New Avengers #5

By the Hoary Hosts, it has happened. Bendis “went there”. Well, to be fair, he didn’t go all the way there. The absolute worst case scenario would have been if Bendis really had decided that the Ancient One had come back to life for the sole purpose of kicking his beloved pupil while he was down and stealing his amulet. That isn’t even comic book bad, it’s just dumb. However he did, as Sanctum Sanctorum and many others guessed, do the next worst thing and make Agamotto the bad guy.

And now for confession time: I am not so terribly opposed to this. I think Bendis handled it poorly, he is really not even trying on this book. The writing in New Avengers is possibly the worst I have ever seen from him. Agamotto, however, has been known to be a possessive jerk at times, and can be a bit amoral when it comes to the destruction of entire universes. Agamotto has also been known to test Strange in some pretty intense and seemingly malevolent ways when the Doc needed to stop wearing black nail polish and listening to The Cure so that he could get back to being the Sorcerer Supreme. This could be either one of these situations and I could be okay with that. Really, the worst part of this story is the story itself.

This issue begins with the flashback to Strange and Wong dispensing some street level justice to some Red Hand thugs who are being hired to steal the Eye of Agamotto. This serves both the purpose of tying this story into the big Shadowland event that is going on right now (even though the two would not be concurrent) and of giving us some exposition as to who Agamotto is. As I said in an earlier post, I liked this bit of the story, even though it did not make one lick of sense. The whole concept was flawed to the core, but entertaining none the less. Much like Hot Pockets.

In the following scenes we see Daniel Drumm, who states who he is out loud in case we have forgotten about him, wandering through a dimension of pure light, and Doctor Voodoo in his sanctum bemoaning his inability to do anything useful at all. Poor Jericho, It is not his fault his tenure as Sorcerer Supreme was to be written by someone who did not like writing magic. The two are briefly united, and this is apparently enough to clue Voodoo into the source of their problems. At the same time the New Avengers team has walked back to the mansion and began a civilized talk where nobody tries to punch Doctor Strange. At first. Through logic, deductive reasoning, and Spider-Man’s witty banter they come to the conclusion that Agamotto must be trying to reclaim the Eye just as his emissary arrives to demand its return. Oh yeah, the emissary also casually dropped this bomb:

It seems to me that little bit there would be worthy of a story all to itself, and hopefully we will learn more about it. The more likely outcome is that it will never be really explored, just used as another justification for limiting magic in the Marvel Universe. The Doctor, of course, refuses. Not only would it be a terrible idea to hand something that is (suddenly) so powerful to a potential enemy, but he maintains that it is not his to give. It belongs to the Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Voodoo. This makes the emissary angry, and he possesses the rest of the New Avengers who waste no time in attempting to rectify the lack of Strange punching.

Luckily for Strange, and in a blatant attempt to disprove my “Doctor Strange gets straight up punched in every Bendis written book he is in” theory, Doctor Voodoo shows up in time to exorcise the heroes and end the immediate threat. Then he does something that does not seem very smart. He challenges Agamotto for ownership of the Eye. A move so incredibly stupid it might just work (sitcom writing 101, folks). Of course, Strange and Hellstrom do not hesitate to point out how incredibly stupid the whole concept is. It is like a kitten challenging a tank. Voodoo does not listen to them, he has a plan. In a rare moment of competence for a Bendis written Sorcerer Supreme he mentions a loophole in the rules. I like this. Magic should be more about wit than about power and Doctor Voodoo needs to show his ability as Earth’s greatest mystical defender before the mantle is inevitably stripped from him. Unfortunatley I don’t think we are going to get a lot of awesome mystical combat in the next issue as Wolverine was chosen as Voodoo’s champion in the upcoming fight. Jericho’s plan is to infuse all the the New Avengers power, along with Hellstrom’s, the Iron Fist’s, and his own into Wolverine before launching him like a occult missile at Agamotto. Yep, this whole arc comes down to one big mystically infused Fastball Special. I hope that’s okay.

At this point I still can’t say what I think about this issue. Out of context it might just be comics, full of all the wacky hijinks we love the medium for. Looking at it along with the previous four issues though I just can’t get it out of my head that this project was very low on Bendis’ list of priorities. The writing seems shoddy, and if you have been reading this blog you know I am something of an inside expert on shoddy writing.

Still, I didn’t hate this book.

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17 Responses to New Avengers #5

  1. You want to know my problem with this book in a nutshell?

    Issue #1: A possesing spirt of some sort is the villain.
    Issue #2: No, demons are the villains.
    Issue #3: No, the Ancient One is the villain.
    Issue #4: Actually, it’s all Strange’s fault.
    Issue #5: Nahh… it’s really Agamotto.

