Thursday, November 29, 2012



NEW AVENGERS (v.2) # 34

BENDIS – story
RAIN BEREDO – colors


Be sure to read the reviews of the previous three issues in this arc:
Issue # 31 [HERE]
Issue # 32 [HERE]
Issue # 33 [HERE]

For those who like quick, spoiler-free, to-the-point reviews, I’ll post here what I tweeted about my take on reading New Avengers v.2 # 34:

"I read #NewAvengers 34. Bendis' #DoctorStrange arc wrap up. Some good, some bad, some BAD!, a few F*@% YEAH's & PLOT HOLES aplenty."

That sums it up nicely.

However, for those who like their reviews slightly more in-depth (and spoilery)… read on.




Ostensibly, with the imperative of wrapping up the loose ends involved with the current story arc (and hopefully also doing so for the dangling plot-lines left over from the previous arcs dealing with Doctor Strange, Doctor Voodoo, Agamotto [and his All-Seeing Eye] and the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme) Brian Michael Bendis produced the script for this issue, wherein Daniel Drumm (Brother Voodoo) seeks the demise of Doctor Strange and the Avengers in retaliation for the death of his brother, Jericho (Doctor Voodoo) Drumm.
It is interesting to note, that in a title called “Avengers”, everyone in this story, not just the heroes, but the villain as well, is trying to avenge someone’s death.

As we saw in the first three issues in this arc, Daniel attacked and seemingly killed both Daimon (Son of Satan) Hellstrom and Jennifer (sorceress, friend of Man-Thing and inheritor of the magic of Zhered-Na)  Kale before turning his attentions to the New Avengers – and Dr. Strange.
Using his ability to possess the bodies of the living, Daniel hopped from one Avenger’s body to the next in split-second exchanges, in order to confuse and sew destruction. He also utilized his abilities to traverse the astral realms, and in so doing, brought about the death of Victoria Hand.

This final issue (both of the story arc, as well as of Brian Michael Bendis’ tenure on the franchise) is all about the final battle of Daniel Drumm (and in essence, due to his body-snatching ability: the entirety of the Avengers) vs Doctor Strange – to the death.

Starting where last issue left off, this issue begins with Strange manifesting among the Avengers, who are being trounced by Daniel Drumm’s body-hopping, hit-and-run combat technique.

However, Bendis immediately forgets the parameters of Daniel Drumm’s powers and has artist Mike Deodato draw the entire Avengers line-up standing against Strange, en masse, when Daniel is only able to possess ONE at a time. Even at split-second body-jumps, he can’t realistically control all the members of both teams simultaneously.
That said, it doesn’t stop the double-page spread, drawn by Deodato, from being 100% filled with F*@% YEAH awesomeness. The implied upcoming ass-kickery is truly exciting.
Also of illustrative excellence is the following page wherein Doctor Strange, dynamically foreshortened, in mystical prestidigitation mode, talks smack and (with the exception of Thor) nullifies the threat posed by these possessed aggressors by wrapping them in the Crimson bands of Cytorrak. Thor however, manages to break them all free with enchanted lightning summoned forth by Mjolnir.

What come next are several pages of battle; but it seems that the reader is the one who feels the most pain from the altercations, as each of the next 6 pages are drawn by a different artist in a “jam session” of conflicting and jarring styles.  Most of these artists (predominantly “indie” illustrators) are either not ready for prime-time, or were the improper choices for a series of scenes as dynamic as these should have been. With the exception of two pages, by Farel Dalrymple and Becky Cloonan, which were nice to look at but were simply the wrong tone for the book, the rest of these jam pages were cartoony and amateurish, and absolutely TORE me from the story and ruined what could have been an epic battle sequence.
However, even therein is something positive about them, as it was very interesting to see some of these artists, who otherwise seem uninitiated to how Dr. Strange's abilities work, bestow upon him some nifty new tricks. Perhaps my favorite new power being Lucy Knisley's portrayal of Strange's spoken spell being shown visually, granting Strange the ability to totally dominate Captain America, effortlessly bringing the super soldier to his knees.

Unfortunately, experimental art aside, Bendis didn’t do much to help things along much either, as it seemed evident that his story needed to wrap up, post haste, and so he chose a truly curious stratagem –  OUROBOROS LOGIC; A.K.A: the PLOT HOLE (or more accurately one of a series of plot holes, not first and foremost, the total disregard of his own [and others’] previous written work)!

The whole contradictory, circuitous logic of the plot resolution deals with the use of dark magic.

Daniel Drumm sought to kill sorcerers who were using dark magicks, since only they would have the true power to defeat him. Strange, ever a wielder of “white” magicks states in the story that “when [he] was Sorcerer Supreme [he] would NEVER EVER use the dark arts.”  Yet, the story-driven reason for Strange giving up the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme was because he did not feel worthy of it – due to his actually using the dark arts - to combat the Hulk during the “World War Hulk” debacle. (This is ignoring the fact that Strange HAD USED the dark arts even prior to that - during the entirety of the 2nd volume of ‘Strange Tales’ - out of necessity. But we’ve long known Bendis doesn’t read [or care about] what comics were written before his).

So, in order to defeat Daniel Drumm (who is in essence using forms of voodoo and necromancy – a dark magic), Doctor Strange must resort to using dark magic, and essentially dissipates Drumm’s spirit into nothingness by utilizing “Zhadana Spell of Astral Form Destruction – from the Scrolls of Damnation!


Thus we find that once again (for the third major time for those counting [not including some other minor instances of same]) that when in absolute need, Doctor Strange WILL pull out the black magic cannon.

So, let me see if I understand Bendis’ entire plot resolution to the scenario that he himself put in place: Doc uses dark magic to combat a dire threat, and thus can no longer be Sorcerer Supreme,  is... to have Doc use dark magic to combat a dire threat in order to RECLAIM the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme?

OK. Gotcha.

And to wrap it all up, Bendis uses another plot hole but merges it with a “Deus ex machina” solution. (Ironic in that the very reason for Doctor Strange’s “demotion” from the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme and power loss being a direct result of editorial edict that HE was too much of a “Deus ex machina” – and thus proving the point that I have always stated; it’s not the fault of a character who is used as a “D.e.M” but the poor author who writes himself into a corner and thus has need of one.)

During the battle between Strange and Drumm, we saw Daimon Hellstrom (seemingly alive and well, in a void) speaking to someone off-panel about how all this is a test, and that there needs to be a Sorcerer Supreme. That someone..?


