Tuesday, January 31, 2012



The "Sancty"


These awards are to be awarded to the BEST (and WORST) of what 02011 had to offer for the devoted, die-hard, discriminating (and/or desperate, as the case usually is,) Doctor Strange /  "6-Dimensions" fan!

This year's awards are the most detailed, discussion-intensive (meaning: LONG) incarnation of the Sanctys than ever before. (See what happens when there's no orchestra to play loud music in order to move the show along? Or a giant hook to pull me away from the keyboard?)

Let's get to it, shall we?



GOOD Doctor Strange appearances are a rare thing indeed.
Sadly, these days (years), with the handicapping that Doctor Strange has to endure from Marvel, even if he does have a good appearance, it’s hardly ever great.
Still, even this year, there were some appearances that rose to the top of the heap and cast a favorable spotlight on Doctor Strange and the rest, and in some cases from surprising sources.

Here are a few of the top contenders:

The Runner ups:

- INCREDIBLE HULKS # 633-635 (“Heart of the Monster” story arc : parts 4-6) -
The “Heart of the Monster” arc, awesomely written by Greg Pak and lavishly drawn by Paul Pellitier, Danny Miki & Morry Hollowell, was the final storyline that wrapped up the old Incredible HULK series, so it HAD to be something BIG. In it, a mystical macguffin, in the form of a wishing-well, grants the heart’s desires to a plethora of Hulk villains and assorted heroic Hulks of varying hue and gender.

Due to the fact that it is magic, and thus, not a straightforward artifact, much like the tale of the Monkey’s Paw, the wishes you ask for are granted, but with some mellifluent twist. You wish for an apple, you get a rotten apple. And so on.
Thus, many of the wishes made by the Hulk’s foes actually cause Hulk to be granted HIS fondest desire, (or at least, what would truly be best for him,) and that would be to be tossed headlong into the Dark Dimension as the lover-king of Umar (Queen of the dimension, sister of the Dread Dormammu and one-time sexual partner of the green goliath [Defenders mini-series 2005]). There, Hulk is able to smash and kill as many demonic hoards and Mindless Ones as could serve his pleasure.

This is where Doctor Strange’s involvement comes into play. As one who has done so to the Hulk twice already (in the classic Hulk # 300 & the much more recent ‘Planet Hulk’ storyline), Strange believes that banishment is indeed the BEST thing for Hulk, yet at the urging of Amadeus Cho, Rick Jones and Jennifer (She-Hulk) Walters, he acquiesces that perhaps a rescue mission – or at least a fact-finding recon - might be called for.

To that end, Dr. Strange opens a portal to the Dark Dimension so that he, along with Amadeus Cho, as well as the leading authority of ancient mythological magic and the ‘scientist supreme’ of A.I.M., may go forth with another macguffin (a scientific one to help parse the mystic one) to make sure that the Hulk is safe and happy (or else bring him back home). Once in the realm of Umar, everyone’s garb is transformed into a D&D cosplay (for no apparent reason other than it is humorous to have Cho call out Doc for probably possessing any number of multi-sided die), and they find that Hulk is indeed in his element. Except for the fact that Betty “Red-She-Hulk” Ross, Tyrannus and Fin Fang Foom are hell-bent on slaying the green gargantuan.

One serious flaw in the story had it where the Dark Dimension was uninhabited, save for a legion of orcs and demons. Whatever happened to the vast populace of humanoids (like Dr. Strange’s former love; Clea, and those she sought to protect)? Did they migrate away to a pocket-dimension? Were they all killed off at some unknown time? This plot point turns out to be important to the story, but for the sake of convenience (or perhaps the fulfillment of a “wish”) there are no innocents left in the dimension.

At the end of it all, Doctor Strange stops time(!) and pulls forth the astral form of Bruce Banner to ask if this new life-path is indeed what he wants.

I won’t give it all away, but this arc (and the last issue especially) is so jam-packed full of gamma-irradiated goodness, it is a bravura work by all! While a multi-issue arc, this is NOT some watered-down,  decompressed-storytelling yawn-fest with talking heads and snail’s pace story progression. Oh, Hell No. Each issue is filled-to-bursting with action, high-concepts, characterization and Hulk-worthy, powerful artwork (and did I mention all the SMASHING?) – reading more like a comic from the high-points of the 1980’s than anything today. And… Doctor Strange – alone of ALL heroes - was there as a major player.
If there was a little more for Doc to do here, this could have been the winner of this category.

- AMAZING SPIDER-MAN # 673 (“Spider-Island” : Epilogue) -
This is a minor Dr. Strange appearance as far as overall length is concerned, but in terms of impact, it is a critical one. Writer Dan Slott puts the final nail into the coffin of the ‘One More Day / One Moment In Time’ “no-one-can-learn-Spidey’s-secret-identity” bologna, as Doc is called out by Peter Parker because someone had discovered the dual-identity of the web-slinger. Doc appears in his astral form (hey, he’s busy and can’t always be around to be Parker’s personal prestidigitator) and tells Peter that he has no one to blame but himself. I’ve seen numerous treatments of Strange’s astral form, and this one is one of the best; beautifully rendered by artist Stefano Caselli – with the truly perfect touch by colorist Frank Martin, wherein the shaded pencil art is partially transformed in “reverse” (things that are black are now white, and shades of grey are now hues of blues) and gives a wonderfully full, yet intangible look to Strange’s ectoplasmic personage.

This appearance is nominated almost purely on the beauty of the artistic representation, with a bonus being the fact that Doc finally tells Peter Parker “no more magic-reset-button”. But, that’s not enough for this to actually win.

- FEAR ITSELF : THE DEEP (4 issue mini) -
During the ‘Fear Itself’ “event”, there were several spin-off tales which elaborated of the rise of the Asgardian “Serpent” and his empowering via magic hammers of his emissaries; the “Worthy” in an attempt to overcome Asgard and the Earth. One such mini was ‘The Deep’, which told of the specific rise of the Atlantian warlord; Attuma. As evidenced by the samples of the original art that was leaked online, the working title for this series was “Fear Itself : Defenders”, as it was an unofficial reuniting of the Defenders. Basically, Attuma attacks Atlantis and Namor isn’t up to the task of taking him down solo. Thus, with the X-Men otherwise occupied, Namor seeks the aid of his OTHER old team, and calls to Doctor Strange for aid.

Strange then sends out a mystical summons for “the defenders”, but due to the ad-hoc nature of his improvised spell it seeks out even those who are only tangential to the team (as Strange says; “My gifts are not what they once were… I’m afraid I’ve had to learn to be a little more CREATIVE when it comes to spell-casting.”) . Thus, since the Hulk is one of the possessed “Worthy”, the spell brings forth Lyra, the Hulk’s alternate-world daughter, herself a ‘Savage She-Hulk’, to the group. Also arriving is the Silver Surfer to round off a new Defenders line-up which also includes Loa; the neophyte mutant/Atlantian.

Writer Collin Bunn weaves a standard tale, with nothing truly outstanding about it, but since it was most likely an assignment to fill out a basic spin-off to a company-wide “event” he probably didn’t have a whole lot to work with (and maybe not a lot of time to conceive of anything epic).
What Bunn DOES do is to bring back the Defenders’ very FIRST villainous entities; the Undying Ones. For this, he gets thanks from me, as they are the type of Lovecraftian horrors which Doctor Strange and the Defenders should spend most of their time battling. He also writes a very capable Stephen Strange, who is powerful and resourceful, while still retaining some limitations – all without resorting to any uncharacteristic or unnecessary incompetence or hindering hamstringing. Bunn also tosses in just enough levity and one-liners to make the otherwise tense scenario feel like a Defenders tale of old.
The artwork by Lee Garbett and David Meikis is of varying quality – some times, quite good, and other times, fairly basic – but the colors of John Rouch really help to make it all shine, figuratively and literally and adds depth to ‘the Deep’.

Aside from the Undying Ones, Strange also needs to do mystic battle against Aradnea, a mystically born and bred, BDSM fetish-garbed hottentot, to be the conduit for the Undying Ones. Strange is able to defeat her (and also win a few other skirmishes) by using a variation of a spell that should sound familiar to anyone who had watched the made-for-tv pilot Dr. Strange movie from the 1970’s. I had to wonder if Bunn did that intentionally. I’d like to think so.

- AVENGERS # 11-12 -
This next contender comes from a source that, while often on the “Worst of” lists, also occasionally reaches “Best of” heights; Brian Michael Bendis - and he makes the list this time with the Avengers.

With the villainous ‘Hood’ on the loose, collecting the all-powerful Infinity Gems – which were supposedly well-hidden by the secret cabal known as the ‘Illuminati’ (Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Namor, Black Bolt, Professor Xavier and Doctor Strange), it becomes a race to prevent the Hood from finding all 6 gems and reforming the Infinity Gauntlet, which would make him the supreme power of the universe.