    Basically, EVERY SINGLE threat the NA have faced in this arc are basically ignored by the next issue. I fully expect issue #6 to begin with Agamotto revealing that this was all another test, and the true enemy is Shuma-Gorath or someone like that

  2. Steven R. Stahl says:

    We seem to have two very different perspectives on this issue and the storyline. Your perspective is that of the passive consumer: Was my time wasted? Did I throw away my money?

    I’m concerned with the story’s success as an intellectual work and Bendis’s and Brevoort’s fulfillment of their professional responsibilities. The story was a complete failure as an intellectual work and they both failed completely in terms of professional conduct. The content, were Marvel a company with recognizable editorial standards, would have been unpublishable. The storyline should have never even gotten to the proposal stage.

    Your perspective results in less anger, but also less interest in trying to effect change. I believe this issue/storyline is, as a product, easily worse than “One More Day” and makes me want to (figuratively, obviously) take Brevoort’s head off — but then, I think that he should have quit or been fired years ago.

    I can’t say that your reaction — the issue was bad, but not that bad — is terribly mistaken, but that reaction does nothing, even in theory, to prevent such editorial disasters from happening again. I intend to try to ensure that such a disaster involving Strange doesn’t happen again.

    SRS

    • I actually agree with most of what you said here. The writing is indeed unforgivably bad. Possibly even worse than One More Day, as you suggested. Indeed the very heart of this concept (the issue with the Eye and its ties to the Sorcerer Supreme) is flawed. But it is comics, and comics are frequently this way. I do think, however, that the most basic outline of this story (Agamotto wants his eye back for personal reasons, Strange and Voodoo react) is starting to seem viable if a competent writer had been behind it instead of Bendis.

      • Steven R. Stahl says:

        Accepting the faulty premise and continuity violations (the status of the Eye, Agamotto’s character, etc.) and hoping that another writer will use the new status quo well later is pragmatic, but doing so accepts the “Continuity shouldn’t stand in the way of a good story” argument. A writer who accepts that argument or violates continuity himself isn’t going to produce good stories anyway. Good writers who favored the classic versions of characters, and the classic Dr. Strange specifically, are more likely to avoid him than they are to use the defective status quo.

        I find it much easier and intellectually consistent to condemn all significant continuity violations and faulty premises. Separating the significant violations from the insignificant ones is easy. Rejecting storylines with faulty premises can save you money; I’m not buying the CHAOS WAR miniseries because of that.

        This past day, I had an online encounter with a professional writer in the comics field who claimed to enjoy NEW AVENGERS but wouldn’t say why. He claimed to get that I “don’t like” NEW AVENGERS, but — I suspect that such cowardice online regarding Bendis’s material is common. Whatever the pro writers might think of Bendis’s stories, it’s likely that they’re unwilling to state that publicly online for fear of being blackballed or hurting themselves in other ways. I’m thankful that I’m not dependent on comics for my income.

        SRS

  3. Y’know… I’m of a torn mind about this whole turn of events.
    And I will address it in a blog post of my own soon (have to winterize the windows first. It gets a bit drafty in the ol’ Sanctum these days, and Wong doesn’t seem to mind. He says it reminds him of Kamar-Taj).

    Anyway, I know how EACH of you guys feel (“strange occasions”, Mario, and SRS)… my feelings echo EACH of your own.
    And while that may seem to be a bit contradictory, I assure you… that bothers me just as much as it does you.

    This story IS crap.
    But, it is a course of events that COULD possibly GO somewhere.
    IF ONLY it weren’t in the hands of Bendis.

    That said, I will post something soon-ish.

    In the meanwhile, since this blog’s host has not put a hyper-link to my post, on my “name” – where he gave me dubious credit for being right about my summary as to which cliff Bendis was going to drive the story up to (and over?), I’ll post the link to my blog post about NA # 4 here (y’know… if anyone wants to read my synaptic misfires about an issue already one month old):

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

    Now, aside from my wondering what Bendis is going to do next… I’m far more curious as to what lengths Steven R Stahl is going to go to “try to ensure that such a disaster involving Strange doesn’t happen again”.

    That right there is a pure origin for super-villainy if ever I read one.
    I can hardly wait to see him dangling Bendis from the Brooklyn Bridge.

    😉

    “Tamam Shud!”
    ~P~

    • Man, I miss going back for one link and I hear about it within hours (actually two links, since I was also going to link to your response here to my post on the sneak peek). I need to do stuff like this more often, it breeds traffic! Honestly though, I do apologize and will go back and rectify that when I get home tonight. The post that you read is actually my rough draft. I had meant to hit the “Save as Draft” button instead of the “Publish” button, but was in a hurry to go enjoy some time with my daughter in the brief window we had open to us. When I realized my mistake the article had already been read by several people and I figured it would do more damage to change it than just let everyone get a glimpse into my raw unfettered mind. Look upon it and weep! Still, sloppiness all around and I do need to beg forgiveness.

