New Avengers #4

I like Stuart Immonen’s art. I say that because I wanted to start this review on a good note, much like this month’s issue of New Avengers starts out on a good note. New Avengers #3 ended with the absurd reveal of The Ancient One, defender of the earth dimension for over 500 years, as the baddie that was out to steal the Eye of Agamotto in order to overthrow the dimension. That was a bad concept and a bad way to end the issue so I expected that issue #4 would start out polluted by the negativity I felt at the end of Issue #3. Delightfully, that was not the case. After a brief reminder of the hell that has been unleashed in New York, issue #4 begins in the Sanctum Sanctorum of Doctor Voodoo where he, Strange, and Hellstrom discuss who could possibly be behind the current invasion.

I did like the discussion between the three mages, and Doctor Strange seems to be given the competence to realize that something more is going on here than what it looks like. Of course, being an Avengers book the flow of action is redirected to New York through the medium of, well, a medium. Voodoo uses a spell (The Houdon-Lou Visualization Spell of the Real, we are told) to remote view the action in New York, a clever bit of storytelling that lets us segue back to the action without ever really leaving the less cinematic but plot furthering Sanctum.

Things are not going well in New york. They are going so poorly, in fact, that Ms. Marvel decides it is a good idea to fly herself right into the center of the disturbance and confront it head on. She is confident enough in her power and ability that she does not see this as a horrible mistake. The sorcerers watching the action do, however, and in a surprising bit of heroism from Bendis’ Strange the Doctor launches his astral form at her with enough speed and force that he is able to rip her spirit from her body, with the help of Carelli’s Forced Mortal Astral Extraction, in time to save her from the disintegration she was about to experience. After several pages of reunions (Ms. Marvel with her body, the sorcerers with the New Avengers, Strange with his body, and Iron Fist with everybody) Doctor Strange gets punched, because that seems to be the leitmotif for this series.

This is also the part where this issue went downhill for me. Iron Fist passes on that The Ancient One is the one tearing apart the dimension, but goes on to claim that this is all Strange’s fault for stealing the Eye from its rightful owner. Yeah. This would, of course, be acceptable as the ramblings of a brain-washed pawn in some cosmic game, but Doctor Strange gets an incredibly guilty look on his face when this claim is made and immediately changes the subject. After a couple more pages of Stephen Strange being torn down as a coward and thief we get an ultimatum delivered via the Iron Fist in the form of a question:

I really did enjoy most of this book. It still had light-hearted banter between the New Avengers, and had a lot of good mystical coffee talk between Strange, Voodoo, and Hellstrom. That ending really disappointed me though. Really, the only way to make this worse is if the solution ended up being something inane like making Wolverine the new Iron Fist and then taping the Eye of Agamotto to his forehead so that he could punch The Ancient One into submission.

In the end, this book balanced out for me. It was a fairly good story, but the implication that Strange knowingly endangered the dimension he was duty bound to protect by stealing a powerful artifact, one that we all can remember him being given very early in his stories, did not sit well with me. It is my guess that they are going to de-power Strange, a long standing goal of Marvel writers, by taking away the amulet which has a newfound importance in the Marvel Universe. I can live with that, I just hope the journey there is worth it.

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13 Responses to New Avengers #4

  1. Steven R. Stahl says:

    It is my guess that they are going to de-power Strange, a long standing goal of Marvel writers, by taking away the amulet which has a newfound importance in the Marvel Universe. I can live with that, I just hope the journey there is worth it.

    The problem is that the Eye’s new-found importance is completely false. There’s no logical basis for anything that’s going on in the storyline. From an editorial perspective, which places a value on plot logic, the storyline is already garbage that shouldn’t be appearing in print. Separating the Eye from Agamotto and turning it into a generic power source does nothing for storytelling.

    A reader can conclude from this issue that Bendis doesn’t have any idea what he’s doing. The cliffhanger at the end of NA #3 is “resolved” out of sight; the weakening of the dimensional walls that Hellstrom was darkly warning about was irrelevant; the dialogue between Iron Fist and Strange at the end was ludicrous. Agamotto “owns” the Eye and always has owned it. There’s no possible way to end the storyline in a way that will make sense in terms of Strange’s continuity, unless it was a dream sequence.