The Illuminati and the various Avengers teams are out to prevent this from happening, and at one point, after all assorted teams have united, a ploy is put into effect.
Doctor Strange disguises himself as Thanos and confronts the Hood, one-on-one, on another dimensional plane. A nice gambit. Sadly, Strange doesn’t quite pull off an all-convincing impersonation, and the Hood knows that this is a bad bluff.
This nifty feint is one of the only stellar points of the arc, as the rest is filled with the usual tropes of having the heroes fail on so many levels, and the pumping up the big-bad’s apparent threat-level. The sloppy-looking artwork of John Romita Jr. and Klaus Jansen doesn’t help matters, but didn’t factor in to this nomination.
Just one good bit. Worthy of mention.

However, that really ISN’T all there was to the issue worth mentioning.
In the back of the various Avengers titles, around that time, was a written “Oral History” of the Avengers, relating ‘interviews’ with the various team members about the various points of the team’s existence. In issue # 11 the first meetings with the Defenders is told, and Bendis writes an excellent, short “spoken-reply” as said by Dr. Stephen Strange. Suddenly, Bendis shows that he sort of ‘GETS’ Dr. Strange. If only his handling of the character were always as positive.

- NEW AVENGERS v2 # 9 -
Another Brian Bendis comic in a “Best of” category! However, I don’t know how much of what I liked about Dr. Strange’s appearance in this issue is the work of writer; Bendis, and how much was the work of artist; Mike Deodato. In Bendis’ corner are some good usages of Astral Projection for reconnaissance purposes, and an effective spell of illusion to rout several goons. In Deodato’s corner is a dark, creepy and ominous panel showing Doctor Strange, Wolverine, The Thing and Spider-Man all lurking, menacingly in the darkness as they enter the lair of the villains. Strange being portrayed as a spectre, chiaroscuro-laden, with only his eyes glowing white in the darkness… I love it! I don’t know if that was dictated in the script, or if it was purely an artistic choice.
Either way, this issue, while not being anything overly amazing by any regard, still grants Doctor Strange one of his best appearances of the year.

- NEW AVENGERS – Annual # 1 -
Yet another all-too-brief, yet noteworthy showing of Doctor Strange by Bendis, takes place when the Avengers are being decimated by the REvengers, and Dr. Strange casts a spell of firey illusion that sends Ultra-Man running. However, it adds to nothing overall as the team is handed their asses and Doc is buried under debris of the destroyed Avengers Mansion. Illusion spells seem to be one of the only things that Doc is able to do with any level of success in Bendis’ “care”. Doc’s good showing was a mere two panels, but the art of Gabrielle Del’Otto helped to sell it.

The WINNER(S) – for the 1st time in SANCTY history, an Unbreakable TIE!:



*WINNER # 2*

The reasons:

A one-shot issue that told the untold tale of Doctor Strange’s first night in his Sanctum Sanctorum.
Originally created back in 1998 for the late, lamented “Marvel Universe” series, this story was heretofore unseen, due to that previous series’ cancellation.  Written by the esteemed Strange-scribe; Roger Stern, penciled by Neil Vokes with inks by Jay Geldhof, this issue stands tall above almost everything else put on the market this year.
Once again, decades after he last wrote the ongoing exploits of Stephen Strange, Roger Stern shows that he still groks Doc better than most every other writer in Marvel’s current stable. Sure, this story might have been plotted and illustrated over 10 years ago, but Stern scripted it shortly before it saw print in 2011, so he proves that a classic handling of Doctor Strange CAN be achieved.
Even where the art or story may be slightly weak or lacking, (a few points in the script seem too simplistic, and the cartoony art style unfortunately lessens the impact of the story, giving it a “youth audience” sort of vibe, instead of the “Strange Tales” era that it looked to portray,) isn't enough to knock this issue from receiving a top honor.
I was concerned when I saw that on the cover, the colorist incorrectly paints Doc’s old cloak in red, when it should be a deep, rich blue. I was SO glad to have my fear allayed by the cloak being colored blue in the interior. I wonder if an editor just didn’t know that the tale was supposed to be set back when Doc was wearing his old cloak, or if they thought that the bright red cloak was more recognizable, and as such, allowed the incorrect color to be applied as an attempt to grab better sales.
Sadly, the EYE was wrong though... it should have been the square one (or the overly ornate round "fried egg" version as seen in Strange Tales # 110).
But that is a MINOR nit, easily glossed over as an artistic hiccup.

Stern gives us a throw-back to the classic Doctor Strange; he of the rhyming spell and using his brain to defeat a more powerful foe.
I can’t truthfully let it have the top spot by itself because it IS an older story that should have seen print over 10 years ago, and is thus not a true representative of the current publishing scheme of Marvel’s handling of Doctor Strange. More so’s the pity.


*WINNER # 1*

The reasons:

This comic, more so than the previous winner (Doctor Strange : From the Vault # 1) shows how, even being handed a power-weak, editorially kneecapped Stephen Strange, a good writer can turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse… or a pointy dunce-cap into a star-encrusted wizard’s cap.
First of all, to start off the issue, Doc is shown as having made magic doorway from Avengers Mansion to his Sanctum Sanctorum.
Jeff Parker fixes, in one panel, what Bendis screwed up so royally in New Avengers v2. # 7 (re: Doc's living arrangements – see “worst of” category below). In this way, Parker sets up an elegant solution to Bendis' ham-fisted handling of the former Sorcerer Supreme, by allowing Strange to actually live in his own home, all the while permitting other writers' (Bendis) to have Doc keep a room in the Avengers' mansion.

But that’s not all Parker was able to do so magnificently. Next, despite the fact that in most other appearances, written by…others with Doctor Strange usually depicted as being nearly useless, in this issue of Thuderbolts Jeff Parker gives us a mildly powerful, very resourceful, confident and still knowledgeable sorcerer of no minor skill. Even better, Parker’s Stephen Strange is shown to not only be able to cast complex spells, as well as some interesting uses of minor magic, but is also always one mental step ahead of his foes. This harkens back to Strange’s earliest adventures in the original Strange Tales series by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko, when for all his abilities, Strange would have to somehow defeat much more powerful entities than he is – and usually did so through guile and bluff as much as he did so by powerful sorcery.
The artwork by Kev Walker, and colors by Frank Martin are a visual delight. And with the only exception in that Walker gives Dr. Strange a Joseph Stalin mustache, there is nothing I would change about the artwork.
Adding to the enjoyment of the issue is the quest to recruit Satana, the wonderful use and newfound respect for Man-Thing and the logical assistance of the Son of Satan, all mixed in with interesting locales and imaginative usage of powers.
To top off the entire issue’s greatness are the excellent words of wisdom that Jeff Parker has Strange speak of concerning the nature of magic.
EVERY Marvel writer should read this issue and take its example to heart.
*As this issue was the BEST new work featuring Dr. Strange, you really should check out my love-note to this comic - featuring my in-depth review, with scans, high praise and verbal genuflecting – [HERE]



Far, far too many this year (much like last year, and the year before that, and the year before that...). And I didn't even include ALL of the bad ones...

The Runner ups:

- NEW AVENGERS v2 # 7 -
In case you thought I was going soft on Brian Bendis (awarding him numerous nominations for “Best of” categories), I assure you that he did not fail to… FAIL… in his handling of Doctor Strange – and thus garners several “Worst of” nominations as well.
New Avengers # 7 could almost get a pass, as the treatment of Doctor Strange is, at first, merely to securely place him on the team roster, and treats him – for the most part – with the respect and deference that he deserves. The issue shows Strange, slowly awakening in a bedroom at Avengers mansion, (after sleeping for 15 hours to recuperate from the night of the battle with “Agamotto” [see last year’s Sancty’s [HERE] where the arc “won” the “WORST of” category, or the in-depth review of the battle-issues [HERE]],) and joining the rest of the team in the dining room. He is greeted by all with warm regards and open arms in their hopes of helping him through a difficult time. Every one of them is in his debt, and he is apologetic that the weirdness of his life has intruded upon theirs yet again. Up to this point it’s all good.
Then, after the team tries to get Strange to stay at the mansion and become an Avenger (after some “yes, but” and “no, because” back-and-forth) Bendis has Strange act all mopey and say, as if defeated; “It’s just been so hard…” Right there, we see the “torn-down” version of Stephen Strange that Brian Bendis has been cultivating over the past many appearances of the character under the writer’s tenure.
Stephen Strange has been down-and-out on many different occasions – something that he actually admits to in the dialogue – and yes, even to the point of having his confidence shaken - but each time, Strange was treated as a hero who could pull himself up by his own bootstraps and stride forth into the unknown, to begin anew (usually forsaking even the assistance of his own surrounding supporting cast).
The defeated, dejected Stephen Strange is NOT why I read of his exploits. If I want to see the “realism” of someone beaten and struggling to get back on their feet I’ll look at my own life the past bunch of years, or watch the news and bear witness to the plight of many in this country, if not the world. I look to comic book superheroes for an escape from the realism of life, not to always have it reflected back on me. And if the heroes’ lives are to be realistic (one of the reasons Marvel has always been so popular) then at least let the heroes ACT heroically in the face of misfortune and show a positive role model for us all.
This attitude of mine might be seen as a selfish, personal problem, and one that should have no place in a “best of / worst of” assessment, but I disagree. I am sure that there are many fans of Doctor Strange (or any other heroic character) that doesn’t want to see him behave as if defeated. It’s ok to get knocked down. It’s ok to maybe have a hard time getting back to your feet. It’s ok to admit to your friends that you might need help. But, it sucks to be shown in a totally out-of-character manner of being a sad-sack.