I’ve long been one to call for a return of the Ancient One, in some capacity, to Doctor Strange’s supporting cast, and while I was happy in some way to see him “in the flesh”, it also struck me as wrong.
First, it seemed inherently incongruous that this ancient master, steeped in myth and legend (and since dying having become “one with all”) would be able to be seen by such “mere” mortals as the Avengers. It would have been best if he were only visible to Strange. His standing in the presence of such colorfully attired super-heroes somehow reduces the Ancient One’s status. Does that make sense to anyone but me?

Still, aside from my own personal “feeling” about it is the story-driven fact that it makes little sense.
Remember back in issues # 1 – 6, when the spirit of the Ancient One was the one who stated that Strange was a failure and no good and blah-blah-blabbity-blah, and was in league with “Agamotto” in his efforts to defeat Strange and claim the Eye of Agamotto for whatever purpose? (Seriously, it’s complicated. Just go read my in-depth analysis of that arc [HERE]) Well… with ZERO mention of that whole event, the Ancient One just shows up and deems Strange fit to be Sorcerer Supreme and bequeaths once again to him the Cloak of Levitation and Eye of Agamotto.

But wait…uh…wasn’t the Eye destroyed? Doc sure thought so (and so, by extension, did we). So why is it no explanation is offered?
OK fine, Doctor Strange once again is in possession of the Eye of Agamotto…
Oh, but wait… isn’t Agamotto dead? Depending on which origin of the EYE you follow, it might not even work at all without Agamotto to empower it.
Oh, wait. I know… the answer is so simple. It’s BENDIS!

Still, Bendis continued to do one thing right... he has Stephen Strange THINK (and research) his way to a solution (albeit, off-panel).

And I do need to allow for the admission that seeing Doctor Strange standing triumphant with his talismans, once again the Sorcerer Supreme was indeed a totally F*@% YEAH moment! (and possibly worth the self-lobotomizing required to take all this at face value.)

While my overall thoughts for this story arc are positive ones, there are some disappointments:

The least of which is simply of a cover design –to- story ratio. The quadtych cover should have had Doctor Strange on the cover for # 34 as opposed to # 31. It’s his wrap-up, after all. Iron Fist featured fairly large in issue # 31, so swapping the two characters’ positions in the artwork would have been best – building to the crescendo of the Doctor Strange finale’. But that’s a very minor nit that only an obsessive-compulsive/anal-retentive, art-nerd like myself would note.

Mike Deodato's quadtych artwork for the covers of
NEW AVENGERS v2 # 31, 32, 33 34

One disappointment with the story is that Jericho (Doctor Voodoo) Drumm did not make an appearance. His tale, now, it seems, has been writ. But there is no way I can believe (nor Fred Hembeck, I’m sure) that it was meant to stay as it is, with Voodoo dead. I don’t doubt that the editors in charge had Voodoo’s name on as list of “characters you can kill off”. Heck… Hawkeye was on that list (remember his death in the “Disassembled” arc “NOT LIKE THIS!”) Well, Voodoo has never been popular, and yet… they were actually doing it. Jericho Drumm was growing as a character!

Jericho Drumm as ‘Doctor Voodoo’ was finally a chance at doing right by the character. Bendis treated him fairly well in his early dealings with the character (New Avengers v.1 # 29 - 30) and Voodoo had a better-than-average mini-series of his own, but once Voodoo became “an Avengers character” Bendis used him to further the ends of his own story. Perhaps Thor, in this issue, is being utilized to expresses the proper accusation – but instead of saying it to Dr. Strange, it is Bendis' way of addressing meta-commentary of fans' accusations to Bendis himself; “…YOU killed him. YOU set him up to fail.”
Even so, there were (and still are) many places for Doctor Voodoo to be used in the future.  His brother, as well. Voodoo is in itself a form of magic that deals with death, so I can believe he’ll be back – eventually.

Remember the whole “Drumm of Revenge” notation on the wall-map of Tony Stark’s future-self? (See it [HERE]) In a timeline of big events that affected the Marvel Universe, it was placed alongside such momentous events as the death of the Human Torch and the return of the original X-Men.
Far be it for me to say that this arc presented a minor foeman in the likes of Daniel Drumm (seeing as how he did manage to kill at least one “Avenger”; Victoria Hand), but this entire event took all of a day in “real” time and couldn’t have really been any more “important” than any other adventure.
It seems to me like something more substantial was initially intended, but time constraints, due to the onset of the new 'Marvel NOW!' era and Bendis’ choice to depart the Avengers franchise for all things “X”, led to a quick retooling of the story in the need to set things back to being as close to “pre-Bendis” as possible.

Due to the cyclical nature of the “implied growth” that comics presents, added to the end of the “Bendis-era” on the title, it basically was tantamount to “rearranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic”.
Unless… perhaps… this IS what was planned (in some manner or other) and the “Event” aspect of the “Drumm of Revenge” is but a simpler way of denoting the myriad aspects of this adventure: the death of an Avenger, the reinstatement of Doctor Strange as the major mystical force, and the “end” of the New Avengers. In which case, sure… I’ll buy that. I do think more was planned, but this will do.

Probably my biggest disappointment (and I know this will sound strange and slightly “blasphemous”,) is that I am NOT a fan of Doctor Strange’s NEW new look. Combining his new black and red costume with the Cloak of Levitation and the Eye of Agamotto is just a fashion nightmare. But THAT is the subject of my NEXT blog post. Look for it this weekend soon!

However, at the end of it all, we are left with Doctor Strange, once again, as the Sorcerer Supreme – and that is a great thing, indeed.

Check out the comments section for continued discussion on implied events, theories, the status of the Ancient One & Agamotto, and the fate of Doctor Voodoo.

Monday, November 26, 2012




BENDIS – story
RAIN BEREDO – colors


Be sure to read the reviews of the previous two issues in this arc:
Issue # 31 [HERE]
Issue # 32 [HERE]




As if the previous issue wasn’t good enough, the action and tension is ratcheted up another notch in this, the penultimate issue of Brian Bendis’ New Avengers (v2)!
The issue starts off exactly where we were left last issue (well, that’s not quite true – for some reason, the first two issues of this issue are spent retelling the last two pages of the previous issue –exactly; word for word). Doctor Strange, teleporting to New Orleans seeks to warn (and possibly gain aid from) Daimon Hellstrom (the Son of Satan), only to find the former Defender demonologist dead and desiccated. At the same moment, (one of seemingly two embodiments of) Maria Hill; Acting Director of SHIELD arrive and seek to take Strange into custody – both for the death of Victoria Hand (last issue) as well as for the apparent murder of Daimon Hellstrom.

