Friday, June 26, 2009


New Avengers #54 When: August 2009
Why: Brian Bendis How: Billy Tan

The Story So Far...
For decades, Dr. Stephen Strange shouldered the weight of burden that comes with receiving the mystic charge of the Sorcerer Supreme. As the destined master of magicks, he wielded his power to protect the delicate balance between good and evil as best he could, but when the Hulk returned from exile in space to wage war on Earth, Dr. Strange felt forced to tap into dark magic to combat the threat. It was decisions such as these that deemed him no longer worthy to protect the mortal plane as Sorcerer Supreme.

Dedicated as ever to the pursuit of good, Dr. Strange seeks out would-be successors in the hope of curtailing sinister forces who would seize the opportunity of his forced retirement, and prepare his replacement for the trials ahead. The Hood -- self-proclaimed "Kingpin of Super villains" -- emerges as his most active competitor on the side of evil, but battle does not influence the course of the sacred chain of succession.

Scanning the globe of it's mystic powers, the Eye of Agomotto finds a fitting successor in New Orleans. Thus, Dr. Strange -- joined by his former teammates in the underground Secret Avengers -- enters into a race against The Hood to ensure the power is inherited by the one intended, and not Dormammu, who is the powerful daemon with a claim to The Hood's soul.

Reaching out from his prison in the Dark Dimension from whence he came, Dormammu uses The Hood as a vessel for his own influence. It is a partnership that has allowed him to breach our plane and engage Daimon Hellstrom, the Son of Satan, in combat in the streets of New Orleans. Though a significant occult power in his own right, it is not Hellstrom that the Eye of Agomotto has chosen.

Jericho Drumm, known to the occult world as the Haitian houngan, Brother Voodoo, is the new Sorcerer Supreme. When fully realised, his powers will be sufficient enough to protect the Earth from the darkest evils of all the realms, but first he must survive the battle he is about to enter!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Dormammu 7 (Omnipotent)
Intelligence: Dormammu 6 (Genius)
Speed: Ms. Marvel 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Dormammu 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting: Wolverine 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Dormammu 7 (Cosmic)

- The Secret Avengers are: Captain America, Spider-man, Ms. Marvel, Ronin, Mockingbird, Spider-Woman, Wolverine, & Luke Cage, with; Dr. Strange, Son of Satan, and Brother Voodoo.

Confronted with a government intent on pitting him against the reluctant and unwilling of his fellow heroes, Captain America instead threw his training and leadership against SHIELD and the US Government, to instead lead a resistance against their mandatory Superhero Registration Act. These Secret Avengers emerge to continue to fight the good fight, whilst protecting those who have pledged their lives to protecting the innocent. Among the most prominent and first to join the Captain's cause were; Hercules, Goliath, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Falcon, Cloak, Dagger, and Cable.

Captain America's surrender to Tony Stark ended the superhero Civil War, and his subsequent assassination galvanized the efforts of the underground team allowed leniency by the guilty powers-that-be. Thus, these Secret Avengers continue to honor their leader, dedicated to the same justice he always sought.

- A career thief; Parker Robbins' lifetime ambition was to become a super-villain capable of battling the likes of Daredevil and Electro, who he witnessed fighting as a child. Whilst robbing a warehouse said to contain unspecified treasures, Parker gained his opportunity upon uncovering a mystically charged set of boots and cloak said to house the demon, Nistanti. Donning the red cloak granted him powers of transmutation, levitation, invisibility, and lethal bolts of energy.

As The Hood, Robbins continues to carry his weapons of choice, two hand pistols, whilst backing himself with the powers of a demon later revealed to be the dark lord of magic, Dormammu. With his master's help and inspiration of Wilson Fisk -- the Kingpin of crime his father had worked with -- Robbins begins a path to form a unified network of super powered criminals. As Kingpin of Super-Villains, he begins an association with a secret Cabal that creates a partnership with Director of HAMMER to whom he would supply hired muscle, Norman Osborn, and also brings him league with the likes of Dr. Doom and Loki.

The dread Dormammu is an ancient mystic warlord that travelled to the Dark Dimension and conquered it. His interests in other domains brought him into conflict with Earth's first Sorcerer Supreme, Agamotto, and began a destined feud with the denizens of Earth that would stretch to his most bitter arch-rivalry with Agamotto's modern counterpart, The Ancient One, and his disciple, Dr. Strange.