Far, far better would have been if Bendis had Strange mourn the passing of his friend (Doctor Voodoo), the demise of his ‘god’ (Agamotto) and the loss of his entrusted item of power (the Eye of Agamotto), instead of moaning how hard it has been. And yet, as bad as those losses are, Strange has endured similar tragic events over his history; he has had friends, lovers and comrades-in-arms perish, he has lost the support and been forsaken by his ‘gods’ and has lost – or thought destroyed – the artifacts of his office. And he found ways around those obstacles. But here, Bendis continues his knock-down of Stephen Strange in order to squeeze him onto a team of street-level heroes.

Aside from this, the issue also gets a “worst of” nod because in it, Bendis has Doc and Wong move in to the mansion, despite the fact that in many other comics at that time, it was shown that Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum was actually habitable and being repaired. Just once again, Bendis writing what Bendis wants, without acknowledging the other books in the shared Marvel universe.
 Luckily, we had Jeff Parker and the Thunderbolts title (issue # 155) to straighten out the whole debacle, in an applauded, efficient and elegant (and as seen above, in a WINNING of the “BEST OF”) manner.

- NEW AVENGERS v2 # 10 -
Doctor Strange can't medically treat, mystically heal or transport gunshot victim; Mockingbird, to a Hospital? He needs to use a phone to call 911? Really? Can I tell you how many times in the past Strange was able to do such things for injured teammates? Yes. Yes I can. But, that was before the days where he lost his mantle as Sorcerer Supreme and before Marvel dictated to stop using Doctor Strange as a Deus ex Machina, and Bendis interpreted that to mean; “Doctor Strange can’t do much”.
This is only a minor nit to pick, as at least Doc is shown casting a somewhat affective health-boost spell to keep Mockingbird alive in order for an ambulance to arrive. I’ll say that maybe Mockingbird’s condition was so critical that she wouldn’t be stable enough to survive the stress of teleportation – even with some kind of mystical stasis. Of course, Bendis never actually WRITES such a thing, and it is, once again, left to the reader to fill in the blanks. I can understand modern writers trying to get away from the extensive exposition that the comics of yesteryear would use to fill the mouths of characters. However, since Bendis seems to be able to have his characters speak so much jibber-jabber and smack-talk and pages of stammering, repetitive “Bendis-speak”, would it hurt to toss in just a little of what is actually going on for the sake of the reader?

Behind a beautiful cover that shows Doctor Strange conducting a class at the Academy while in another dimension and beset by a tentacle-monster, (the header banner across the top of the comic touts; “Magic 101”,) Doctor Strange’s appearance in the issue is a mere, boring, single panel of him looking at the magic medallion of teammate; Reptil. I give it a grade of: FAIL.

The wrap-up to the “Chaos War” arc, this issue has Doctor Strange overcome, once again, by the evil energies of the demon; Zom, whose essence Strange had ingested in order to try to battle the Worldbreaker Hulk (during the World War Hulk storyline). As is the case when one hero appears in another’s title, Strange can not defeat the big-bad of the story, or even overcome his own tormentor, without the assistance of the titular hero (or in this case, his entourage). In fact, through the issue (and those before this one), Strange is transformed into an actual lackey to the main villain; the Chaos King. Sure, they let Doc have the credit for fighting off the Zom-force just enough for the others to break him free, but it was still very, very little – far, far too late.
*For more on the Doc/Zom Hulks story – see last year’s worst-of entry [HERE]

This “lost” story tells the tale of the Defenders’ routing an alien invasion. The invasion is of a psychic nature and the Defenders are called to action as a by-product of the curse that affected them at the time (as the story was originally written as a fill-in for the 2001-era Defenders series). However, since their minds were in thrall to the alien invaders, the Defenders’ bodies were inhabited by the minds of 4 slackers who were unaffected by the mental attack (either high on marijuana or loaded on Red-Bull). So, this issue tells a Defenders story that, for the majority of the issue, is WITHOUT the actual Defenders!
Even with that taken into account, and the various storytelling angles that arise from such a tale, it, sadly, wasn’t all that good a story. Kurt Busiek scripted the issue many years after it was drawn by Mark Bagley from a plot by Fabien Necieza. According to the afterward, the original plot/script was lost and neither the artist nor the original writer could remember what it was about. So, Busiek wrote a brand new story from what he “read” from the illustrations. The fact that he produced a workable and somewhat original tale is a commendation to just how good Kurt Busiek can be. Sadly, it was just a bit disappointing since, in this day and age with the lack of good, respectful treatments for Doctor Strange (and the Defenders), that this was a missed opportunity. It could have been a drastically different story (although, there’s no telling if it would have been better or worse.)

- POINT ONE # 1 – (Dr. Strange in: “The SHAMAN of GREENWICH VILLAGE” – Defenders prelude)
One of seven short stories presented in this anthology issue is a Doctor Strange tale that is a prelude to the new Defenders series. While setting up the scenario of the “Concordance Engine”, Matt Fraction introduces (and kills off) a waste of a character; “Notebook Joe”, who serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever except to show that Matt Fraction has almost no insight into Doctor Strange’s character or history. Terry and Rachel Dodson’s artwork is rushed-looking and cartoony (which wouldn’t be a problem if it were intended or consistently so).
I won’t wax on too much about this entry as I have a full critique/review/rant in a previous blog entry [HERE].

- DEFENDERS v4 # 1 -
Matt Fraction writes an off-character version of Doctor Strange, complete with a sexual impropriety, out-of-character behavior and stilted dialogue. Terry and Rachel Dodson render uneven illustrations of same. This would have been a sure shoo-in for “winner” of the Worst, if not for the fact that I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt that Doctor Strange’s poor treatment and behavior is a part of the negative effects of the demonic entity; Nul, being manifest on Earth. If not, with all that is wrong with the treatment of Doctor Strange (seriously, read my review [HERE])… this would be THE Worst.

The "Winner":

- FANTASTIC FOUR # 600 (“Forever”) -
The Fantastic Four and all assorted Avengers are trying to ward off a Kree invasion of New York City, and while all the various heroes are shown to be in some way fighting against the Kree soldiers, only Doctor Strange is shown to actually take down one of the Kree Armada Warships. However, because the new rule at Marvel is: ‘Doctor Strange can’t be too powerful’, many writers show him as being fairly inept.
And so, writer Jonathan Hickman has Doctor Strange cast a gravity spell to ground one of the warships, only for the trajectory to be all wrong and instead of landing in the ocean, the spaceship crashes into a row of residential apartment buildings, on a busy street (most likely with storefronts on the main level) and kills untold number of men, women, children (and alien Kree).
After that tragic mistake, we do not get a panel of Strange feeling remorse or any statement that “the buildings were already evacuated, no one was hurt”. And we never see Strange again in the issue (or any subsequent issues in the storyline).
 *See review/rant : Doctor Strange; Sorcerer Substandard - Disaster of the Mystic Arts, Master of the Spastic Arts, Master of the Mystic Oops [HERE]


BEST "6-dimensions" APPEARANCE (hero):

The Runner ups:

- The Defenders in: Fear Itself : The Deep (mini-series) -
While not their best showing, the Defenders get treated fairly well in this mini-series spin-off to the ‘Fear Itself’ event. Feeling like a Defenders issue of old, this tale hits some of the high points of the team’s usual adventures;
One of their number needs help and calls for the others to join in the battle.
Battling against the Undying Ones and demonic hoards.
Just enough snark and humor to make it fun.
Still, despite the fact that this mini-series felt a little uninspired, as it was hampered by the fact that it was an editorially-mandated spin-off instead of an organically cultivated idea, it was still fairly good. Good enough that it did win an honorable mention in the “Best of” Doctor Strange appearance category, and is also deserving of the same “runner-up” status in this category as well.

- The Last Defenders in: Vengeance (mini-series) -
With the advent of the return of the “classic” Defenders to a proper title, one of the most recent previous incarnations of the team; the “Last Defenders”, might have been thought to have been written off by Marvel. The team, consisting of: She-Hulk, Son of Satan, Warlord Krang, and a new Nighthawk – all under the guiding hand of original Nighthawk; Kyle Richmond, are shown to be active as a covert, super-secret, high-concept superhero team embroiled in a clandestine plot dealing with a new generation of Super Heroes, the multiple layers that exist in the villainous hierarchy, trips to other dimensions and the existence of a teenage incarnation of the In-Betweener. To say that this mini-series is so outside the oeuvre of Marvel’s current publishing style is an understatement. However, it was just that “do what you want, no one is watching” attitude that let writer JOE CASEY and artist NICK DRAGOTTA to fashion a truly fascinating tale.
While the Last Defenders have only a supporting role in the story, they play an important one nevertheless, and are treated with seriousness and respect all around.

