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.