The artwork, by longtime Bendis co-creator, Michael Avon Oeming (POWERS) is a jarring jolt from all others in this arc (or any other in the series) as his style here is a strange fusion of Craig McCraken and Genndy Tartakovsky, the worst rush job by Erik Larsen and… a five-year-old with a thick black ‘Sharpie’ magic marker.

Seriously, the art is not good for this story.

Oeming’s work at other times (POWERS predominantly), while still drawn the same style is usually more refined and polished - more along the lines of Bruce Timm. Here it seems as if the entire issue was drawn in a day.

Still, the artwork can not deter (much) from the much-better-than-expected Brian Bendis story – which ends with one of the only F*@% YEAH! moments that Dr. Strange has enjoyed in many, many a year! The fact that this totally kick-ass scene is by the graces of Brian Bendis makes me think that his choice of "END TIMES" as a title may be darkly ironic... as perhaps the Mayan Apocalypse is going to come to pass, because it surely must be that the End of Days is here, and Hell is to freeze over.

During a protracted game of cat-and-mouse (or, more accurately, when dealing with an enemy that can possess the body of whomever he wishes in a split second: “Who Is Sleeping in MY Head?”), wherein Daniel Drumm (the usually-dead half of the 1-alive/ 1-dead sibling hero tag-team called “Brother [then Doctor] Voodoo”) uses every available New Avenger to lay waste to each other. Then the (adjectiveless) Avengers arrive (including heavy-hitters like Thor, Red-Hulk, Iron Man and Wolverine) and Drumm beats them like his slightly differently-spelled namesake!

Through all this, Luke Cage, his wife Jessica and their infant child are trying to get as far as possible from the goings on at Avengers Mansion, until Jessica realizes that Luke is needed to help the team and sends him back into the action – with a promise to return to her in one piece.
Spider-Man too is hoping to get the hell outta Dodge, but the legal mind of Matt (Daredevil) Murdock tells him that would be the very worst thing to do. Of course, that is a moot point as the spirit of Daniel Drumm possesses the Thing and has him toss DD and Spidey outside so that he can add them to his potential victims.

Despite Doctor Strange originally hoping to put as much distance between himself and anyone else who Daniel Drumm could possess to use against him, once it became apparent that the heroes can’t fight Drumm without fighting (and injuring) each other, Strange appears in their midst and calls the vengeful spirit out for a smack-down!

 “You want to ruin me? You want to take away everything I have? Well then DO it, coward. Come AT me. I’m right here. I challenge you, Daniel. In front of the Avengers. In front of the World. Sorcerer to Sorcerer, I challenge you! TO THE DEATH!”

OK. We’ll give Bendis a pass for the fact that Daniel Drumm, a Voodoo Houngan is not a sorcerer, per se. Even I will just shut up, sit back and await next issue’s magic melee!

However, my underlying fear is, since Bendis is notorious for slow story progression, and then rushing an unsatisfying ending; with three issues of a four-issue arc spent with a build-up (not to mention the previous arcs in the whole “Sorcerer Supreme” set of stories), there’s only one issue left with which to wrap up not only this arc, but also answer the “Who is to be Sorcerer Supreme?” question.


Come back again to read the review of the final issue of this arc, scheduled to ship to comic shoppes Wednesday, November 28th 2012. My review should hopefully be posted very soon thereafter.

See you then!

Sunday, November 25, 2012



NEW AVENGERS (v.2) # 32

BENDIS – story
RAIN BEREDO – colors




Starting off where last issue left off (see review [HERE]) this issue finds the New Avengers all gathered inside the mansion as Doctor Strange administers to Victoria Hand, who, while under the influence of a possessing spirit, attacked several practitioners of the occult and then came to Avengers Mansion only to faint dead away.

Doctor Strange instructs the team to get out of the room, but since they see Doc as usually a mellow cat, instead mill around debating what course of action to next pursue. It is then that Strange explodes in an angry command of: “EVERYBODY OUT!”; much to the dumbfounded shock of all assembled.
(Also with that angry outburst, Dr. Strange simultaneously joined the ranks of the gak-mouthed, spit-string-afflicted - a phenomenon hardly seen since the grim-n-gritty 1990’s.)

Next, Dr. Strange casts one of Bendis’ trademarked “book-and-page-number” spells and recreates a favorite scene from GHOSTBUSTERS (“I find her interesting because she sleeps above her covers… four FEET above her covers!”) as he semi-levitates Victoria Hand while extracting her astral form.
(Just as a “by-the-way”… Victoria Hand with her black-&-red two-toned hair [and her black-and-white clothes] would make an awesome girlfriend for the newly black-&-red clad Strange – who also has two-tone [black-&-white] hair). At least visually. And besides... he’s already got her in bed and showing her a few tricks that have arched her back, caused her to grip the sheets and have her breasts nearly pop out of her blouse. …OK. I’ll stop, but really… everyone else saw that too, right? Not only that, but when he brings her to the Astral Plane, he also makes a field of flowers – complete with falling flower petals cascading all around her bed. I mean… c’mon! How ELSE am I supposed to see this? She even admits to having checked her dating websites; saying this to him while her blouse is falling open. And don’t get me started on the “But we barely know each other” panel OR the panel near the end where Doc grabs some side-boob. C’MON!!! …OK… I’ll stop now. I promise. But sheesh!)

Still with my (only slightly joking) aside, this is as good a time as any to discuss the artwork for the issue. Each of these final issues (of both; New Avengers as well as the ‘Adjectiveless’ Avengers) feature a rotating cast of illustrators who have worked with Bendis before – this issue’s penciller being Carlos Pacheco.
Carlos Pacheco has long been one of my favorite comic artists. I can best describe his style as a marriage between Salvador Larocca and José Luis García-López - or perhaps - Alan Davis and Neil Adams-inspired Michael Golden with some Jackson Guice pseudo-realism thrown in, all the while being uniquely his own. Needless to say, I (normally) LOVE his work! But here… something is wrong. Most likely a by-product of a rushed deadline and different inkers, Pacheco’s work looks nothing like it has ever done. Flat and lifeless, with none of his usual dynamism and style, this issue is a visual let-down.