    If someone had decided to energize STAR TREK by retconning Spock and other Vulcans in Starfleet into sleeper agents who were part of a secret plot to take over the Federation and turn humans into slaves, would you think. okay, it’s strange, but the situation has potential, or would you think the guy was an uninformed, ignorant cretin?

    It’s far easier to take a situation, blow things up via a retcon, and create the impression that, wow, stuff is happening, there’s some excitement here, than it is to build on the existing situation, but that requires readers to be gullible idiots. From what I’ve seen during the last several years, Bendis’s fans can generally be described as gullible idiots.

    SRS

    • It does indeed look as if they are taking the easy, and inelegant, way out. As I said, I hope the journey is worth it. I am not getting a lot of stuff to make me believe that will be the case though. Shouldn’t there be at least a little wheat in this chaff?

  2. OK, now I’m going to have to blog all about this on my site soon enough…
    I’ll try to get to it tonight.

    I’ll post a link here when its ready.

    ~P~

  3. Not a lot of this story makes sense, in terms of Doctor Strange history, New Avengers history, or even within the issue itself. What questions do you have, specifically?

    • Mostly stuff about the Eye of Agamotto. I know I have never seen anything in any story that would justify any of this, but I was hoping that maybe somewhere there was something I had missed. I want to believe!

      • Can’t help you there. While there are a handful of stories describing the origins of the Eye, they all share the common element of Agamotto having it first. Nobody has ever claimed Strange stole it.

        (Indeed, there are other artifacts of Agamotto out there of similar, if not entirely equal, potency, and that’s not even including Agamotto’s water pipe.)

        There are also two stories of how Strange became Sorcerer Supreme (although the second was more along the lines of a formal confirmation) and in both cases, he’d had the Eye for years already. Indeed, when he willingly gave up the mantle to Salome, he kept the Eye and Cloak.

  4. Steven R. Stahl says:

    For an example of how intelligence affects the reading of fiction, look at pages 15 and 16 — http://forums.comicbookresources.com/showthread.php?t=338437&page=16 — of the comments on NEW AVENGERS #4. Two of the posters have little understanding of how sorcery was used in Dr. Strange stories, and seem to have little understanding of story logic generally. They read. Some of what they read, they understand.

    Their failure to understand story logic explains the reactions of some to such things as the conception of the twins in Englehart’s VISION & SCARLET WITCH maxiseries. Readers who followed his reasoning understood why the pregnancy and twins could be real; others thought, “Huh? How can a robot and a woman have kids?!!”

    However the least intelligent readers react to stories shouldn’t be the basis for assessing the stories, much less the basis for writing sequels. Writers and editors should have better than average intelligence, and be able to comprehend their source material, or there will be problems.

    SRS

    • Wow, that was hard to read. I tend to avoid most of the comics boards because of the rampant trolling, and this really only reinforces this urge. Unfortunately, I think that the ignorance of many of those posters only bolsters the current Marvel view that Doctor Strange is not a character for everybody. Much like the current Franken-Castle storyline, I think they are working their way towards Marvelising the character into something they think IS for everybody, or at least fits well into the current idea of the Marvel Universe.

  5. Got sidetracked with real-life stuff and haven’t wrapped up that post yet (it’s mostly typed out, but need to secure some more facts and scans).

    Soon…
    Apologies for the delay.

    ~P~

  6. SRS,

    I just hopped over to read a few pages of that thread… oog…
    It made my head hurt with all the stupid over there.

    ~P~

  7. Ugh…
    FINALLY got around to posting my varied thoughts on N.A. # 4.

    Linkee goes here:

    http://sanctumsanctorumcomix.blogspot.com/2010/09/eye-of-beholden-or-possession-is-eye.html

    I truncated it down from the insane in-depth review it was originally intended to be and strictly stuck with various thoughts on the circumstances surrounding ownership of the EYE.

    ~P~

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