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.