Still, that wasn’t enough to deter me as this issue proved to be a rare piece of excellence by Brian Bendis! No. I’m quite serious. I truly liked it!
Of course, that’s not to say it didn’t have several “Bendisisms” and errors, but the overall story of the issue was solid tension and heart-gripping (literally) excitement!

After last issue’s obvious tease, the menace of Daniel Drumm (“Brother Voodoo”) is revealed, appearing to Strange (and Victoria) on the Astral Plane. Of course, this is itself but one of the weird errors that Bendis writes into the story that found me baffled.
Dr. Strange, thinking that the Astral Plane would be the safest place to speak with Victoria Hand (since he didn’t know if any of the other Avengers had been possessed by Drumm’s invading spirit) then asks Drumm to reveal himself! This of course leads to a direct attack leading to the ***SPOILER ALERT*** astral heart-ripping and real-world killing of Victoria Hand!
Add to the typical Bendis slip-ups that he is still having Strange cast spells which would entail empowerment by the Vishanti – even after Bendis had already stated that the mystic tribunal had ceased to be. Does he not understand that spells are allowed to activate by the Deity to whom they are supplicating? Evidently not. That or the Vishanti are NOT dissolved, but then wouldn’t Strange also know this – immediately?

A minor visual nit to pick: Wouldn’t the Astral Forms of Doc and Victoria be “ghostly” as is usually the case? I’ll earn myself a No-Prize and say that Doc “colored them in” so as to lessen Ms. Hand’s disorientation. (I’ll also No-Prize myself by saying that Daniel Drumm’s usual human astral self has been corrupted by his hatred so as to resemble the demonic entity he appears as here.)

With her death scream, Strange is shunted back to the physical plane, where he is discovered, looming over the bloody corpse of Victoria Hand, by the New Avengers and Acting Director of SHIELD, Maria Hill. Framed for Victoria’s death, Doctor Strange is forced to go on the run; both to protect the rest of the Avengers, as well as distance himself from anyone who can, in turn, be possessed and attack him directly.

Strange teleports (something he has hardly ever done since his giving up the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme), first to Greenwich Village to better contact and warn his friend & manservant, Wong – instructing his Tibetan acolyte to hide himself well, even from Strange himself – because Strange can not be allowed to trust anyone, or trust that he will not be possessed himself and thus used as a weapon against his friends.

Yet, despite this (and the fact that Hellstrom has been a villain for much of the past year’s worth of comic stories – as I spoke of in last issue’s review) Strange teleports again to New Orleans to see Daimon Hellstrom. Now, if I were worried about a powered individual being possessed and attacking me, the very last place I would go is to see the Son of Satan. However, Bendis gives an admirable and plausible rationale for this visitation; Strange says that even while he himself requires help, he would be remiss if he did not at least try to warn Daimon of the dire threat. Heroes being heroic? It’s BEEN awhile!

I was, at first, under the impression that the teleportation spells cast on Dr. Strange were not of his own doing, since he was, upon reappearing, manifesting at great heights and plunging to the ground below. This belief was also reinforced by the fact that Strange, upon crashing to a rooftop in the “big easy”, clutched at his heart and pleaded with himself not to have a heart-attack!

But, then I thought that the “forced” nature of “Mordune’s Forced Teleportation Spell” is that there is no graceful segue from Point A to Point B. Just a quick lateral shunt. Since Doc was in an upper-floor bedroom in Avengers Manse, when appearing in the Village he was also at the same height and plunged to the ground. Then, a New York ground-level Strange might appear above a house’s rooftop when travelling to New Orleans - a city below sea-level. If so… a NICE touch by the creative team!

This is seriously a GREAT series of scenes for Doctor Strange! Bendis perfectly captures the feeling of Doc on the run, which has been done well only a few other times in the past - this issue felt much like Lee & Ditko's classic 'STRANGE TALES' 130 - 146! Higher praise I can not give. Bravo, Mr. Bendis!

And yet… and yet… Bendis, with his little scene of Strange hoping against a myocardial-infarction, forgets that Strange is (or at least should be) immune to such a thing. When passing one of the Ancient One’s final tests (as seen in Doctor Strange; Master of the Mystic Arts # 4), Strange accepted and defeated Death, and was granted immortality – of a sort.
While he can die in battle, from wounds received, his body does neither age nor suffer from disease affiliated with mortality. Thus a heart-attack should be impossible (or at least improbable). Now, is that ‘Death Test’ rendered null & void since Strange is no longer Sorcerer Supreme? I can’t rightfully say.

Either way, Strange is too late, for as we saw last issue, the Son of Satan was the first victim of the vengeful Brother Voodoo. Strange is speaking to, and in time reveals the desiccated, eyeless husk of his friend/foe/fellow-mystic/former-Defender…Daimon Hellstrom!

The issue ends with the highly improbable appearance of Maria Hill and some SHIELD agents getting the drop on Doc as he is standing above the corpse of yet another dead mystic - informing him that he is under arrest (improbable because she was just at Avengers Mansion investigating the attacks and deaths associated with this arc). I can only surmise that Ms. Hill; acting Director of SHIELD has got herself from nifty L.M.D.’s (Life Model Decoys) of her very own.

I wonder if an artificial entity can be possessed by an invading, malevolent spirit? I guess we’ll see next issue.


Come back to read my review of next issue [HERE]

Saturday, November 24, 2012


NEW AVENGERS (v.2) # 31


BENDIS – story
GOYDOS - art
BEREDO – colors


And lo! It came to pass… here we are at the beginning of the end of the Bendis era on the Avengers franchise, as we examine the final arc on the New Avengers; specifically, as this storyline promises to wrap up the dangling plotline of the status of DOCTOR STRANGE, the life and death of DOCTOR VOODOO, the mystery of the entity calling itself AGAMOTTO, and the very fate of the SORCERER SUPREME!

In previous story arcs, long-time Avengers writer, Brian Michael Bendis has done much to malign the very character of Doctor Strange, by scripting the mystic master’s downfall, loss of Supreme Sorcerer status, and subsequent portrayal as a sad sack novice.
Oh yeah, lest I forget, Brian Michael Bendis also swore to “fix” Marvel’s base of magic usage, but instead merely turned it into a random generation of unoriginal sounding spells; listed, footnote style as they are utilized. By the demonic dealings of Dewey Decimal, I say desist!

