Let’s just get this bit out of the way right now: That is not the Ancient One and we all know it. My displeasure does not arrive from that nonsense. I will elaborate on that later, but let’s get a proper start first. New Avengers #3 was released this Wednesday and there are several things that need to be talked about.
See that image on the cover? I don’t know what that is about because it does not happen in this book. While it was better paced that the last issue, it still feels like Bendis is running behind schedule and we are getting a truncated version of the story he had originally planned on telling. The fact that the images on the cover correspond to something that presumably happens in the future only serve to encourage this line of though in me. What is in this book is more great art by Stuart Immonen. His pencils do an excellent job of defining the story, but still leave a lot of room for the inker (Wade Von Grawbadger) and colorist (Laura Martin) to use their abilities to their fullest. This book was a delight to look at. Much less so to read.
As the book opens we get a great bit of characterization for Miss Hand, showing her frustration at the situation she has been forced into and her initial reaction to the rain of hellfire that ended the last issue. This bit was a pleasure to read and reminds me of how good Bendis can be when he is working with characters he likes. After that we get a little insight into where Iron Fist has been taken by his demonic captor, but only a little. Thankfully, he is alive and still in possession of the Eye of Agamotto. Unfortunately, there are two entities there, represented only by disembodied speech bubbles, that are not at all happy about these two things. Before we discover anything more about his captors the story shifts back to our heroes in Central Park.
Things are not going well for the New Avengers, especially since their mystical experts cannot seem to agree on what the threat they are facing actually is. Brother Voodoo, now that he is Sorcerer Supreme, seems to have inhereted the gross incompetence that Bendis likes to associate with the title. Daimon recognizes them readily as Wolfsblood, which would be a big step in the right direction if Doctor Strange hadn’t pointed out that Daimon was wrong, even though all the signs pointed to his being right. These demons, whatever they are, have the ability to appear as something they are not. This tidbit of information, inserted almost in the margins of the page, provides the only real bit of revelation into the larger mystery of what is going on.
The next few pages are filled with what is supposed to be witty banter between the new team-members, but feels more like a rant by Bendis about conventions in the super hero genre. It was not as amusing as it was intended to be, and really did not do much to further the plot. It is these pages, more than any others, that make me think this was a rushed project. None of the characters involved speak in a distinctive voice, sounding more like a mouthpiece for the writer than the characters themselves. There is a lot of ghost punching though, so it’s not all bad. After a brief stop at the Avengers mansion to deal with the issue of the abandoned baby, and some more time with making Miss Hand the hero of the book, we go back to the mystic trio while they are pondering the details of the attack.
Doctor Strange gets right down to business, while Daimon and Voodoo provide commentary. Daimon points out that whatever did the possessing had to be something amazingly powerful. It isn’t just any entity that can posses Stephen Vincent Strange and the Son of Satan. Strange tries to downplay his abilities, but Daimon refuses to play the pity game with him. Brother Voodoo is quite committed to the pity game though. Now that he is Sorcerer Supreme in a Bendis book he needs to get in his prerequisite amount of self doubt and stammering. I understand that they need to tear Voodoo down so that Strange can eventually take up the mantle again, but I wish they would let Drumm have some dignity. There are other reasons for him to be displaced other than gross incompetence.
Eventually we make our way back to the featureless dimension to which Iron Fist has been spirited away. We have been waiting since our first trip here to learn the identity of these voices, and boy oh boy do we get a reveal.
That’s right, the big baddie that has been tearing about the dimension is the last Sorcerer Supreme, who merged with all existence upon attaining enlightenment at the moment of his death. Except that, it obviously isn’t. Absurd stuff like that happens all the time in comics, and we all eventually accept it and go along for the ride. It would be a stupendously bad bit of writing to bring the Ancient One back as the villain though, even for Bendis. Believe it or not, I still have more respect for him than that. Ultimate Comics Spider-Man proves that he can be a good writer, even for super heroes, when he wants to. It upsets me though that he is going to play that game with us. I’m afraid that the idea of the Ancient One as Dimensional Protector turned reanimated Dimensional Destroyer is one that is going to be with us for a while. You don’t throw that bomb and then take it away just a few pages later, especially since the reveal was to the Iron Fist instead of the Sorcerer Supreme. It seems all too likely that we are going to be stuck with a whole bunch of nonsense before, right at the last possible moment, it is revealed that it wasn’t the Ancient One at all, but some other beastie who was just pretending to be Strange’s old mentor for the shock value.
Of course I could be wrong and it could be just as bad as it appears.