Bound mystically to remain confined to the Dark Dimension, Dormammu is forced to manipulate his foes through minions such as Stephen Strange's rival, Baron Mordo. His becomes an obsession of loopholes, constantly bringing him into distant battles with other heroes from Earth, such as Dr. Strange's fellow Defenders; Thor, Norse God of thunder; and even Spider-man.

Math: Avengers (Ttl) Hood/Dormammu (Avg) Ranking: Spider-man (#2)

What Went Down...
Stirred by the battle already waging outside his window, Brother Voodoo has only moments to come to terms with the download of information offered by the Eye of Agamotto. He has been chosen -- and now bares both the gift and curse of being Earth's Sorcerer Supreme. Now, a baptism of fire against The Hood who has become a vessel for Dormammu to walk the Earth.

With Dr. Strange bringing up the rear, and his houngan brother's spirit advising him, Brother Voodoo charges into battle with the demon! It is an offensive-defense that sends Dormammu reeling with a strike from the Staff of Legba.

A friendly neighbourhood shower of weblines precede the dramatic re-entry of the Avengers into the fray! Brother Voodoo gazes upon the assembly while Captain America throws his mighty shield to earn an exacerbated grunt from the human-demon hybrid.

Ronin keeps The Hood's co-conspirator, Madame Masque, out of the battle, while Ms. Marvel follows up on Cap's hit with a headlock that gives her leverage to drive Dormammu's giant flaming influence face-first into the street! The blow sets up a string of teamwork which includes Dr. Strange and Son of Satan hatching a magic collaboration to produce an end-game.

Meanwhile, Wolverine gets a shot at a little revenge for a previous encounter with The Hood, slashing his unbreakable adamantium claws through a mystically-protected gut in a burst of flames. It's a two-prong attack, complimented by a stinger blast to the mandible by Spider-Woman!

Dormammu reacts fast, slamming his fists down, but the heroes are fast and agile enough to evade the strike. Captain America again uses the shield to inflict a blow, while Spider-man and Mockingbird do their best to contribute with webs and a dropkick, respectively. Despite their teamwork, Dormammu is able to make a charge for the Eye of Agamotto hung around Brother Voodoo's neck.

Luke Cage runs interference, tackling the rampaging demon mere meters from Voodoo. Cage is swiftly manhandled as the flesh of The Hood melts away, signifying the extent of the crossing of Dormammu into our dimensional plane.

The Avengers are batted aside by the increasingly powerful Dormammu as he attempts again to obtain the mystic artifact tied to the Sorcerer Supreme. The former barer, Dr. Strange, calls upon his still impressive mystic arsenal to defend Brother Voodoo, however, unleashing a spell to expose Dormammu!

The powerful spell forces Dormammu into Daimon Hellstrom's completed trap!
As the demonlord lunges once again toward the Eye, he is held in bondage by Hellstrom's hellacious incantation. Dormammu's only consolation is to gaze upon his mortal foe, Dr. Stephen Strange, and revel in his demotion from the coveted role of Sorcerer Supreme.

Strange's replacement proves his worth by rendering both the Doctor and Son of Satan redundant in exorcising Dormammu from the body of Parker Robbins [aka; The Hood]. The esoteric incantation surprises even Hellstrom as it rips Dormammu's presence from this plane of existance, leaving a powerless Hood smouldering and naked in the street. He joins his lover, Madame Masque, in Spidey web-couture and the custody of the Avengers.

The Hammer...
You only need to go back fifteen or twenty years ago to remember a time when Dormammu was an A-list villain. He probably didn't have the presence to be a Dr. Doom, but he was a Galactus grade magic villain. Alas, it's an unauspicious debut as his internship of The Hood comes to an end via the efforts of Brother Voodoo, Dr. Strange, Son of Satan, and the Secret Avengers!

For you Infinite Wars stathounds, I'm playing it tough this time around and counting the Avengers' efforts as an assist stat. For those of you reading the site for the first time -- welcome! Here on The Comic Book Fight Club we like to look at superhero fights, discuss the comics and fiction, and just generally wallow in the pop culture fun time of comic books! Part of that includes a statistical tally of the fights reviewed.