***You can read my thoughts on Bendis’ previous handlings of the realms of Marvel Magic (just click either the 'BENDIS' or the 'NEW AVENGERS' labels in the list on the left side of the blog, for all the previous entries to be summoned forth - in reverse chronological order)…***

But here, in these final issues, Bendis has a chance to redeem not only himself, but Doctor Strange as well. Can he do it? We'll find out.

At the start of this issue, we look in on Daimon Hellstrom (the “Son of Satan”) who himself is viewing some disturbance on the astral plane. He immediately calls upon Doctor Strange to inquire as to what it’s all about. Thus, not even 2 panels into the issue and Bendis has already ignored current continuity.
In every other comic, ever since the events of ‘Fear Itself: the Fearless’ (including stories in ‘Journey Into Mystery’ and ‘Venom’) Daimon has turned heel and has been a villain. During the actual moment where he did revert to type, he betrayed Doctor Strange in the middle of a battle with demons. So, I doubt very highly that Doc would be someone who would expect a “friendly call” from the Son of Satan.

Not only that, but apparently Victoria Hand, Avenger’s liaison, comes by to ask Daimon if he has witnessed anything out of the ordinary. She claims that she has been sent by Captain America on “Avengers Business”. If Bendis actually read any comics but his own, he’d know that Captain America is keenly aware of Hellstrom’s return to wickedness, and wouldn’t have sent anyone to ask Daimon any favors. In point of fact, Daimon would know that as well, and so he would have known that the entity calling itself “Victoria Hand” would not be what she/it claims to be – thus sparing himself from the glowing spear to the chest.

Oh, minor nit… someone please tell Bendis that Daimon’s name is “HellSTROM” not “HellSTORM”. Hellstorm was a “superhero” name he used very briefly. Stupid (sexy) Bendis.
Although, truthfully, the blame may fall on the shoulders of letterer, Joe Caramagna.

The next scene shows more of Bendis’ trademark “dinner table theatre”, with the New Avengers doing what they do best; eat and crack jokes. *sigh*

However, Bendis does take this opportunity to clean up a small mess he made in a previous issue. Back in  Bendis' 2nd (adjectiveless) Avengers # 18, when all the various heroes were forced to come to Avengers Mansion, we saw Luke Cage (“Power Man”) and his wife, Jessica Jones (“Jewel”/”Alias”/”Power-Woman”) grousing that it was THEIR house, and that they paid for it “with our own damn money”, as if they actually bought the house with a big amount of cash – instead of a mere symbolic ONE DOLLAR transaction…with a dollar BORROWED from Danny “Iron Fist” Rand.

Well, here, finally, we hear Cage state that it was the $1.00 gift purchase (back in issue # 1 of Bendis' 2nd  volume of "adjectiveless" Avengers) that made Avengers Manse into ‘Casa del Cage’. Yes. It's an extremely minor nit, but one that bugged me since that issue, because it seemed that Bendis couldn’t keep his own facts straight.

After a quick and cute series of jokes from Spider-Man, we cut to Miami where Jennifer Kale (sorceress and friend of Man-Thing) is under attack by the same entity who is possessing “Victoria Hand”. I won’t pick yet another nit by asking why Kale is wearing Arcanna’s old costume. I mean… how many mistakes can occur in the first 6 pages?  Well, add yet another, because since when can Jennifer Kale use her magic to FLY?

It’s been established that Doctor Strange was able to FLY due to use of the Cloak of Levitation, and though he could levitate without it, flight would be either improbable or very physically taxing (or perhaps requiring a spell of the “Winds of Watoom” to keep him aloft). So while Strange has been shown to be flying around as of late without the Cloak, one can hope that a logical reason can be given (although none has been offered as yet; because to quote Joe Quesada; “It’s magic, we don’t have to explain it!”) My guess is that he is either expending the energy to call forth Watoomb OR those nifty red gauntlets he’s been wearing of late have some flight spell built in.
However, Jennifer Kale, as powerful as she might be, is still not in Doctor Strange’s class (even in his currently weakened state - although as a pupil of Dakimh the Enchanter and inheritor of the mystic might of Zhered-Na, she very well has the potential to be), so again I wonder as to how she is shown to be flying? Screw it. Let’s just say it’s the Winds of Watoomb so I can move past it.

Sadly, Kale won’t be able to move past it as she too is impaled by the mystic lance.
(Although, to my eyes, judging by “Victoria’s” reaction, it seems as if Kale successfully blocked the attack and teleported away just at the last moment.)

The artwork of Michael Gaydos in the issue makes it difficult to really get a firm idea of the nuances of what is going on, as his work is sloppier than ever and gets progressively worse as the issue progresses.

The scene of Doctor Strange and Iron Fist meditating is nice to see – even if Iron Fist can’t see,m to keep his mind on the spiritual realm. The punchline of the set-up is worth it, and whether Strange is serious or just dryly agreeing with Danny Rand so that they can focus on their meditations, it’s still funny either way.

Next we have Ms. Marvel (now calling herself Captain Marvel) and Jessica “Jewel” Jones-Cage talking “girl talk”, but despite the nice interaction between the two women the entire scene is marred by the strange and unnatural habit of calling the baby; “it”. Having the mother of an infant saying; “IT is a cute baby” is wrong on every level and I challenge anyone to find a loving mother who refers to her baby as ‘IT”.

The issue wraps with a scene involving the FBI, SHIELD and the New Avengers all in hot debate over the reports coming in about Jennifer Kale’s disappearance.
The entity that is possessing Victoria Hand leaves her for the superior form of Captain (Ms.) Marvel and the last thing we see is what is supposed to be a menacing, grinning look on the countenance of Capt. Marvel, but it looks more like (as a friend of mine referred to it) a really bad portrait drawn by a 10 year old, of his mom.  LOL!

Obviously, it is evident to everyone that this possessing spirit is Daniel Drumm, the brother of Jericho Drumm – out to take revenge on the team for the death of his brother during the whole “Agamotto” mess (all you need to know about that [HERE].


Come back to read the review of the next issue [HERE].

Thursday, November 22, 2012

DO's and DON'T's for a HAPPY THANKSGIVING 2012!