- The In-Betweener in: Vengeance (mini-series) -
OK. Did you read the previous entry? Yup. Same goodness. But c’mon… the IN-BETWEENER! As a teenage emo-goth type with cosmic awareness. It’s crazy fun!

- Ikon; the Spaceknight in : Annihilators (mini-series) -
OK. It’s not ROM; Spaceknight. With all of the legal red-tape surrounding that property, it’ll be a few more years until there might be any headway into a return of ROM. Still, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning bring a Spaceknight into high profile – standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a Guardians of the Galaxy team of cosmic heavy-weights; Beta-Ray Bill, Silver Surfer, Quasar, Gladiator and Ronan the Accuser. Better yet, Ikon is a female warrior and more than equal to any of the men on the team. As a bonus, artist Tan Eng Huat seems to have deliberately modeled Ikon’s Galadorian armor to look as close to ROM’s as possible (within the boundary of copyright).

- Valkyrie in: Fear Itself : The Fearless (mini-series) –
Valkyrie is such a tragic comic character. While her actual canonical history and life-story is filled with grief and death (some of that history is told in this series), but her actual published history is spotty and filled with missteps and false-starts. She may have long been a member of the classic Defenders (the longest-serving member actually), but her role therein was still fairly uninspired for most of that time.  However, now, after a resurgence in popularity with appearances in a few mini-series and other projects, and alongside her new tenure being a member of the Secret Avengers, Valkyrie is being given a time to shine. Taking on the majority of the Marvel Heroes in order to collect the lost hammers of the Asgardian serpent, Valkyrie is on a mission that will show her to be one of the strongest, bravest, most dynamic heroes that Marvel has to offer.

- Scarlet Witch in: Avengers : Children’s Crusade (mini-series) -
Look. I love the Scarlet Witch. Sue me. And this mini-series features her official return to the Marvel universe after several years of being an amnesiac in hiding (or whatever the heck Brian Bendis was attempting to portray in his apparently aborted storyline from the New Avengers issues a few years ago). Writer Allan Heinberg weaves a tale that has Wanda romantically involved with Doctor Doom (!), and is trying to rectify the harm she committed during “House of M”. The intrigue is ratcheted up from there as she is sought by “her sons”; Speed & Wiccan, of the Young Avengers, and is hunted by the X-Men and the Avengers. The fact that the issues (and Wanda) are beautifully drawn by Jim Cheung and Mark Morales makes this the first book I crack open when it arrives. Unfortunately, with a publication schedule of every other month (when it isn’t late by a thirdmonth), that wait is too long for me to endure.

- Man-Thing  in : Thunderbolts # 154 -
Much like my love for the following issue (#155 – which won “BEST OF” for the Doctor Strange appearance) this issue’s treatment of Man-Thing shows him as a heroic entity, not just a walking plot-device, with the ability to empathically know what is the right thing to do. Saving the lives of innocents from an other-dimensional hunting expedition and then returning to his “friends” in the Thunderbolts was a touching tale that paints Man-Thing as part-hero, part-faithful-companion, part-man, part-thing.
Also, the appearance and devotion of his long-time friend (and pseudo girl-friend), and sorceress; Jennifer Kale was most welcome. She tries to rescue him from his apparent abductors to allow him to return to the Nexus to perform his cosmic duties as its guardian, only to find that he wants to live with the T-bolts, for there, with them, he has at long last… found a home.
*See my love note to the issue [HERE].

The Winner:

- Satana  in : Thunderbolts # 155-167 -
I hear you saying; “But Satana isn’t a HERO!” Ah… but that’s the wonder of her characterization here. While she is traditionally a villainess, a succubus born to Satan himself, she is shown in this title to be a cross-purpose hero. Sometimes doing what might seem to be the bad thing, but strangely, for the most part, on the side of doing what is right. I know I should pick a single issue or arc to focus on, but truthfully, Satana’s character has been an ever-growing treatment in the pages of Thunderbolts.  Whether her devoted fascination for the Man-Thing (or as she calls him; the Vagornis Koth), her Machiavellian machinations, or her innovative uses of sorcery, Jeff Parker has been bestowing upon Satana some serious love and attention.
From her earliest printed appearances, Satana has been an ever-changing tabula rasa. Each writer bestows some generic demonic aspect upon her, but her abilities, alliances, allegiance and alignment (good, evil, chaotic neutral, neutral evil, etc…) fluctuate wildly. Jeff Parker has an explanation for that; she CAN be good, but the demonic aspect of her soul sometimes flares up out of control. Parker’s Satana seems more interested in the mystical variation of “the scientific process”, wherein she likes to try experimental spells and see what happens. Her etching of the “world song” on the body of the Man-Thing which led to his evolution, her casting runes on Ghost to allow the team to venture into a inner-dimensional mindscape, her mystically greenhousing the Man-Thing’s essence into a doppelganger and using the energies of the Nexus of All Realities to allow for the entire Thunderbolts Tower to move through time and space… ALL of these things (and her infectiously wild nature and sexy attributes) are an absolute delight to watch unfold.
Like the song by SANTANA says;
I got a Black Magic Woman
Yes, I got a Black Magic Woman
She's got me so blind I can't see
But she's a Black Magic Woman and
she's trying to make a devil out of me


WORST "6-dimensions" APPEARANCE (hero):

The Runner Ups:

- Defenders : From The Vault # 1 -
As I detailed in the above category of; “Worst Dr. Strange appearance”, this comic also earns a dubious nomination for worst appearance by “6-dimensions” characters; the Defenders.
As noted above – the majority of the issue deals with 4 normal college kids operating in the bodies of the Defenders. So, it’s a comic that doesn’t really even have the team in it. Nice idea, but not worth the cover price or the loss of an actual Defenders story.

- Brandy Clark in : Annihilators (mini-series) -
The wife and love of ROM; Spaceknight (and Queen of planet Galador), Brandy Clark is portrayed in a sometimes negative manner, as she is a dupe to a Skrull disguised as a Dire Wraith sorcerer; Dr. Dredd.
There are some positive aspects to her appearance in the mini, such as her willingness to once again become a cyborg Spaceknight in order to defend her world, but for the most part she is treated badly.

- Mortigan Goth; Immortalis & Marjorie Brink in : Wolverine: Best There Is # 2-6, 11 & 12 -
Last year, I nominated issue # 1 of this series for the same reason, Mortigan Goth; Immortalis having been reduced from an elegant, tragic soul to a punk rock, S&M, pain-junkie. And in the following issues he is joined by Marjorie Brink (one of Doctor Strange’s former loves – check out her listing in my epic post detailing every romantic partner of Stephen Strange [HERE]), and she is reduced to a number-crunching, emotionally-detached slave to the series’ villainous mastermind by writer Charlie Huston and artist Juan Jose Ryp.
The only justice being that the series (which earn the name; Wolverine: The WORST There Is) sucked so badly that it was cancelled at issue 12. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

- Dr. Druid in : Secret Avengers # 20 -
During a multi-layered time-jumping adventure, the Black Widow seeks out Doctor Anthony Ludgate Druid, a mere 36-hours before his death at the hands of Son-of-Satan, to learn that she can close a time-warp-loop-portal with a large enough explosion. Druid then follows up with a very odd statement. He says, during mystic combat, sorcerers don’t do anything more than toss various types of radiation at each other – irradiating one another, and that one can do much the same with an explosion as one might with runes and chicken-bones. Reading this one-page appearance made me want to toss some radiation at writer Warren Ellis. Oddly enough, Ellis was the one who penned the excellent 1995 DRUID mini-series that set up Dr. Druid as a serious mystical threat (well… before Ellis had Hellstorm kill him off at the end).

- Wong in : Avengers # 18 -
Bendis portrays Wong as a somewhat stereotypical, totally out-of-character, butcher-knife-wielding, angry-Asian-chef who threatens to cut off Avenger’s butler; Jarvis’ #%&@ if Jarvis ever ventures into Wong’s kitchen. But that’s not the worst mistreatment Wong has had to suffer at the pen of Bendis.
No, that is next…

- Wong in : New Avengers Annual # 1 -
In this annual, Wong is only present for 2 panels, but Bendis makes sure to make it the worst appearance Wong ever had the misfortune of enduring. During an attack of Avengers Mansion by the REvengers, the house is shaken from its foundations by a frontal attack by giant-sized villain; Atlas. While all the other Avengers are dramatically tossed about the rooms of the house, Wong is shown, as a 1 panel comedy-relief, stuck on the toilet with a towel and various toiletries tossed loose having landed on his head. His spoken; “What now?” being exactly how I felt when seeing this.
Then, to add insult to injury, as the Avengers are shown charging out to do battle, Wong, in his 2nd panel appearance, is shown stuck in the bathroom, unable to open the door.
All throughout Bendis’ tenure as “caretaker” to Dr. Strange and Wong, he has treated Wong as 1-dimensional, and just when I thought that Bendis couldn’t lay Wong any lower… I am proven wrong.