  4. Steven R. Stahl says:

    I don’t have anything specific in mind right now. I’m also not interested in trying to organize a boycott, bomb his e-mail account, hack his Twitter account, or engage in any activity that constitutes harassment.

    Brevoort knows me, though. He devoted a blog post to me back in 2007 — http://fans.marvel.com/tom_brevoort/blog/2007/04/28/absolutism
    — and would sometimes respond indirectly to my criticism about Bendis in blog entries, such as this one on emotional truth.– http://fans.marvel.com/tom_brevoort/blog/2010/01/26/emotional_truth?com_pg=1

    I’m biased, obviously, but IMO, I won every argument I had with Brevoort and his supporters at his blog. He responded indirectly several times and mentioned me in another blog post once. It’s possible that my continued presence on his blog is one reason why he quit blogging and moved to Twitter and Formspring questions.

    Brevoort doesn’t have a writing/editing background; his background is in art. So, when he writes about writing or about literary principles — he’s not woefully ignorant, but he’s not well-informed, either. Press him to defend a piece of flawed writing; he’ll quickly resort to vague, flawed defenses such as “emotional truth” or even fall back on the “So you disliked it? Too bad.” defense, which is childish.

    This NEW AVENGERS arc cannot be defended on the basis of literary principles, or by referring to any set of coherent standards. The writing is garbage. So, my advice is to try to force Brevoort to defend it. When the opportunity arises to confront him online about the arc, take advantage of it. Exposing him as ignorant, cowardly, unskilled, or just unprofessional in publishing what shouldn’t have been published will have effects on him over time.

    The same advice would apply to Bendis, except that I regard him as an idiot. He couldn’t defend the NEW AVENGERS arc or any of his other writing on the basis of principles if he wanted to. If the opportunity arises to confront Bendis online about NEW AVENGERS, take advantage of it. Or, let your contempt for his writing and his job performance show. Don’t engage in personal attacks, but if you honestly believe that he’s a woefully unskilled hack who should be writing for TV or doing something — anything — other than writing superhero comics, say so.

    SRS

    • Arachne Solara says:

      The only problem with your plan, SRS, is that I really don’t think they care what we, the readers, think. By your own account, Brevoort just avoided the issue, and nothing changed. Until the current crew running the asylum move on, I’m afraid we’re going to have to deal with this mess. If enough of us vote with our dollars, that might make an impression, but so far, Bendis’ star is still ascendant. How many times will he be forgiven colossal f-ups before people just give up on buying his crap and the bean-counters at Disney step in to fix it?

      I tried to be fair, to see where Bendis would take this arc, to see if it wouldn’t be as horrible as I suspected it would be, but we’re at #5 now, and unless something miraculous happens and Bendis actually learns how to write in a couple of weeks, that isn’t going to happen. It’s almost enough to make me just throw in the towel and avoid Marvel for a decade or so, then drift back in and see if new blood makes any difference. But the direction I see Marvel going doesn’t instill much hope. It will likely be far worse in a few years, not better, as Disney’s influence percolates through the company and assimilates it.

      At least JQ will be busy in Hollywood working on the movies and NickToons. One hopes he will be so busy with that for the foreseeable future that he won’t have time to stick his fingers into the comics side of the business anymore. Maybe that will help, I don’t know.

      Also, I don’t buy the Kool-Aid that Bendis is a good writer, so I don’t have high expectations of him, ever. This issue descends to a new low of hackery, of course, even for him, but he’s not been good for years. I used to give him the benefit of the doubt, and it’s true he’s written things I’ve liked (Alias is the only thing I can think of offhand ATM), but nothing he’s written in the last five years has been any good, IMHO. When I heard he would be responsible for the new direction of magic in the MU, the last feeble guttering hope I had that Doctor Strange might conceivably be rescued from the pit Bendis has sunk him into was extinguished.

      And, this is a little thing, but it irritates me. Not even the colorist gives a crap for this arc. Doctor Strange started out in NA#1 with his eyes the color they’re supposed to be–blue–and now, inexplicably, they’re brown. I don’t know if this is just pure sloppiness and indifference or if perhaps they’ve already chosen a lead actor for an upcoming movie and are getting ready for it in the comics. Real Soon Now, the comics will only be a vehicle for movies, and not the other way around. No wonder they’re hiring hack writers who should be writing sitcoms to pen their comics. The wave of the future…

      I’m sorry if this sounds so negative, but after reading this last ish, I am a bit depressed.

