Doctor Strange #17 Review

Doctor Strange #17 Review

A Cup o’ Swampy Joe

Jason Aaron (W), Frazer Irving (A)

Cover by Kevin Nowlan

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Price: $3.99

          So let’s travel back to the weird and wacky world of the Sorcerer Supreme himself, Doctor Stephen Strange.

With Earth’s magic having been almost completely drained away by the interdimensional science-zealots known as the Empirikul, Doctor Strange is currently in a very weak state. This blood in the water has attracted other beings who have managed to avoid being weakened by the Empirikul’s warpath. Nightmare, Satanna, Baron Mordo, the Orb, Mr. Misery (a being made of curses caused by Doctor Strange’s spells), and Dormammu himself have all taken the opportunity to try to kill Stephen Strange. All failed, if only barely.

However, Mr. Misery and Wong made a pact during Dormammu’s assault. To the surprise of everyone, Strange was able to access what magic he had left to beat Dormammu by banishing him to the realm of Shuma Gorath, whom Dormammu had attempted to feed to the Empirikul to save his own realm. Misery took Wong regardless, and now Stephen Strange is left without his most trusted ally and friend.

This issue opens with two groups of eldritch and demonic beings battling. We are told that they are attempting to stake a claim on Earth’s returning magic. Doctor Strange attracts their attention and convinces them to fight him instead. He wins and forces them to come to treaty. This all also might have taken place in Strange’s living room, because magic and weirdness. Just roll with it.

We are made privy to the fact that the Sanctum Sanctorum is in disarray due to the disappearance of Wong. Zelma is having trouble maintaining what she can, and Doctor Strange is having to balance the upcoming magical crises with the search for Wong.

We next see Wong attempting to fight an internal battle against Misery. Despite his best efforts, Misery manages to access information about Strange from Wong’s mind, and the two leave to act on this.

Doctor Strange goes to the Bar with No Doors, a locale that caters to sorcerers, sorceresses, witches, wizards, shamans, etc. He hopes one of them has information about Wong, but none do. They are busy trying to keep the balance in the world as well.

The swamp monster and protector of the Nexus of Realities known as the Man-Thing appears and beckons Doctor Strange to go with him, and he does. The next scene has Strange and the Man-Thing fighting off extradimensional Nazi Vampire Ninjas, because, you know, magic and multiverse theory.

We are next shown a man named Samuel Wintergreen, and Wong/Misery pay him a visit. They take him, doing something to his head, and we are shown a menagerie of the other victims which Wong/Misery have acquired.

Doctor Strange and Man-Thing dispatch the remaining vampires. Man-Thing gives the Sorcerer Supreme some kind of algae, and Strange receives a call from Zelma. She informs him of a potential lead on Wong.

Stephen goes to the hospital at which he was once surgeon, and he is told by a doctor that multiple patients with severe brain tumors just arrived. They attempted to operate on one, but the tumor “fought back.” At this point, Strange is shown a room covered in blood and viscera. He is shown the other patients, and their heads are malformed and swollen. Doctor Strange agrees to operate on them, as he believes the Man-Thing’s algae may help. The comic ends with him showing that he also called upon Thor, Goddess of Thunder for aid.

As always Jason Aaron has put together a weird and wild issue for the Sorcerer Supreme. With the Empirikul, the Death of Magic, the Blood in the Water which attracted all the villains, and now Mr. Misery, he has put Stephen Strange on a fascinating trajectory that is incredibly enthralling.

The pacing and storytelling in this issue was seamless. There’s never a dull moment or a panel wasted. The only disappointment is the fact that Bachalo isn’t on this issue. I do wish he was back, but Irving’s artwork is so weird and unnerving that I can’t complain too much. His style is very much fit for a comic book about Doctor Strange. The realistic yet heavily shaded shapes as well as the faded colors contrast Bachalo’s art, but both easily work for Doctor Strange.

This remains one of Marvel’s better books coming out at the moment, I dug the guest-starring of Man-Thing, and I look forward to the next issue with Thor. I highly recommend this book. It’s cohesive and tells a broad story, but it manages to give each issue its own arc. It’s never a bad time to jump on, so give it a read.