To help ensure that everyone has a truly
this year, I thought I'd offer a few DO's & DON'T's as to how to go about it - as exemplified by some of my favorite Marvel Comics characters.

First off; remember that while it might be traditional to have a roast turkey (or other such fowl), it isn't necessary.
Perhaps some TOFUrkey as a tasty and humane alternative.
That roast bird might be someone you know.

Howard The (roast) Duck.
"Waugh!" indeed.

I know the recipe says to "dress" the bird, but I don't think the hat and tie were really what they meant.


Also, when preparing for visitors or if you are visiting others, remember to dress your best and offer to help set the table. Perhaps bring a centerpiece. And try not to drink too much. Drunkenness is not attractive.

Doctor Strange may have misunderstood the proper etiquette for centerpiece display.
And Wong seems to have got smashed before he finished tidying up.
(smashed against a wall, that is...)


And don't be afraid to tackle cooking multiple items at once. It's not easy to be a proper chef on such a big holiday, but don't let it scare you.

Because, whosoever knows fear BURNS at the Man-Thing's touch.


But most important of all, when enjoying your meal, be sure to walk away from the table BEFORE you feel full. There's nothing that will ruin your festivities than the bloated feeling that you will burst!

Dang... shouldn't have had the third helping of sweet potato pie there, Manny.


So, those are my helpful tidbits for your approval to help ensure a very merry, safe, healthy and

*All tips and pics from DEADPOOL KILLS THE MARVEL UNIVERSE (2012) # 1-4

Friday, November 9, 2012




Writer - Matt Fraction
Artist - Mirco Pierfederici
Colors - Veronica Gandini
Letters - Clayton Cowles
Cover Artists - Terry & Rachel Dodson
Cover Price - $3.99 (with Digital Copy)
Release Date - Nov. 7th, 2012

Nov. 10, 2012
-due to error of originally posting penultimate version of review-


There’s an oft-posited theoretical conundrum of temporal paradox that goes… “If you traveled back in time to before your conception, and somehow killed your father, would you even exist to be able to have gone back in time to do so in the first place?”

Well, in the final issue of the DEFENDERS (vol 4) they essentially just killed their father.

After 12 issues of their battling to somehow “Shut Down the Engines”, to “Fight to Save Everything”, prevent the “Universe from Breaking”, and “Everyone they Love from Dying”, they accomplished all – and none – of those things.

Read on at your own discretion.

As detailed in the first several issues of the title, 
(the preview and first four of which I reviewed quite thoroughly:
 [Marvel Point One prelude – HERE] [Issue # 1 preview – HERE]
 [Overview of Matt Fraction's direction for the title - HERE]
 [# 1 HERE] [#2 HERE] [#3 HERE] [#4 HERE]) 
the team discovers, steals and sets out to find the rest of the Concordance Engines – a set of cosmic, probability warping, reality magnets, built by the “Council of Omegas” (a race of other-dimensional protectors – who here on Earth are known as “Presters”- ie; Prester John), to locate “impossible” occurrences (which result in super-powers instead of death) within other realities and swap those with their 616-Earth counterparts, thus creating…manufacturing… a world populated with an army of “Marvels” which can stand against “Death Celestials” and their quest to destroy everything.

Of course, those nuances of purpose and origin of the Engines were not revealed until the penultimate issue, once the title was slated for cancelation.

However, here in the final issue – one issue later – the workings of the Engines have been already retconned a bit. No longer do they swap out one set of probabilities (or their resultant product) for a failed (or unchanged) one here, but now it is said that the Council of Omegas built the Engines to REPLICATE the conditions of the super-power-giving realities to create similar events here on 616-Earth. A subtle difference, but one of vital importance if you truly think about it (for no longer are other realities being harvested and deprived of their own protectors, but now instead, are merely serving as templates for our own set of…defenders).

Also a matter of confusion is the point of whether the Engines would have been best left undiscovered – so they can continue to produce “impossible” events here on Earth which produce super-powers, so that the heroes can fight to stop the Death Celestials – or if the Engines should be destroyed – thus depriving the Death Celestials from interacting with them. Both theories are posited as being true within the issues. By the end of the series, the remaining Defenders take it to their task to destroy the Engines, even though the universe will be destroyed anyway, to prevent the Death Celestials from using them to do it all again in another reality. It’s a mess of contradictory ideas, never fully explained or explored.

Once the fate of the title was sealed, it became easily apparent that one of the possible “outs” to wrap up the many dangling plotlines was simply to have someone (Doctor Strange being the most likely candidate) to go back in time and undo it all. That, or use the actual Engines themselves, which were the MacGuffin focus of the entire title, direction and prospectus of the series. Of course, one would hope that a “professional writer” who had built his reputation as purportedly being a crazy, wildly imaginative maverick along the lines of Grant Morrison or Steve Gerber would come up with something a little more crazy, wild or imaginative. Instead we get what every grade-school reader had already known would come to pass.

At the start of the issue, the Death Celestial has killed everyone on Earth, except for a scant few people – the reality-hopping Defenders among them (Wong is also dead [discovered in the Sanctum last issue – in a touching scene with Doctor Strange and the corpse of his fallen friend]). There literally seems no way to save the world since the Concordance Engines have been “played with” by the Defenders and thus attracted the attentions of the Death Celestial. It is then determined that Doctor Strange (see?) needs to go back to the past and stop himself from ever getting the Engine in the first place.

So, what does he do? Does he go back to just before he suggests STEALING the engine, after the battle with Nul the Breaker of Worlds, who had hoped to destroy it and thus the world?


Does he go back to before he uses it to call his old girlfriend back from the dead, the first of the major tamperings with the Engine?


Does he even go back to the very start of this mess, when Strange entered his friend, “Notebook Joe’s” mind and thus was able to gain awareness of the Engine, which Joe first discovered on an archeological dig? (Going to this point would save the life of Joe, who killed himself soon thereafter, BTW.)


Instead, Strange goes back (or is sent) to the day where he had sex with a grad-student in his Sanctum Sanctorum, just before going out for tea at a diner, using a minor divination spell to determine his next course of action.

Oddly enough, time-displaced Strange (in an invisible, intangible manifestation of his physical form – NOT his astral form) does not stop his previous self from having sex with the girl (it’s obvious that he just stood by and watched it happen again… like a live sex-tape) and then alters what one word the divination spell writes.
Whereas before the spell spelled; “R-A-G-E” as a hint about the Hulk and his ebon doppelganger, this time, Strange seems to spend considerable effort to make the tea droplets spell out “G-I-R-L”, which gets him off his ass and over to try to smooth over the wounded feelings of the young woman, thus allowing him to NOT BE HOME when the Hulk came a’calling.