The "Winner":

- Man-Thing, Howard the Duck & Nighthawk in : Fear Itself : Fearsome Four (mini-series) -
Good grief! Where even to begin? All right… the ‘Fear Itself’ “event” that brought the Asgardian god of fear to Earth caused an all-pervasive wave of terror to overwhelm everyone on the planet and you know what they say; “Whosoever Knows Fear… BURNS at The Touch of The MAN-THING”! So, in what should have been a no-brainer move, Marvel made sure that Man-Thing would have some substantial part to play in the big picture. Certainly, it would make some sense that if fear was uncontrollable and escalating, that the Man-Thing’s empathic nature would be overloaded, to some drastic and devastating outcome – such as Man-Thing going on a rampage in New York City to randomly kill or maim whomever’s path should cross his. Among those whose paths would deliberately cross Manny’s would be; Howard the Duck, She-Hulk, Nighthawk and Frankenstein’s Monster; an ad-hoc team dedicated to bringing Man-Thing down peacefully.
With artwork by the likes of such veterans as Michael William Kaluta, Tom Grummett and Simon Bisley, and relative newcomers like Tim Green, Ryan Bodenheim and Ray-Anthony Height, that sounds like it should be pretty good, right?
Unfortunately, what was put to print was such an abomination of poor characterization, multiple miss-matched artistic styles and a poor underlying plot (with glaring canonical errors) that this entire mini-series was one of the worst things published in 2011. One problem is that an untested writer was put at the helm and strove for more than he was able or could reasonably hope to achieve.
Man-Thing is showing powers that he hadn’t ever before exhibited (something that has been done fairly often lately since he joined the Thunderbolts), Howard the Duck is involved in a nigh-impossible ret-con and is acting totally out of character (with no real explanation except that he wants to save his “friend”, Man-Thing), Kyle Richmond is again dressed as Nighthawk and is acting like an out-of-his-mind “Christian-Bale-as-Batman” type of gritty vigilante (which, I’ll give a pass as being a by-product of the ‘Fear Itself’ wave of terror) despite the fact that he has bequeathed the identity to another (as seen in “Last Defenders” and “Vengeance” mini-series).
I can’t go into this mini too much or my head will explode. Suffice it to say, there’s so much bad stuff here that almost no amount of the good parts can redeem the rest.


BEST "6-dimensions" APPEARANCE (villain):

The Runner Ups:

- Dire Wraiths in : Fantastic Four  &  FF  -
Truthfully, the Wraiths don’t make much of an appearance in the FF titles, but the fact that they DO appear, and thus carry forth the ROM: SPACEKNIGHT canon is a nice thing.

- Hybrid in: Avengers Academy # 23 -
Like his wraith cousins above, Hybrid is an awesome foe of the much-missed ROM series. In fact, he is ROM’s greatest foe. While he has been seen once every decade or so since the end of the ROM series, it has been since an issue of X-Man in 1997 since we’ve seen Hybrid in any sort of worthwhile appearance.
While only a surprise ending twist in this issue, Hybrid is to be featured as the villain in the next few issues. So, look for his nomination next year.

- Shuma Gorath in: Invaders NOW # 5 (of 5) -
As the big “end boss” of the series, and the architect / dark power behind a recent mystical upheaval, Shuma-Gorath has to be defeated by the combined forces of the Invaders and the spirits of multitudes of the deceased. Requiring the use of the mythic “Spear of Destiny” to pierce the elder demons’ barriers, Shuma-Gorath is shown to once again be a serious threat, despite the sad fact that writer Christos Gage and artist Caio Reis don’t really have Shuma DO much of anything but hover around.
Still... like in each previous year's awards; "Shuma shows up, Shuma gets respect!"

- Umar in : Incredible Hulks # 633-635 -
Returning, after her last appearance in the 2005 Defenders mini, and continuing her sexual desire for whatever…er… “Incredibleness” there may be in Hulk’s purple pants, Umar is resurrected via a magic wishing well. Like many older, yet not well-established characters, recent Marvel writers have played a little loose with Umar’s personality and objectives. Still, Greg Pak lets Umar show us all a good time.

- Satana  in : Thunderbolts # 155-167 -
I hear you saying; “But Satana won for her appearance as a HERO!” Ah… but that’s the wonder of her characterization here. While she is acting in altruistic manners as a hero, she is traditionally a villainess, a succubus born to Satan himself, and even her best intentions and actions are tinged with the dark taint of evil.
See? She did make a devil out of me.

- Hellcow in : Deadpool Team-Up # 885 -
OK. C’mon… HELLCOW! An obscure throw-away gag from an old issue of Howard the Duck brought back to make some serious yuks in a wacky issue of Deadpool Team-Up. Of COURSE it gets a nod.

- Mephisto in : Journey Into Mystery # 627 -
The Devil walks into a bar and the bartender, by some rule, has to ask him about his day. Mephisto then tells the tale of the multiple realms of hell and the denizens within. Even Shuma Gorath makes a cameo appearance. But, Mephisto is the star of the issue, as he navigates, through guile and treachery, the pathways of knowledge and power.

The Winner:

- Loki in : Journey Into Mystery  -
There’s no way to choose a single issue, as this series has been a delight since its reboot.
After sacrificing his life to defeat the power-mad Sentry during the Siege of Asgard, Loki, reincarnated as a youthful boy, is trying to forego his mischievous past and is striving to do the right thing, for Asgard and for his brother; Thor – who is the only one who has any faith in, or love for the trickster god.
Writer Keiron Gillen weaves such an intricate web of amazing stories that it sometimes seems as if he must be rewriting lost, hidden manuscripts from half-mad scribes of the ancient Norse civilization.


WORST "6-dimensions" APPEARANCE (villain):

The Runner Ups:

- Mortigan Goth; Immortalis & Marjorie Brink in : Wolverine: Best There Is # 2-6, 11 & 12 -
Yes. These two were also nominated in the “Worst guest appearance : HERO” category, but since they were basically turned into pseudo-villains for this horrific series, they must be placed here as well.
I only hope that they make a future appearance – somewhere – with a return to their heroic natures.

- Baron Mordo in : Iron Man / Thor # 1 (of 4) -
Pwned by Ulik in a theft of mystical artifacts, Mordo can do nothing but swear vengeance for such ignoble treatment – vengeance that is never shown to occur. He’s just slapped around and left to deal with it.

- Baron Mordo in : Marvel Adventures; Spider-Man # 16 -
I know that the ‘Adventures’ line is written for ‘the kidz’, but I also know from reading past issues of similar comics, that the writers don’t have to treat the material in such a “childish” manner. Writer Paul Tobin has been writing these Adventures style comics for years, and has often done so with excellence and sublime ability. Unfortunately, in this case, he writes a kiddie comic, simplistically written with inane plot points. It’s bad enough that Dr. Strange is treated lightly, but worse still is the fact that Mordo is defeated by having ketchup and mustard squirted on him.

The "Winner" :

- “Agamotto” in : Iron Man 2.0  # 6 & 7 -
As much as I am hesitant to list Agamotto as a “Villain”, as he has long only ever been one of the deathless Vishanti: mystic entities that empower (or at least bequeath their power to) many of the mystic artifacts and spells in the Marvel Universe. But for the sake of these awards, since an entity claiming to be Agamotto nearly caused the destruction of the Earth (and did cause the death of Doctor Voodoo), he/it must be classified here as a villain.
 As of this writing, it has been a full year (and two months) since the apparent demise of “Agamotto” (and Doctor Voodoo) in the pages of New Avengers v2 # 6. Even though, Brian Bendis set up a possible return of the former mystic deity, we all knew that the costume-change of Iron Fist had to do with some kind of “taint” by the entity calling itself Agamotto. Yet, in this entire past year the only headway into this development was for Iron Fist to be possessed by some unknown force and fight against War Machine and the ‘Immortal Weapons’. It took some magical assistance from Doctor Strange to stop Iron Fist, and then Strange too foreshadows some further Agamotto development. It’s been a full 6 months since this issue shipped. We’re still waiting.
What can sometimes be worse than poor treatment of a character is the neglect of a character.
While some may say that I need be patient, and the promised storyline will manifest, I can’t confidently say that will occur. Too often have promised stories and series been canceled or changed before they ever see the light of day.
Now, for the upcoming 2012 Avengers vs X-men event, we see Iron Fist being somehow linked to the Phoenix Force (oddly enough, the very first thing I thought of when I saw his new white/gold costume change, since those were to have been the original colors for Phoenix’ costume in X-Men). Has the Agamotto link been altered? Or, perhaps, as I suggested in my many reviews of those New Avengers issues, it was never Agamotto at all?