Final Score: 9/10

Avengers #1 Review

Avengers #1 Review

A Kangucopia, an Immortusbord, a Rama-Tutnami

Mark Waid (W), Mike del Mundo (A, CA), Marco D’alfonso (CA)

Cover by Alex Ross

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Price: $4.99

          So, here we are with another Avengers #1. I know I’ve gone on this tangent before, but Marvel really needs to get past its self-conscious need to reboot every title every year or so. I really liked All-New, All-Different Marvel. I know it had a lot of critics, but I enjoyed the new direction and slate of titles. In a way, it was almost a return to form, giving a lot of characters that haven’t had their own books new titles, bringing out some cool, new characters, and pursuing that upbeat and wild Mighty Marvel Manner. Now we have Marvel NOW version 4 or 5 or whatever, and we’re doing this weird darkish divide between the hero community that only seems to be exemplified by the Avengers and Champions splitting off from the All-New, All-Different Avengers book. We have a lot of new titles again and a “new direction” for Marvel Comics that I’m sure will be abandoned in about another year.

Also, if I can go on the price soapbox again, I get the compulsion to jack up the price on a #1, but I think it shows some arrogance that is unearned. Why set up a price wall for a new book? You’re selling the book to the reader, not the other way around. Even if it’s a few pages longer like Avengers #1, use that extra length as a show of good faith. You want to convince the reader that this book will be worth reading beyond the first issue, but you make the first issue harder to buy. It’s not a given that it will sell. Not even the Avengers can guarantee that. You’re already refusing to price any of your books under four-dollars, Marvel. Why do you make it so hard to love you?

Anyway, now that I have that out of my system, let’s get to the book itself.

Avengers #1 continues off of the Kang the Conqueror stories from All-New, All-Different Avengers with Kang returning to track down the infant version of himself which the Vision stole from the future in the hopes of preventing his tyrannical reign. Unfortunately, the Avengers are a few members short due to Ms. Marvel, Nova, and Spider-Man having left the team to form the Champions. Hercules arrives to bolster the team’s ranks, and Peter Parker of Parker Industries offers to fund the team and provide them with a new base in the Baxter Building. Kang arrives to sour these proceedings.

Naturally, a fight ensues between the Avengers and Kang the Conqueror. The battle is complicated when Kang splinters off from himself once again (something he showed happens from time-to-time in the previous series due to some form of time distortion), and, as a result, the Avengers and the original Spider-Man have to contend with both Kang and the Scarlet Centurion.

The Kangs attempt to determine the location of their young self from the Vison. However, he has wiped the memory from himself as a precaution, and they leave to pursue a different tactic. Afterwards, the Avengers offer membership to Spider-Man, which he accepts. The Vision is forced to reveal to the Avengers that he took the infant Kang, and they show frustration with this as well as the fact that he kept it a secret.

Meanwhile, Kang and the Centurion locate the crystal in which the Vision offloads his memory banks. They use it to determine the identities of these Avengers and kill them in the cradle. The comic ends with the Avengers dissipating.

This is a solid Avengers story with a classic villain. I like this current lineup quite a bit, and I’m interested in seeing how the members will interact with one another in the future. The joining of Hercules seemed a little abrupt, but I’m never going to complain about the Prince of Power showing up.

Kang is in full form of course, and he offers a great threat with which to inaugurate this new Avengers team. His endgame in this issue does seem a little incongruous with the problem he is attempting to solve. If the Avengers simply disappear when Kang kills their young selves, why has he not become a different person due to the Vison kidnapping his infant self? Maybe they’ll explain that later, but it does seem a bit odd here.

Mike del Mundo’s art will likely make or break this book with a lot of people. While it looks good, it is a lot more stylized and distorted than most art used in Avengers series. I like the art well enough, and it is very unique. However, I’m not sure it quite fits the tone and style of the Avengers.

This isn’t exactly the most daring or radical take on the Avengers. It’s not really doing anything I haven’t seen before. That being said, it is still a fun book that does feel like an Avengers comic the art aside. I have been a huge fan of the Avengers for quite some time, and I look forward to Mark Waid’s continued work on the team.