      • Steven R. Stahl says:

        I’m not at all distressed by the situation.

        One reason is that, as unpleasant as the treatment of Dr. Strange is, Bendis’s storyline is just a storyline. No one’s being hurt.. If hitting people over their heads with the awfulness of the storyline takes a year or more to yield results, that’s not a problem.

        Another reason is that there’s one issue to go. Bendis is terrible at plotting stories generally, but at his worst when it comes to writing endings. Look at various storylines he’s written, such as “Avengers Disassembled,” SECRET INVASION, and SIEGE. The worst issue in each of them was the last one, because he doesn’t know what he’s doing. When he strains to handle unfamiliar characters and plot material, he isn’t able to judge how terrible the resulting script is, and Brevoort seems to be ill-equipped to help him.

        Given the problems with the issues’ plots so far, NEW AVENGERS #6 could easily be a monumental failure in terms of plotting, story material that makes no sense to anyone who reads it. If that happens, ridiculing Bendis and Brevoort for their failures will be easy, and ignoring those failures will be harder for people in the comics field to do.

        It’s not as if Brevoort and Bendis are suddenly going to start doing their jobs well. Their continuing incompetence will create opportunities to criticize them harshly in coming months. What’s required is a willingness to attack — think of it as a political campaign, with extremists holding ridiculous views as the enemies — and persistence.

        SRS

  5. Arachne Solara says:

    Oh, my distress is certainly manageable, SRS, and fleeting. This is only entertainment, after all. Or, rather, it’s supposed to be. The fact that I personally don’t find Bendis’ work at all entertaining certainly seems to be the minority view, given the sales numbers, which appear to be Marvel Editorial’s only justification and argument when challenged on quality.

    This “Who cares what YOU think–150,000 readers can’t be wrong” attitude is sickening, but that’s end-stage capitalism in a nutshell for you–everything pitched to the lowest common denominator to move as many units as possible. Perhaps the average fan has a far higher pain threshold than you or I when it comes to writing skill, or maybe no one really knows what good writing is, these days.

    Given Brevoort’s responses to your arguments–utter avoidance and appeals to “emotional truth”, whatever the hell that means–it seems very clear to me that Marvel has hired editors that don’t know the first thing about writing. I don’t think Brevoort even understands the meaning of the word “plot”, much less how it should be properly executed.

    The “if you don’t like it, don’t read/buy it” is the ultimate lazy, meaningless assertion. It’s what they say when they have no answer to criticism that is more relevant. It’s the cry of a spoiled child who says, “Screw you guys–I’m going home!” When I see that in a post, I know that they’ve completely undermined any argument they had, whether they realize it or not.

    There just comes a point at which the annoyance outweighs the enjoyment for me, and when that happens, I move on to something that’s a better use of my good time and energy. Depression is just anger without enthusiasm–I’m starting to feel too apathetic about it now to expend any energy on any form of attack, even if I were inclined to do so over something so minor in the cosmic scheme of things.

    …although I really do enjoy these internet convos with other Doctor Strange fans, commiserating on the derailment of a favorite character. (That’s another thing–Marvel mistakes character derailment for character development). I think I would miss that. Especially with one as articulate and pleasurable to read as you, SRS. Keep those fires burning–someone has to. 🙂

    • “Marvel mistakes character derailment for character development”

      That, right there, is all too often true. That sums up everything I have been feeling since the Search for the Sorcerer Supreme arc in the last volume of New Avengers. Truth.

  6. RCO says:

    (Excuse for my poor English because it’s not my naitive language.)
    The worst part is the way bendis screwed up Agamottos witty, nerdy character.
    The thing about Agi is that he is devilish, childish JERK who does whatever he wants no metter all that ‘rulls-and-carma-of-the-universe’. Even though he’s the mightist and most responsible god of multiverse he just FREAKING dosen’t care! He’s the Easter-egg of Marvel mystic world. Come on, Bendis, don’t make this inspiring material in to an cheesy low-level Super Villain! (With all that dramatic posing lines)

  7. Oh.
    Hey.
    I FINALLY posted (Sunday night – a day and a half ago) my epic review – dissection of N.A. # 5 (and the Looooong and varied continuity hangups of the story – as well as a view into marvel magic and more) on my blog.

    Take a look, but pack a bag lunch – it is LONG!

    http://sanctumsanctorumcomix.blogspot.com/2010/11/eyes-without-face-or-tell-me-who-are.html

    “Tamam Shud!”
    ~P~
    Sanctum Sanctorum Comix

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