Just have Doc be away having a coffee with the girl (in an “add-it-to-the-innumerable-number-of-homages-to-Edward-Hopper’s-famous-painting;-‘Nighthawks’”), so that the Hulk can not get Strange to help him gather the Defenders to battle Nul?

Now, to be totally fair, there was a lot of high-concept stuff being tried out in this title, and a lot of dangling plots that had to be wrapped up - quickly.
No one can fault a writer with a hasty exit under circumstances like those that presented themselves with the "sudden" cancellation.
However, in the current comic buying climate, I would have thought it best for a writer to not overwrite too far beyond the first year, just in case.
Still, as I said earlier, a writer who has been touted as being able to pen "weird adventure" should have been able to come up with an ending not so pedestrian.
Fraction'a wrap up could have been - should have been - better.

Remember, by the time that Hulk came to Doc (in the “Point One # 1” prelude), as well as at the start of Defenders v.4 # 1) Doc had already seen a glimpse of the Concordance Engine in a vision, presented to him by the fractured mind of his friend “Notebook Joe” just before Joe killed himself by stepping in front of a subway train. In fact, Strange was obsessed with finding out what it was all about! He even saw a vision of the “future” which was made reality in issue # 11.

Thus, there’s a good chance that someone of infinite curiosity and learning would continue searching for the answer to that mystery (and also to avenge the death of a friend under his watch). He would quite probably find an Engine…if not sooner, then definitely eventually.

And when he did so, like he did in this series, he may have inadvertently used it to resurrect his long-lost love; Martha (see her entry in the epic “Many Loves of Stephen Strange” post [HERE]).
So, what happens to her now? She was killed off with everyone else on the reality’s version of Earth. Thus, since everything was rebooted to a time before it ever happened, she would never be resurrected at all (which means I had better amend her listing in that “Loves of Dr. Strange” post accordingly to explain this mess).

However, the fact that none of this took place means that Iron Fist’s fellow “Immortal Weapons” will not have been hunted down and killed by the “Prince of Orphans”. In fact, the Prince of Orphans will also not die. And of lesser import, the “Daughters of Dark Water” will never have been released from their underwater prison.

Another minor nit to pick with Strange’s method of avoiding the whole series of events is that if you were to re-read issue # 1 again, in the diner scene Doc admits to himself that he feels “particularly lovelorn” while he tries his divination spell. So, if the new resulting “G-I-R-L” revelation WERE to occur, Strange would most likely attribute that to his state of mind and purge the thoughts and TRY AGAIN.
Since it took “future Strange” some considerable effort to change the resultant droplets the one time, the chance of his doing so to avoid the original “R-A-G-E” outcome would be negligible. Thus, the series of events would most likely still transpire.

The only thing that would allow for Strange taking the now-changed result is that Fraction had set him up as feeling so terribly lonely (and horny).

Humorously of note is that without the Defenders to battle Nul, the problem would have been neatly solved all on its own (as I stated in my review of the 3rd issue).

I should take this time to discuss the artwork for a moment.
This title has rotated artists at a distracting rate, none of whom had styles quite fitting to the direction of the story. One of the best; Michael Lark (from issue # 4) was a beautiful addition, but mostly because the story of that issue was one which fit his somber, realistic style.
In these last two issues, the artist is Mirco Pierfederici. His style, while basic, has a nice rounded feel to it, and he allows for some touching and intimate looks at our heroes in their reactions to the horror around them. His work is lacking in many respects, most significantly a sense of professional polish - especially in issue # 11, as the inking in the issue is so murky and messy. However, in this last issue, the inking is negated by beautiful (if overly obvious in its digital origins) coloring by Veronica Gandini. She makes his work shine and puts a satisfactory polish on this final issue.

Matt Fraction’s writing, by the end, devolved into a minimalist exercise (read: seemingly lost all interest in actually writing the script). Gone was all pretense of his usual “look how cool I am”-isms. Gone also were the page footers that he had been so proud of using to give 4th-wall-breaking metatextual clues. Instead we are left with bare minimum exposition and of repeating the phrase “…and Then…” superimposed over panels showing wordless action. After a while of re-reading “…and then…”, “…and then…”, “…and then…” to move the story along, it became hard to care about the supposedly overwhelming events being relayed.

It seemed more like an iteration of “yadda yadda yadda” wherein the teller of the tale uses the fill-in-words to just skip over the bulk of the story, since those parts are “unimportant”. By the time he was scripting this issue, Matt Fraction was already at work on his new “Marvel NOW!” titles; Fantastic Four and FF, and seemingly put very little effort into wrapping up his creative vision.

Speaking of “vision”, like in the prelude story and in issue # 4, Matt Fraction once again includes the erroneous use of some sort of “third eye” on Dr. Strange’s brow. He truly doesn’t seem to understand that whenever Strange had a 3rd eye appear on his forehead, it was the Eye of Agamotto released from it’s medallion. However, the Eye of Agamotto had seemingly been destroyed many months ago in the pages of 'New Avengers'. If this was some new spell to emulate an all-seeing eye, Fraction never bothered to mention it. Something like that needs to have at least a cursory explanation. That’s ‘Writing 101’, people.

I also feel a slight need to question the curious bit of dialogue where Doctor Strange rather flippantly says to the rest of the team; “At least we’re not dying in Philadelphia”, and then goes on to explain that as one who has been to hell itself, Philly is truly terrible.
I wonder if this is some in-joke between Fraction and Cullen Bunn (who is writing Venom and taking the symbiote-wearing hero to the “City of Brotherly Love”. and who is also writting an upcoming DEFENDERS title *see the footnote at the end of this review*)? Or, perhaps Fraction truly hates Philly? However, I wonder if he knows that Stephen Strange was BORN there? Either way, it’s a weird little exchange that seems out of place.

And speaking of being "out of place"...(ok. this one's a stretch)... the final words of Prestor Omega to Dr. Strange just before the end of everything - possibly going to some other place - brings up questions as to if he (and Matt Fraction)  knows something that we don't. "I will see you in the next life." Then the whiteness of oblivion.
However, what's more likely is that in any other issue, whenever an Omega Prester DID move or say anything, it was to save the day, but in this instance, there was nothing he COULD do, and so he just said goodbye.