At first glance, this looks like an unexpected truncation of The Hood's reign as Kingpin of Supervillains! In the Dark Reign landscape of the Marvel Universe, the demonically powered villain was second only to Norman Osborn in importance to the overarching clandestine machinations of evil. However, here, in the issue that finally reveals the new choice for Sorcerer Supreme, we seemingly see The Hood stripped of his powers and consequently taken out of the game!

I want to reflect on that last sentence for a second, just because it so succinctly summarizes the fact that Brian Bendis, seasoned writer of New Avengers since it's inception, has actually been cramming each issue full of content!

In the past it's been very easy to be critical of the writing, particularly on New Avengers, which barely began to find grounding before it was thrown into a free fall as a result of the Civil War rift. Here in the fifties, it feels like Bendis has finally delivered the book it was always meant to be, and it is quite glorious!

It's also been a rewarding piece of Marvel's attempts to circumvent the now traditional annual 'event' series, to instead spread the consequences of a high concept tale across multiple books. In a way, this sense of involving continuity has been a staple of the DC books for the past few years, but by doing away with any anchoring mini-series, Marvel have opened them up to a unique approach.

After the embrassments of House of M and Secret Invasion, I would've argued Marvel should never let Bendis get anywhere near a directorial position ever again. Yet -- with the personalized structure of multiple titles, the writer has found a vehicle more suited to his slow style. Dark Reign has found it's way into books as unlikely as Marvel Zombies, but the meat of the branding has been shared between books like Dark Avengers, New Avengers, and Secret Warriors, allowing for a more relaxed approach to a story that would traditionally have brought a lot of these events into a single compressed space. The Civil War mini-series comes to mind as a series that was, while satisfying as an event book, a prime example of the delineation of the story. Likewise, the Dark Reign banner hasn't strangled the life out of on-going series in the way Civil War completely derailed New Avengers!

Having spent several months thinking Dark Reign was going to be a brief storyarc about Strange's changing of the guard, it's a thrill to finally get a clear picture of the concept. And while a big part of me regrets the fact that Dr. Strange hasn't played much more than bit-roles in recent years, it's fun seeing Brother Voodoo get some of the credit he never quite got after Fred Hembeck had some fun.

Like Captain America's death; it's difficult to think of Dr. Strange's demotion in any kind of lasting terms. As fine and dandy as it would be to have Voodoo hold the mantle for the forseeable future, he probably isn't the character first-in-line for that kind of unmotivated upgrade.
With all the foreboding going on at the end of this issue of New Avengers (via Daimon Hellstrom), it seems pretty likely Bro' Voodoo's being set up for a fall of spectacular proportions. The kind of fall that kicks off a massive Marvel magic event in 2010/2011, and forces him to sacrifice himself in a blaze of glory, whilst tossing Doc Strange the keys to the kingdom on the way out.

What ever the goal, it's kinda nice to see these characters getting warmed up again! Even more pleasing is the fact that Bendis -- who doesn't have the best reputation when it comes to paying attention to stories not on his desk -- made a pretty good meal of them, too! You get a sense that the Marvel staff of thirty-to-forty-somethings are making use of the rest of the reading the did during the seventies, beyond obvious revivals of characters like Spider-Woman, and Power Man. It seems like you can barely turn a corner without bumping in to a Werewolf by Night or Shang-Chi solicitation, these days!

Thanks to Dark Reign, New Avengers has really gotten a new lease on life, and for perhaps the first time in it's run, is doing what it can do best. The Avengers are plugged in to the centre of the Marvel Universe and their actions have suddenly taken on the kind of gravitas that was teased at the end of 2007.

Billy Tan's pencils do a pretty good job delivering on the action in an issue that lives up to all your expectations of team-based superheroics. The hero of this issue might be Justin Ponsor, however, who works well the primary colours of some of the Avengers' costumes, balanced with the night time backdrop and glowing embers of Dormammu. Ponsor delivers the classic excellence you would expect of a Marvel colourist, with just the right flourish of CG to compliment some of the glowing far-out action and spellcasting.

The Fight: 5 The Issue: 6

New Avengers appears monthly from Marvel Comics featuring an all-star line-up of characters that includes; Spider-man, Wolverine, and Captain America! You can find more of those characters' exploits and links to collections of the tales via the Infinite Wars Secret Archive and Online Gift Shoppe! By using purchase links provided on the site, (like those to the right), you help sponsor future entries in The Comic Book Fight Club. You can also benefit from the range of titles and prices made available by shopping with and still contribute even when buying other items, provided you go through us!

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