BEST DOCTOR STRANGE/6-Dimensions-related (overall) TITLE:

The Runner Ups:

- DEFENDERS (v4) -
I can’t always be trashing this series, as it only exists by the good will and graces of Marvel and a few senior editors. The creative team of Matt Fraction and Terry/Rachel Dodson promise high-concept, high-weirdness, high-action, high-adventure stories, and thus far I can see (at least) the potential of all of that in the works. It’s far from anywhere near being good, but I am willing to see the slight worth that is presented and hope my good faith pays off.

- VENGEANCE (mini-series) -
As I gave it high praise for its nomination in the “Best 6-Dimensions Appearance” category, this title was just so weirdly beyond the typical Marvel fare that it could only be awesome or suck – no room for middle ground. Luckily it was awesome all around. Crisp writing by Joe Casey. Elegant artwork by Nick Dragotta. High concept. A weird mix of classic Defenders and Nextwave with some X-statiX tossed in. Loved it. I hope to see some sort of continuation soon.

This title has been a consistently excellent read during each story arc, even managing to be good during an editorially mandated crossover (Fear Itself).  Writer Jeff Parker somehow actually turned that crossover into valuable story seed which grew into several different bountiful yields; Juggernaut’s escape and development and the alluded-to mysterious growth of the Man-Thing into an as-yet-unseen new form. The alternating art teams of Declan Shalvey and Kev Walker, with colors by Frank Martin truly do wonders with such diverse story subjects as the landscapes of the Himalayas, the Swamp of the Nexus of all Realties, a trip into the subconscious of the Juggernaut, and a multi-era time-travel adventure. Even though Man-Thing has been temporarily turned into a seed-pod for the past half-year, the mystery of his eventual metamorphosis has me riveted. But, while I come to the book initially for Man-Thing, I am staying for Satana, who (as she WON the “Best of” slot for “6-Dimensions Hero” in this title) is delighting me with her wicked ways.
It was only by the narrowest of margins that this title did not win top slot.

The Winner:

I can't comment enough how I have enjoyed the new interpretation and dichotomous aspects of Marvel's magical, mythological universe, and Loki; child-god of mischief, as handled by Keiron Gillen: writer and Doug Braithwaite: artist (for most of the issues). At the same time: intricate and intimate, sublime and simplistic, funny and fantastical, bawdy and beautiful, each issue peels a new layer off the skein of old Asgard to reveal a golden apple beneath – ripe and juicy and just waiting for us to take the first bite that will grant us an eternity of enjoyment.


WORST DOCTOR STRANGE/6-Dimensions-related (overall) TITLE:

The Runner ups:

I know that I also nominated this title for the “Best Title” category, but that was purely on its being indebted to the classic Defenders title that came before, and the promise of great and weird things to come. However, the actuality of what has been published thus far (only 2 issues, but only ONE issue in 2011) with out-of-character portrayals, unnecessary sexual improprieties, one of the worst reasons for having a teammate (Iron Fist has a plane), and artwork of varying quality by the Dodsons, and so it seems to be more bad than good. Thus far, as far as the paying for the hype-machine that they have going, writer Matt Fraction is writing checks his writing can’t cash.

How this title did not end up "winning" the "Worst Title" slot is a matter of degrees. Let me assure you, it was SO CLOSE.
The handling of Doctor Strange at the hands of writer Brian Michael Bendis has continued to be aggravating, to say the least. I am convinced, and can prove it with empirical evidence, that in the mind-set of Brian Bendis, Doctor Strange is only able to perform three feats of sorcery, and only two of them well or consistently.

They are:

Astral projection - when not standing around uselessly, there is a good chance Doc is out of his body (thus letting it sit around uselessly)

Casting of illusion spells – smoke and mirrors, mind-games, nothing substantial. This is Bendis’ idea of Strange’s main contribution, purely defensive, as Bendis has severely limited Strange from making any kind of offensive strike.

Teleportation (alone or a group) – this one Bendis doesn’t allow to happen often, if at all, and usually the physical toll upon Strange now leaves him out of action for quite some time.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy reading New Avengers. Honestly. I do. And that is what saves it from the "prize" here, it’s just that most of what I like about the series would be better served as a Spider-Man/ Luke Cage Marvel-Team-Up style buddy comic, and not a cornerstone of the Avengers’ franchise and Marvel Comics publishing.

The "Winner":

- FEAR ITSELF (mini-series) -
This is another “neglect is as bad as abuse” type of win, as in this storyline of giant, mystical upheaval, Doctor Strange is almost nowhere to be found. Yes, it was revealed that he was in the spin-off mini-series; ‘The Deep’. However, other characters in the primary series were also in spin-offs, so why not give Doc a little more face-time?
What makes this get the “prize” for worst title, aside from not having Strange in it (much) is that when Doc does get a chance to join the battle, he is hyped up as being one of the “Mighty”; heroic counterparts to the evil Serpent’s “Worthy”. Now, in order to combat against the mystical hammers that the “Worthy” did wield, Tony Stark created (and had Odin energize) mystical weapons for the “Mighty” to take into battle. However, after months of teaser images and hype by Marvel about the identity of the various members of the “Mighty” and what type of weapons they would wield, (not to mention the subliminal “who will win the great battles?” type of propaganda,) the entire “Worthy/Mighty” battle is over in a scant few pages. Doctor Strange’s involvement is a panel or two of him shooting generic magic-beams out of a Staff with the Caduceus (a symbol of two snakes entwined on a stick with wings).
But, with Doctor Strange apparently power-weak from his loss of the Mantle of Sorcerer Supreme, wouldn’t one think that perhaps they’d allow Doc to keep the weapon? Nope, with the exception of Red-She-Hulk’s “big-ass sword”, they all get melted back down to slag.
I found nothing of merit to have come from this poor mini-series, this lackluster “event” and especially the handling of the most senior mystic that the Marvel heroes have at their disposal.



The Winner:

- Dr. Strange & Man-Thing in : Marvel vs Capcom 3 : Fate of Two Worlds video game -
While not playable characters, both Doc and Manny (and other 6-dimensions characters, like Blade, Satana, Mephisto, Satannish, Ghost Rider, Iron Fist & Silver Surfer) make Easter egg appearances at the end-credits to some of the playable characters final scenes.

Check out the videos for Doc and Manny [HERE]:



The "Winner":

- Dr. Strange in : Marvel vs Capcom 3 : Fate of Two Worlds  video game -
Yes, he just won the “best” category, but unlike Man-Thing’s end-scene, Doctor Strange’s end scene isn’t even “really” him at all, but a make-believe fantasy drawn in comic book form by the video game character. So, aside from not being a playable character, we don’t really even get DOC at all here, do we?
(At least not until ULTIMATE MvC3 that is.)


BEST DOCTOR STRANGE/6-Dimensions-related SWAG:

The Runner Ups:

- Doctor Strange : Strange Tales TPB -
At long last, one of my all-time favorite Doctor Strange storylines is reprinted in a beautiful trade paperback edition. Reprinting the 1980’s ‘Strange Tales’ series written by Peter B. Gillis, wherein Doctor Strange  has lost all of his talismans of power, has let loose all of the ancient evils of the earth and is too weak to battle them with good/white magic… he is forced to fight black magic with black magic. Thus begins one of the most intense arcs in the history of the Sorcerer Supreme.

- Doctor Strange : Dark Dimension HC (and available in a variant edition as well) –
One of the most beloved storylines by many Dr. Strange fans, allow me to just post the text from the solicitation for this Roger Stern written work, with art by Paul Smith and Bret Blevens:
“Dr. Strange, the Master of the Mystic Arts, starts his day by curing a mystically cursed sword and ends it by overthrowing a dimensional dictator! The Sorcerer Supreme faces threats on cruise ships, military bases and alien planets — seeking to restore the cosmic balance! And as the origins of the Dark Dimension stand revealed, Strange's true love, Clea, heads the rebellion against her evil mother, Umar! Featuring the Black Knight and the Beyonder! Collecting DR. STRANGE (Master of the Mystic Arts) #68-74.”
Seriously. It’s one of the best.

- Dr. Strange ‘Marvel Universe’ 3.75” figure (also available in "astral form" variant) -
Long-awaited by many Marvel action figure collectors comes one of the most critically acclaimed figures in the Marvel Universe line. Praised for its attention to detail in both sculpt and paint application, as well as the many points of articulation, (despite the fact that I prefer my action figures to be of a larger scale) this figure could be one of the very best Doctor Strange action figures ever produced.
Add to that fact the joy at FINALLY having a translucent Astral Form figure (sold as a variant), as the only other Astral form Doc figure was merely an “unpainted” (white with pale blue shading) re-release of the Spider-Man animated figure in the late 1990’s.
The only downside to this figure is the fact that distribution was ridiculously spotty, with many markets either getting it severely late, or - as in the case of stores in my area – never receiving the wave at all. Sadly, I (like many) had to obtain mine from an ebay seller.