The "relationship" between Doc and Prester Omega has been one I enjoyed over the title.
Doc speaking to his silent "friend" always make me wonder if they were truly communicating on some level. I will miss that, and hope that Prester Omega returns.
(Maybe in the pages of the Marvel NOW reboot of NEW AVENGERS. Their logo DOES incorporate an OMEGA symbol, so...)

Sadly, the final page of the issue is a cliché’d bit of nonsensical platitude and if considered even for a moment is proven to be meaningless and false. The issue – and the series – ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper.

The reality of it all is that the Defenders failed – utterly - to save the world. All they were able to do was go back and set up a re-do.
(Much like how the DC heroes failed to stop their entire reality from being rebooted into its current “new 52” incarnation… Is “superheroes failing miserably” the new “thing”?)

Unlike many time-travel stories, wherein at least one or a few retain the knowledge and/or memory of the events that transpired in the now-avoided splinter-reality, this issue creates a sequence of events wherein no one is aware of the adventure at all. Nothing is learned. Nothing is gained.

Volume 4 of THE DEFENDERS explained that everything you think you know about the origins of the Marvel Universe is wrong… and the last issue of the title proves that the entire volume 4 of the DEFENDERS just never happened and doesn’t matter.


Perhaps we'll all do better with Cullen Bunn's new, upcoming FEARLESS DEFENDERS title, featuring an all-female roster, starring VALKYRIE and MISTY KNIGHT - mixing the "FEAR ITSELF: THE FEARLESS" with the DEFENDERS.

Saturday, November 3, 2012



NOW is what is happening!
NOW is what... IS.
NOW is... NOW!

So, what's happening NOW?
In the MARVEL Universe... the FUTURE is NOW!

"MARVEL NOW!", that is.

This, unlike DC's "52" reboot, is not a re-do of any sort, but a publishing "branding" for their current incarnation of regular fan-favorite Marvel titles.

I guess the immediacy of the "NOW!" aspect is to tell "teh kidz" that these ain't yer granddad's Marvel comics! No sir.

However, the irony is that the "NOW" brand is one of Marvel's OLDEST, and like all their old titles, trademarks and names simply can not be allowed to lie fallow.
(Remember Marvel's old 1980's video game magazine; 'BLIP'? Well, Marvel fairly recently reused that hoary old computer title for some of their online content. And that's just one example. Think of ANY old Marvel comic title, character or brand. I'll bet they've nearly all been utilized and re-purposed over the years, haven't they? See? Nothing gets wasted.)

So, when I first saw the listings for the MARVEL "NOW!" branding, I immediately recalled TWO old factoids:

1) Marvel already released a DOCTOR STRANGE comic with the "NOW" header on it... back in 1989!

Roy Thomas and Jackson "Butch" Guice
 (Actually, all gimmicks aside, a very good issue)

The issue, really a "magazine" article within the comic, featured an excerpt from a tell-all biography about Dr. Stephen Strange, by his then-former-lover; author Morganna Blessing (y'see, she thought he was dead; killed by the Beyonder and wanted his legend known. Looooong story).

Anyway, the  comic cover, with the "NOW" header, wasn't really the cover of the comic per se (even though it WAS), but was to emulate the cover of the MAGAZINE wherein the book excerpt was presented; 'NOW MAGAZINE'.

Which brings us to the second factoid that I remembered;

2) 'NOW' Magazine was the magazine that J. Jonah Jameson was editor of - even before the Amazing Spider-Man comics showed a "Daily Bugle".

Check it.

Jameson Publications!

And 'NOW' Magazine was the hip and with-it mag that let you know if you were cool or totally squaresville.

Flash Thompson = Too cool for school - Hip and NOW
Peter Parker = Nerdsville -  totally yesterday, man.

So, while modern readers and fans were going on about how they were going to rip up their 50-year comic collections because Marvel was rebooting their comics and all the history meant nothing, I kinda realized that it was a branding opportunity, merely utilizing one of their oldest "brands".

While I wanted to toss a post here (pretty much exactly like this one) all those months ago, I figured SOMEONE ELSE certainly would, so I continued on with my day-to-day "NOW" life of overwork, getting sick, doing the occasional freelance artwork and fretting, and thought that surely someone else was going to post the "Marvel NOW expose'" any day NOW!

But that never happened (as far as I NOW... er.. KNOW), and since I am still a few days away from being able to post something more substantial (I DO have a bunch of posts nearly done, but between my day-to-day "NOW" life of overwork, getting sick, doing the occasional freelance artwork and fretting - and the past week of no electricity/heat/water due to Superstorm "Sandy" ***... and the days before the storm getting ready for it - I've yet to get my act together.

So, enjoy the fact that this entire "MARVEL NOW!" reality that Marvel is publishing soon just could very well be nothing more than an elaborate crossover wherein we are subjected to what the Marvel Universe might look like in the fevered psyche of a sleeping J. Jonah Jameson - and when he awakes, all this will have been a dream and the Marvel Universe will go back to what it was before NOW!

Oh, and also remember that no matter what... DOCTOR STRANGE was NOW long before NOW!



To support the relief efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, donate online or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

My wife and I had to go to a Red Cross Shelter at the local school where I work (no school all week due to the storm, so no work/pay), because after several days of dumping ice cold water over my head (water that we had the presence of mind to save in jugs before the power went out), we just wanted a hot shower.
Well, the Red Cross arranged for everyone and anyone to have not only THAT, but some hot food and some place to sleep if their homes were uninhabitable.

And that's just here in the Pocono Mountains of PA.
When our power finally came on last night, we were able to SEE the devastation that Sandy had wrought... it  is UNBELIEVABLE! Entire neighborhoods; wiped out! Flooding and fires and too many unnecessary deaths! As uncomfortable as we were, the worst we had to endure was the cold (and relapsing back to previous illnesses from which we had only just recovered). Many in states all across the eastern sea-board have suffered far, far worse.
I saw video footage of places were we USED to live (on Long Island, NY, and even NYC) and those places were hit HARD!

So, I've donated (I always do, and frequently give blood whenever I see a Red Cross blood drive), so please, won't you help out? "NOW"? (see how that tied into the blog post? But seriously, not trying to pressure anyone... just a polite request with some funny yuk-yuks tossed in.)