Final Score: 7.5/10

#9: The Wrecking Crew

#9: The Wrecking Crew

Art by Scott Kolins

Dirk Garthwaite was a burglar given powers through a crowbar enchanted by the Asgardian Loki. When he lost his powers, he tried to reclaim them by taking back the crowbar. Upon grabbing it, a lightning bolt struck the weapon while he was surrounded by three other men. This bolt gave Garthwaite his powers back, along with granting powers to Dr. Elliot Franklin, Sergeant Henry Camp, and farm worker Brian Calusky. Garthwaite and his crowbar became powered, and he became the Wrecker. Franklin took a wrecking ball and became Thunderball. Camp became Bulldozer, and Calusky became Piledriver. The four men became a team incarnation of catastrophe and took the name, Wrecking Crew!

So, I’m sort of cheating here by counting four guys for my Number 9. In my defense, it would be really hard talking about any one of these guys individually. They rarely work apart, and there’s not much to say about any one of these characters individually with the exception of maybe the Wrecker and Thunderball. These two have often been at odds, as Thunderball has always believed himself to be better suited for the leadership position due to his intelligence. Thunderball has often also had a softer heart and been more sympathetic than his comrades, and this has led to him interfering with some of the Crew’s ventures.

Their first effort as a team was to reclaim a gamma bomb that Thunderball had a hand in creating years before when he was a physicist. This quest led them to level a number of buildings owned by Richmond Enterprises and, more specifically, Kyle Richmond aka Nighthawk, then a member of the Defenders. They were met by the Defenders and Power Man, whom halted their rampage. Dr. Bruce Banner disarmed the gamma bomb.

The Wrecking Crew were put in separate prisons, but the Puppet Master, an old foe of the Fantastic Four, freed the Wrecker and used mystical clay to force Garthwaite into fighting the FF. The Wrecker was defeated by the Fantastic Four and was imprisoned once more. He escaped and freed his comrades from their prisons.

Their next effort was to defeat Thor, then a member of the Avengers, in an attempt to build validity as genuinely dangerous criminals. They were intercepted by Iron Fist and Misty Knight, the latter of whom they took hostage. They blackmailed Iron Fist into infiltrating the mansion on their behalf. Fist was met by Captain America, and the two cooperated to defeat the Crew and save Misty Knight. The Wrecking Crew was promptly put in prison.

The Wrecking Crew were among the rogues brought to Battleworld by the Beyonder to take part in his Secret Wars.

Upon their return to Earth, they joined up with Baron Helmut Zemo’s incarnation of the Masters of Evil. They divided the Avengers and attacked the mansion, taking loyal Avengers butler Edwin Jarvis hostage. The Avengers were able to reunite and defeat the Masters and the Crew.

After a run-in with Spider Woman, they were imprisoned in the Vault. They staged a riot and took the employees of Damage Control, an organization dedicated to cleaning up after super powered battles, hostage. Thunderball, whom had worked with Damage Control in the past, convinced the rest of the Crew to let them go. Captain America promptly arrived and put the Wrecking Crew away once more.

The Wrecking Crew’s next big scheme involved another hostage situation. This time, a police force known as Code: Blue goes to resolve it. The British super hero team known as Excalibur also go after the Crew, believing they may be able to lead them to the Juggernaut. Loki, Enchantress, and Ulik the Troll also arrive on the scene, as they have business with the Wrecker. This leads Thor to the scene as well. Magic from the Asgardian rogues causes Excalibur to perceive Thor as the Juggernaut. This causes a massive battle between Excalibur, the Wrecking Crew, Thor, and Code: Blue. Lockheed, the small dragon pet of Shadowcat (a member of Excalibur at the time), discovers Enchantress and Ulik, whom flee. The illusion on Thor dissipates as a result. Code: Blue captures the Wrecker, and the rest of the Crew also escape.

In attempt to free their leader, the remaining members of the Wrecking Crew are met by Ghost Rider and Mephisto. The Wrecker becomes determined to bring down the Rider and Mephisto. Loki arrives on the scene once more, and he brings Thor’s involvement. Loki reclaims the Asgardian energy from all members of the Wrecking Crew, with the exception of the Wrecker himself, whom the Trickster God kidnaps. The team later regains their powers, though how they did this was never explained.

The Wrecker later returns, and his team is scattered. His first priority is to take revenge on Thunderball for his constant challenges to his leadership. This brings him to Yancy Street, where brings down the apartment building in which Elliot is hiding. This brings the Thing to the scene, and he easily dispatches the Wrecker. S.H.I.E.L.D puts the Wrecker and the rest of the Crew are put away in the Cage, another superhuman prison.