- Doctor Orpheus “Mego” style 8” action figure -
Fans of Doctor Strange might very well have to hunt down this 8 inch action figure of Doctor Orpheus; the Dr. Strange homage character from the fan favorite animated series; ‘The Venture Bros’.
Dressed in a real-cloth costume and styled in mode and packaging to the Mego figures of the 1970’s, this figure, one in the line of 'Venture Bros.' figures, was produced by "BIF BANG POW!" .
Limited to a production run of 3,000 pieces, it’s not super-rare, but not exactly widely available.
Face it, it’s awesome and a welcome companion to the Dr. O bobble-head from a year or so prior.

- Doctor Strange apparel -
I was able to score several pieces of official Marvel apparel in 2011 as well as two rare pieces made as a cross-promotion for Marvel and Stussy designs, and one featuring SHUMA-GORATH which was a special promotion for pre-ordering the Special Edition of the Marvel vs Capcom 3 video game.
The Marvel shirts feature:
A shirt featuring the heroes who had their own TV shows or movies (yup, Doc had his TV movie pilot).
A shirt reproducing the John Byrne cover to Fantastic Four # 243 with Everyone vs Galactus.
A shirt showcasing the wraparound cover art from House of M # 1 by Olivier Coipel.

The Stussy shirts were the product of various indie/underground artists and their take on various Marvel characters. (There were also limited edition trading cards of the shirts, which, while I also have them, are merely the same art as the shirts. Still there are 17 cards, but I was only interested in 2 of the shirts.)
I was able to get:

Doctor Strange by Noah Butkis (with thanks to Howard Hallis for his kind generosity)
Eternity by Will Sweeney.

And the Marvel vs Capcom 3 SHUMA-GORATH limited edition shirt, entitled; “Waste of Flesh” designed by ‘Meat Bun’.

All of these shirts are made of 100% pure awesome (although, if I had to pick a fave of the lot, it might be a tie between the Eternity and the Shuma-Gorath. Eternity: Printed in Silver ink, posed giving the peace-sign, it is something I never thought I’d see. I mean… ETERNITY! On an officially licensed, limited edition shirt! And Shuma-Gorath: well, ‘nuff said!

Sadly, the Stussy shirts ARE such limited editions that they sold out almost instantly and are almost impossible to find at a reasonable price. Otherwise, they might have had a chance at winning this category. Same goes for the Shuma shirt. It was not a widely advertised special, and as such, slipped under the radar of many.
I blogged about all of those garments – with photos - as a supplemental entry to my long-running garment series [HERE].
The Shuma-Gorath shirt was featured in an earlier post, found [HERE]:

- Sanctum-Designed apparel -
I unveiled the LOOONG-awaited inaugural wave of my Sanctum-Designed t-shirts with two initial product launches (each with several designs in a multitude of garment choices), and while I have more designs ready to be released for spring 2012, the first wave was a 2011 joint.
Featuring designs with my own artwork, either variations of the Sanctum Sanctorum window design (both with or without my blog logo)
and/or a multiple-option shirt featuring a ‘Scarlet Witch’ style woman saying “NO MORE…” with your option to select any number of peeves you’d like to see go away forever:

They are made of the best quality shirts with excellent, durable printing. They are still available for sale – with more designs on the horizon! Check them out [HERE]

- Marvel vs Capcom 3 : Fate of Two Worlds video game -
We’ve discussed the periphery of the game; the Easter-egg appearances, the swag apparel, but the game itself was a pulse-pounding product featuring the pugilistic powers of many heroes and villains of the Marvel and Capcom universes. My interest in the game was due to the ability to fight as Shuma-Gorath and Dormammu (making his first appearance in a video game), as well as Doctor Doom.
However, as awesome as the game was/is, it was flawed, because Capcom knew full well that they were going to re-release it within the year as an upgraded “Ultimate” version.
Check out videos of Shuma Gorath and Dormammu in action in this post [HERE]:

The Winner:

- Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 video game -
Take all of the kickassery of having Shuma-Gorath and Dormammu featured as fighting characters and include the ability to also battle with all of the mind-blowing mystic and martial arts mastery of DOCTOR STRANGE (and two dozen other characters, like Ghost Rider and Hawkeye), and then you’ll have ULTIMATE MARVEL vs CAPCOM 3!

Doc’s got some awesome moves, although the names and styles of spells chosen could have been done more in keeping with pre-existing in-canon spells. Why “Hosts of Hoggoth” (which traps a foe, while a secondary wave of punishment washes over them) when the “Crimson Bands of Cytorrak” could do the same thing. There are other examples, but I’m here to praise, not nit-pick.
Also add to the nerdgasm the fact that every character has about 9 different costume choices (most reflecting pre-published alternate costumes worn by the fighter) and you can duke it out as your favorite version of any particular character.
Me? I got Strange sporting a black cloak with a black tunic and red insignia – just cause it’s awesome looking (and similar to what he is wearing in the comics today).
I blogged full video samples of Doctor Strange in action, with a listing of all his moves [HERE]

And also showcased two full videos of Doctor Strange in tournament play (with interviews by Capcom creators) [HERE]


WORST DOCTOR STRANGE/6-Dimensions-related SWAG:

The Runner Ups:

- Atlantis Attacks Omnibus HC -
$75.00 US for a reprinting of a handful of annuals from 1991?!?!
If you purchased the original comics off the stands would be about $30.00 - if you bought them from the back issue bins today they wouldn't cost more than $5.00 total.

- Acts of Vengeance Omnibus HC –
(2 editions - at least - 1 for main series and one for crossovers) -
$99.00 US (EACH!!) for a reprinting of a MEDIOCRE "event" from 1989?!?!
And not one but two HC books!?
If it weren't for the sweet, new cover art by Alan Davis, this would be a complete and total abomination.

- Marvel vs Capcom 3 : Fate of Two Worlds video game -
Yes, this was also nominated for the “best of” award, but it didn’t win for a few very important and basic reasons:
It was only made for two gaming platforms: Playstation3 and Xbox360.
Also, when it was released, Capcom knew full-well that they were going to re-release it in an “Ultimate” version within the year, but with a few extra characters, bells and whistles.

- Bowen Designs - 'Eternity' limited edition bust -
I’m a fan of Bowen statues, although, many of their recent output just seem to be repetitive, generic poses of D-list characters. Still, when a cool Doctor Strange item is released, I’ll move heaven and earth to pick one up. However, in this next instance, not only did I NOT buy one (I’m no longer able to just buy any and everything these days), but I truly lost interest in it when I saw the final product.
Not even sculpted by Randy Bowen, it is instead the work of two of his studio artists. Featuring a generic, featureless face, with a curly-que “headboard” laying flat against the back of his head, all atop the most generic, basic base, this Eternity bust’s only “special feature” is that it is made of semi-transparent material with sparkles embedded within.
With a paint application of an airbrushed "galaxy", planets, moons and stars, of a similar style to the cheesy personalized airbrushed license-plates that you can get at a carnival.
All it needs is a Pega-corn flying up over the airbrushed saturn and it could be on the side of a 1979 van or in a 10-year-old girl's room.
At the price of $150 (+ $15 shipping) and with the only way to be eligible to order one being to join the Bowen Collector’s Club at an extra $25, this blasé-looking piece would cost $200 – all for a flawed design.
Eternity would be better represented by a HALF-face, emerging as a high-relief from a curved, rounded headdress/cowl. The face should be both within and outside of the backdrop.

If it was of any redeeming artistic value, I might have done all I could to move heaven and earth to acquire one, but for ME, of all people, to have absolutely NO interest in it, this must be one "meh" piece.
With a mannequin head, some flexible semi-stiff clear plastic and assorted stained-glass paints, I could make a similar, yet better, custom product of my own for under $20.

The "Winner":

- Variant Covers –
I am SO tired of there being variant covers for every comic, paperback, hardcover… everything! I might be able to deal with a variant cover for a new number one issue, or maybe even an anniversary special. However, these days, every single comic seems to have multiple variant covers – all of different level of rarity – thus making it nigh impossible for the die-hard fan to collect their favorite funnybooks without either going broke or insane (or both).
Personally, to prevent myself from going either route, I only try to get variants that actually feature Doctor Strange or Man-Thing on the cover. If they might be in the issue, but not in the cover, then I don’t have any interest. I feel self-loathing and shame when I do buy variants. Sure, some are kinda cool, but they’re so unnecessary.  However, to alleviate some of my stresses, when I do hunt for variants, I typically wait about a year (give or take some months) unless or until I can find one for sale at a reasonable price when sellers are practically begging to give them away.
1-in-25 variants, 1-in-50, 1-in-200… and other strange permutations of variant to regular order ratio that retailers must jump through to obtain the variant edition…just seems to be a repeat of what helped cause the implosion and near death-knell of comics in the 1990s. Luckily, there haven’t been (m)any holo-foil covers or anything, but if the bullshit with these variants doesn’t stop soon… that dark future may arise.
 Y’know what, comics industry? If you want to pump up the sales figures for your series, don’t artificially inflate the numbers by making retailers order hundreds of copies to get “rare” variants so that collectors might buy multiple copies of the same issue. No. How about just making your actual product better and worth reading? If you do, perhaps you’ll attract more readers and sales will rise naturally, organically, and most of all; ethically.


