFENDERS of this type of publishing.


·         * Footnote # 1)

As I had noted in earlier discussion about the comic-book theme that runs through the issue, to have the warning notes (the same notes as found in the “secret messages” of the silhouetted teasers –as I blogged in detail [HERE]); “Shut The Engines Down”, “Everyone You Love Dies”, “The Universe Will Break” and “Fight To Save Everything” along the bottom of the pages, right along with the other comic teaser notes, leads me to believe that they are also hinting that the comic itself is a clue. Or comics themselves. And, if as I (half-jokingly) guessed, that the secret of the Marvel Universe is that it is all a COMIC BOOK UNIVERSE (or something similar), then I just want to scream.

·       **  Footnote # 2)

The minor ‘lost character moment’ of Doctor Strange in the diner is where it is shown that he is drinking ‘Earl Grey’ tea.  The selection of tea, while not a major problem, is indeed a small window into the character of Doctor Strange. In many past appearances, Strange has often shown a preference for ‘Darjeeling’ tea. As opposed to ‘Earl Grey’ tea, a tea with no true ties to China, (but is well-known as the tea of choice for Capt. Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek; Next Generation,) ‘Darjeeling’ is a tea that originated in the Himalayan region of West India (the near-Tibetan region of Bengal, Sikkam and Nepal) where Strange would have learned under the tutelage of the Ancient One, and a tea that would be better for helping him collect himself after his previous evening. Even ‘Oolong’, a traditional Chinese tea, would have been a better selection. As an avid tea drinker, myself, I am partial to many varieties and blends of tea, and have been known to enjoy some ‘Earl Grey’ as well as the other blends I have noted above. Certainly, Stephen Strange can be depicted drinking ‘Earl Grey’ without it being a problem. This is especially so, as the scene takes place in a diner, which are not typically known for a wide selection of teas.

·         ***Footnote # 3)

A nitpick that I have with Marvel currently is that they have little care for past continuity. Even recent continuity. But definitely, anything that has happened before the Quesada-era is up for debate.
In this case, the problem is what to do with Doctor Strange’s manservant; Wong. For much of his history, Wong has been portrayed as the subservient, yet fairly treated, acolyte to a wise man (Strange). Not a stereotypical “chinaman” caricature at all, but not too deeply characterized either. It wasn’t until the mid to late 1980’s that Wong started to get a personality and a semblance of a life; love interests, history, etc… But in the 1990’s Wong turned against his former master because Stephen Strange failed to save the life of Wong’s betrothed; Imei. It set servant against master in a harsh way that by the time that the relationship even remotely started to heal, they were only able to reconcile if as near-equals. No longer did Wong call Strange ‘master’. They were on a first name basis.

But then, Doc lost his series, and appeared mostly in a few mini-series, and in each one, Wong’s relationship and personality changed a little. Sometimes, more of a retread back to his former subservient manner, while in others as a more eccentric personal secretary to the good Doctor. Of course, currently in the Avengers titles, Brian Bendis has chosen to portray Wong in a manner in which he has NEVER been shown; that of the angry, near-stereotypical, Chinese cook - a punch-line and a disrespectful treatment of a character older than many in the M.U.
But here in the DEFENDERS, for that one panel appearance, we have the Wong of old. I have no idea what Matt Fraction has in mind for him. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Doctor Strange : Sorcerer Substandard
Disaster of the Mystic Arts
Master of the Spastic Arts
Master of the Mystic Oops

Fantastic Four # 600, written by Jonathan Hickman with art by Steve Epting, shipped a week or so ago and in the issue was a scene that I wanted to discuss... or... at least show my disgust.

With a surprise invasion of Kree forces, the Fantastic Four attempts to defend Earth and repel the invaders while aided by multitudes of other Earth heroes (99% of them from various "Avengers" teams - especially since nearly all Marvel characters are on at least one Avengers roster).

Among them: Doctor Strange.

Given a suggestion on what to do by Ms. Marvel (since Doctor Strange, while a veteran of superhuman events, and a sorcerer for at least 40 Marvel-time years, hasn't had much experience with interstellar invaders), Dr. Strange affects the vessels ability to defy gravity via a spell cast with his mystic mastery...

... to a less-than masterful execution. And Disastrous results!

Seriously, Marvel. WTF!?

Did Doctor Strange just cause the deaths of untold numbers (both; the HUMANS living in the building and area around the crash as well as the KREE on board) because he screwed up a "basic" gravity spell (casually cast with a snappy quip)?
The only real example of a hero taking down one of the invaders in the issue and it is an epic fail.

So, my question is:
How long are we going to have suffer this screw-up version of Doctor Strange?

Before the modern-era of Joe Quesada / Brian Bendis with the recent additions of Matt Fraction and now Jonathan Hickman, Doctor Strange hasn't ever been this inept. At least not as blatantly.

Certainly, there have been classic adventures, written by the likes of Stan Lee/ Steve Ditko, Steve Englehart, Roger Stern and Peter Gillis (among others) where Doctor Strange has made grievous errors - resulting in terrible consequences. However, in each of those previous tenures, his chroniclers allowed him the ability to rectify those errors, and in doing so, rise and advance his spirit and ability to the next level.
This current crop of "realistic" write-it-to-sell-to-the-Hollywood-grist-mill hacks have neglected to truly connect with the characters; by-passed their history, ignored the true essence of these characters - or even worse, lost all sense of heroism for their characters.

In eras past, if a Marvel hero screwed up this badly, they felt remorse - the plight of the everyman was shown on the page and the grief of the hero was played out for all it was worth (melodrama, yes, but at least the emotion was there). Nowadays, the world seems populated by super-humans only and the cityscapes where they wreak their havoc are as soulless as the so-called "heroes".
Regular people are rarely shown and if they are, they are backdrops against which the "real" characters get to run rampant.

Nowhere in the issue is a reaction shot of Stephen Strange, possibly showing his grief at being a cause of such devastation. Not one. This may be more the blame of the artist than writer, but I am willing to bet good money that such a follow-up was not in the script.

I just want to apologize to Steve Ditko for this.
I am complicit in my continued assent, by spending money on this assassination of the heroic ideal.
But, it is only due to my love for the character that HE created, and my eternal hope that once more, a sense of greatness and grandeur can be returned to Stephen Strange.

Sorry Mr. Ditko.
Marvel owes you more apologies than can be counted.