They manage to escape, only to be beaten by the Thing once again, this time being incarcerated in the Big House, a small prison designed by Hank Pym using his Pym Particles.

After another escape, the Wrecking Crew move to Los Angeles with Piledriver’s son, “Excavator”, whom now has the super strength and invulnerability of the Wrecking Crew’s members. Here, they are challenged by the Runaways, a group of young super heroes. They attempt to recruit Excavator, but he stays loyal to his father and the Crew. This led to another defeat of the Wrecking Crew.

They were sent to the Raft, a New York-based super hero prison. There was a massive breakout staged by Electro. The Wrecking Crew, with the exception of the Wrecker, were able to escape. The remaining members joined up with the Hood’s gang, whom recruited a massive conglomerate of less successful super villains. The Wrecker was able to escape later and join them.

The Wrecking Crew later did battle with Excalibur once again as well as Omega Flight, a Canada-based super hero team. They also had run-ins with the New Avengers as a part of the Hood’s gang, the Punisher, Daredevil, Captain America, and the Enforcers. They even managed a defeat of the New Avengers thanks to the chemical weapons of Chemistro, another member of the Hood’s gang. The worked for the Hood for some time, staying through Iron Man’s Initiative movement and Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign.

They partook in the Siege on Asgard orchestrated by Norman Osborn, where the team fell to in-fighting due to Thunderball’s sympathy for the Asgardians. The Hood’s gang was finally captured here, and the Crew was arrested along with the rest of the group.

They, along with Titania, Whirlwind, and the Absorbing Man were recruited by a villain called Lightmaster to steal technology from Alchemax, and they were met by Spider-Man (then inhabited by the mind of Otto Octavius) and his Superior Six, which consisted of the members of Octavius’ Sinister Six. They were defeated, but they remained with the Masters of Evil for a time. They were on the team when it went against the Secret Avengers.

They were hired by Mister Sinister to obtain the Adamantium-covered body of the deceased Wolverine.

Thunderball recently joined up with the Hood’s new incarnation of the Illuminati, but the team has experienced trouble with in-fighting. The team was a part of Baron Zemo’s revolt against the Pleasant Hill prison, and they escaped during the uprising.

I like the Wrecking Crew much for the same reasons as I like the Absorbing Man. They’re essentially big, dumb thugs who don’t really have many aspirations beyond thieving and self-serving. They’re not the most interesting rogues in the world, but they’re still a lot of fun whenever they take the scene. The in-fighting between Thunderball and the rest of the team gives them it something of an interesting character dynamic, but I’m still primarily interested in them for the reliable henchmen that they are. This is what places the Wrecking Crew at Number 9 of my Top Ten Favorite Marvel Villains.

 

All-New, All-Different Avengers #9 (and before)

All-New, All-Different Avengers #9 (and before)

 

Mark Waid (W), Mahmud Asrar (A), Dave McCaig (CA)

Cover By: Alex Ross

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Price: $3.99

So, like Captain America: Sam Wilson, this was another fairly controversial title when it was first announced and for the same reasons. I’m not really going to go into that again, as I think I made my opinion quite clear in the review for Captain America: Sam Wilson.

This title had me really excited when it was first announced. A small Avengers team written by Mark Waid? Hot on the heels of his legendary Daredevil run and Jonathan Hickman’s strong but enormous Avengers team? Sign me up!

I’m an Avengers guy. I’ve loved them ever since I started reading comic books. Bendis’ Initiative/Dark Reign-era New Avengers lineup will probably always be my favorite, but I still go into every new Avengers creative team with excitement and curiosity.

I’ll go ahead and tilt my hand with this one. This book is great. If you haven’t checked it out, you should. The characters have good chemistry. The pacing is really well. Mark Waid balances the character moments with the action like the pro that he is. It reads very much like a classic Avengers title.

So, onto the story thus far. Captain America and Iron Man meet up while the former is trying to save some people from a collapsing bridge. Tony pulls Sam out of a very awkward publicity moment, and the two begin to discuss the fact that there isn’t a “true” Avengers team, with the Uncanny Avengers technically being the Unity Squad and Sunspot’s outfit being under the umbrella of A.I.M. The two go to the former Avengers Tower, now owned by the enigmatic Gryphon, who is currently trying to negotiate an alliance there with the Chitauri warlord, Warbringer. Miles Morales, the Ultimate Spider-Man, is there listening in on this. A fight ensues between Warbringer and Captain America, Iron Man, and Spider-Man, which Warbringer quickly wins.