BEST DOCTOR STRANGE/6-Dimensions-related HOMAGE:

The Runner Ups:

- Billy / Wiccan in : Avengers : Children’s Crusade : Young Avengers # 1 -
In a (possible alternative) future tale, Billy (now known as Wiccan) must have ascended to the position of Master of the Mystic Arts (or perhaps; Sorcerer Supreme) as he is shown wearing Doctor Strange’s classic costume (Blue tunic, red Cloak of Levitation, Eye of Agamotto, etc…). It’s not Doctor Strange, but ANY excuse to see “Dr. Strange” as drawn by Alan Davis is a good one.

- Magneto in X-Men # 2 (Marvel 50th Anniversary Variant) -
One of those horrible menaces – the villainous variant cover – but in this instance, done in a clever and interesting way. Paying homage to the classic cover for Marvel Feature # 1 (the first appearance of the Defenders) there are thre X-Men taking the places and poses of the Defenders: Namor takes his place as he did on the Marvel Feature cover, Collosus/Juggernaut is charging front and center where the Hulk once did so, and to the right, stands Magneto doing his best Doctor Strange pose.

The Winner:

- The Traveler # 1 (variant cover) -
Oh yes, I KNOW I am sending mixed signals by condemning variants as “the worst” and then awarding variant covers with “best of” nominations – and in this case; the “best of” win… I'm a complicated man. However, this variant cover, for one of Stan Lee’s new creations for BOOM Studios; ‘The Traveler’, sports an homage to my all-time favorite cover EVER: Doctor Strange # 169.
Drawn by Paul Rivoche to emulate the late, great Dan Atkins’ classic cover, this Stan Lee / Mark Waid / Chad Hardin comic was a Midtown Comics exclusive.
By playing to my favoritism in choice of covers to homage, there is no way that this comic would not win some sort of Sanctum Award. By being the BEST homage of 2011, it won the top slot.



No poorly done homage that I could find or think of this year.
Can you recall any?



The Runner Ups:

- Doctor Orpheus in: “Jacket” music video by 'Shallow Gravy'-
Not quite a real Doctor Strange appearance, but I still have to give a nod to Orpheus.
You can check out the video (and the insanely catchy tune) [HERE]:

- Nightmare in : Super Hero Squad TV show -
Episode 209; “Blind Rage Knows No Color”. Original Airdate: January 15th, 2011
Thanos uses the Mind Gem to control Hulk who goes on a sleepwalking rampage. The Super Hero Squad must enter the dream realm to fight back, even if they have to get help from Nightmare.
Voiced by “Big Bang Theory” star; Jim Parsons, while not a very good episode, it isn’t the worst either (especially as “good” and “poor” are difficult to separate as far as this extremely juvenile show is concerned). Made for the kiddies, it is perfect for what it is. Toss in a few cool classic characters and a tempted adult will watch as a guilty pleasure.

- Doctor Strange in : Super Hero Squad TV show -
Episode 220; “1602 – Six Against Infinity Part VI”. Original Airdate: October 6th, 2011
Only making the briefest of appearances, Doctor Strange nonetheless does appear on a nationally syndicated animated series seen by millions, thus getting some name recognition out there.

The Winner:

- Man-Thing in : Super Hero Squad TV show -
Episode 217; “This Man-Thing, This Monster – Six Against Infinity Part 3”. Original Airdate: October 3rd , 2011
After being thrown into a portal by Dark Surfer, a powerless Iron Man finds himself stranded on a world of monsters. There he meets Man-Thing and Werewolf by Night and battles Dracula a gang of mummies led by N’Kantu, the Living Mummy.
Man-Thing is extremely cute (if you can get past the flatulence noises he makes), but you have to get past the fact that the producers have him making audible noises [grunts and pootie-sounds] when Manny is traditionally mute and have him acting sentient when he usually absent of intelligence. A fun little comedy shtick to the episode is the voice-over that repeats the episodes’ running gag of stating Manny’s catchphrase; “Whatever Knows Fear Burns At The Man-Thing’s Touch”. That made me smile a little.
The episode also has some vignettes of cool monsters like; Living Zombie, It; the Living Colossus, Frankenstain’s Monster and classic Kirby monsters, like; Gomuu, Groot and others.
At the end, Werewolf, Man-Thing and a new female Vampire form the “Supernatural Hero Squad”.
While I am not the biggest fan of the series, this could be one of the very best episodes of the show that I’ve seen thus far. I WILL still give props to the fact that it is great that characters like Man-Thing and Doctor Strange ARE being shown on TV to kids (and those young in mind and heart) on this Marvel cartoon.
Now, if only they’ll make a Man-Thing SuperHero Squad figure.



The "Winner":

- Doctor Strange in : TOYOTA Yaris; It’s A Car “Incredible Drive” commercial -
A four part commercial for the 2012 Toyota Yaris (although only 2 parts aired in 2011) features Marvel Super Heroes (or at least their Marvel Legends Action Figure equivalent) in a stop-motion “comedy” by the online team that produces the “What The---?” series of animated shorts (which can only loosely be likened to ‘Robot Chicken’).
Hulk, Doctor Strange and the Punisher take part in a road trip to Cleveland and “hilarity” ensues.
While it should be freakin’ awesome for there to be Doctor Strange featured in a national advertising campaign, and one that isn’t utterly terrible (there are a few funny points to each episode), but the fact that Doc is portrayed as a whining, irritatingly high-pitched-voiced, annoyance makes me feel that it might be better to not have him involved at all, rather than be so poorly represented.
Sometimes, a Doctor Strange fan just can’t win for losing.


BEST DOCTOR STRANGE/6-Dimensions-related NEWS:

The Runner Up:

- A DR. STRANGE movie -
Once again, talks of a Doctor Strange flick are being bandied about.
However, with a script seemingly completed, it is but a matter of time for this to be made manifest.

The Winner:

- Brian Bendis to leave the Avengers / New Avengers titles -
Bendis has stated that sometime during 2012, he will stop writing the Avengers / New Avengers titles. This means that, at long last, (barring some tragic twist of fate) Brian Bendis will no longer be writing Doctor Strange!
But alas, we still have several months left of his poison pen. I can only hope his replacement better understands the character and history of Doctor Stephen Strange. It would be an near impossibility that Marvel could find anyone who understands Doc less than Bendis.


WORST DOCTOR STRANGE/6-Dimensions-related NEWS:

- A DR. STRANGE movie -
Yeah, it’s good news and bad news all rolled into one. My reasoning is; the script was worked up by a writing team that has had a lot of negative buzz, having been involved with lackluster projects in recent past.
Also, the suggested casting choices that are being tossed around; Patrick Dempsey, Jonny Depp, Liam Neeson are all totally wrong for the part. Sadly, that’s pretty much all that Hollywood has to offer, unless the director either makes an inspired choice or goes with an…*ahem* unknown actor *aHEM*… to fill the role.  ;-)
At this point it’s all wait-and-see, as the film won’t begin until next year.

"Definitely NOT the Winner":

- Gene Colan passes away -
Just thinking of the loss of such a great talent, fills me with sadness.
When I bought my very first issue of Doc's own mag, it was Gene Colan's ethereal, moody chiaroscuro that made me a fan for life. In my little world of comics, Gene Colan was a giant. One of the very best illustrators who ever graced the medium, he is beloved (by me) for his work on so many titles and properties, including: Howard the Duck, Night Force, Nathanial Dusk, Tomb of Dracula, and of course… Doctor Strange.
The only reconciliation is that, as an artist, Gene Colan's work is immortal, and will be seen forever.
My tribute to the great artist [HERE]



- MAN-THING and monster characters are on the upswing!
New pathways of greatness for the once-man, including the release of the looooong awaitied; Man-Thing graphic Novel – written decades ago by the late, great Steve Gerber and illustrated by Kevin Nowlan. Long in limbo, and s.l.o.w.l.y being painted by Mr Nowlan, this long-dormant project was resuscitated and is scheduled to be published soon.

- The Mayan Doomsday -
Yeah… not gonna happen.

- The Sanctum Sanctorum Comix blog will see another year!(?) -
Not to be a drag, and end on a downbeat, but I can’t promise this one – at all. I’ve often been very close to having to just abandon it all, quit my hobby, and try just to survive in this harsh economy, but the status quo around the Sanctum has taken another turn for the worse, and sadly, everything is uncertain. I’ll try to continue, as I strive to turn things around for my little family, but sadly, unless I – or fate – can manifest something for the better, this blog might be in its last year.
That Mayan doomsday prediction might have some truth to it, after all.


Well, that's it for this year!
Thanks for stopping by.
Any thoughts, criticisms, agreeing and/or differing opinions?
Discuss them in the comments section.

* Award image at top of the post is a re-tooled image from Strange Tales v1 # 117, by Steve Ditko.