Next, he goes to the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey to recover a piece of a Chitauri artifact. He is faced there by Sam Alexander, the current Nova and Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel. He is able to distract them by endangering civilians, and he escapes to continue to search for the artifact pieces.

The heroes track him down again and are joined by the Vision and the new Thor (Jane Foster). A fight ensues, but Warbringer is able to escape yet again when Gryphon teleports Thor’s hammer in mid-throw so that it breaks a water main and floods the heroes.

The Avengers recover, and they continue to track Warbringer. His plot becomes apparent when a rift begins opening in the sky over New York with Chitauri warriors on the other side. Vision, Nova, Iron Man, and Thor take on Warbringer while Captain America and Spider-Man attempt to deal with Gryphon, whom begins raising the dead to stop them. The Avengers are able to at last defeat Warbringer and send him through the rift while Gryphon escapes. Spider-Man destroys the artifact so that Warbringer is trapped on the other side of the portal. The Chitauri warlord quickly learns that he was betrayed by Gryphon, as his kin on the other side of the portal are violent primitives from the past.

The adventure concludes with the Vision revealing to Nova that he knows that Warbringer was on Earth to kill the young hero, and that he will keep the secret so long as Nova does as he says.

The Avengers set up a base of operations at an airfield still owned by Tony Stark. They respond to a threat caused by the supervillain, Cyclone. The rogue reveals that he was ordered to cause chaos. The mystery thickens when the Vision creates a hologram of Ms. Marvel recklessly endangering civilians and claims it to be a recording. Ms. Marvel is thrown of the team, and Nova challenges the elder members of the Avengers. This results in him being quickly thrown of the Avengers as well.

They next run into Equinox, whom, during the fight, begins multiplying. Different versions of him from different points in time begin teaming up on the remaining Avengers. Then the Vision turns on the remaining Avengers. He was turned on them by Gryphon, who is revealed to be an aspect of Kang the Conqueror. Kang has been split into multiple beings by the splintering of time, and Gryphon is one of those beings. Ms. Marvel and Nova come to the aid of the rest of the Avengers.

Spider-Man defeats Equinox. The rest of the Avengers defeat Kang and turn Vision back over to their side, and Ms. Marvel and Nova are reinstated. The Avengers are made whole again.

The next story ties into Standoff: Assault on Pleasant Hill, and The Uncanny Avengers. Since I do not generally read The Uncanny Avengers, I didn’t really get the full story. I do know that Kobik lured both teams to Pleasant Hill and altered their identities. They were able to come out of the brainwashing and teamed up to stop the ensuing prison break.

This brings us finally to the current issue. To tilt my hand yet again, this is probably my favorite issue of the series so far. If you haven’t gleaned it from reviews here yet, I really like “breather” issues. Big, climactic battles are great, and they are a part of what make super hero comics what they are. However, I really enjoy when a comic stops and takes the time to establish the characters outside of dangerous situations.

This issue does this by setting the story at the airfield and telling the events from the perspective of the Avengers’ beleaguered butler, Edwin Jarvis. A new hero claiming to be the Wasp appears on site, and the Vision is going haywire again due to some aftereffects of Kang’s control.

This issue really worked for me. It’s a slower story, but it gives the story time to build up the proper drama. The new Wasp seems to be a pretty likable character, and her suit is a nice callback to Janet Van Dyne’s original uniform. It’s nice having Jarvis function as a main character in this issue. The Vision threat seems a little ad-libbed, but it gives the new Wasp a chance to prove her worth and her intelligence.

The art is really good and shows the characters’ expressions very well. Kubert’s art in the previous issues was very good, but, if he is off the book, I hope that Asrar stays.

This book is very good and deserves support. Each character is depicted well. You can really get a feel for how each member gets along with everyone else on the team. It’s also just a really fun book. Give it try if you like the classic Avengers stories. It may have new faces, but I promise you it will give you the same wonder and joy those old stories provided.

Issue Score: 9/10

Series Score: 9/10