At long last, a "review" of the Mark Waid/Emma Rios miniseries Strange. Neilalien's scanners detect that Doctor Strange uberfan SanctumSanctorumComix is also using this holiday weekend to finally sculpt a review. When two of the biggest Doc ranters online have both taken so long (from an internet-time perspective) to write about this miniseries, you know there is a difficulty and ambivalence about engaging the work. But the need to engage this comic book is present, as well as the desire to move the debate among Doc fans forward, and help trade paperback purchasers make a more informed decision. So let's quickly open up the oven door and peek with a sticky toothpick, to see if Neilalien's thought-cake is fully baked.
Did not like Dr. Strange's initial characterization at the baseball game. By all means, show Doc relaxing and unwinding, with a new sense of freedom and adventure at not being responsible for the entire universe if that's the new direction, even enjoying a baseball game. But "Saawing battah"? Too loud and hokey for Doc. Maybe since Doc knew it was a demonic baseball game, he was hamming it up? Maybe the intention was to make a tiny starting splash with this new miniseries, grab our attention by showing us a little different Doc, shake up preconceived notions of how Doc behaves- but the creators have to understand that Doc fans aren't looking for a new loosey-goosey Doc- we're starving for any glimpse of Doc's former dignity. [- 3/4]
Did not like the design choice for Tul'uth. The Lord High Incubus of Games and Chance should look games-and-chance-related, a trickster type, a charismatic type who could make Aunt Tightwad a bettor. How about dice for eyes? The horrifying peeling-skin face and arms didn't fit for Neilalien (it almost fits better for the beauty-pageant demon later on in the miniseries- beauty is only skin deep...). [- 1/2]
Doctor Strange is not a "legendarily terrible bluffer"! He's only bluffed, outsmarted, deceived and tricked most of the great entities of the universe- that's how he beat them, since he couldn't match them powerwise. Maybe Tul'uth was trying to get a rise out of Doc with that line- it certainly rankled Neilalien. After Doc bluffs re: his 'wrath', Neilalien would have changed the "...and a legendarily terrible bluffer" line Tul'uth says to something like, "...but you don't have the 'wrath' you used to." [-1]
Casey learning the vanishing spell. Once again, someone is taught how to cast a spell without requiring any imagination on the part of the caster. A classic Neilalien pet peeve. Just a hand gesture and saying the right gobbledygook. Even if Casey is a natural talent, she's not told to imagine the target object disappearing or anything that requires any thought. It devalues Doc's abilities and years of training, and totally devalues magick into a too-technical enterprise. You don't see Tony Stark teaching kids how to instantly make battle armor out of lawnmower parts. [-1]
Doc wins by... just running the bases. Dodging physical threats as he goes. That's it. It's not interesting, it's not magical. [-1]
The last sequence of the baseball game seemed like both an artist's playground and a challenge. The fun: Designing all the different demonic-creature players (liked most of them, except the pitcher without any eyes might have been a little too incongruous), maybe with different ways of handling the baseball (liked the frog guy using his tongue), liked the tricky laser-light pitches. The challenges: running around the bases can look repetitive, so there's trying to make that look different over several panels- and trying to convey increasing drama to second base, third base, home- and then wanting to use small panels to convey quick action and drama, but needing larger panels too to show where the players are on the large space of the baseball diamond. Neilalien thinks Rios was up to the task here- but too many have said they couldn't follow the action to grant points. While the colors in general were nice and bright, following the final game sequence might have been negatively impacted by too much dark blue- the ground is dark blue, the background/sky is dark blue, Doc's t-shirt is dark blue/teal, and the demon jerseys are dark blue/teal, Doc loses the white batting helmet that helped him stand out, and the ball barely registers in places because it's squished or drawn smaller to show speed, etc. 
Meta: Liked that the story was a one-and-done issue. [+ 1/2]
Liked simply showing the fact that Doctor Strange is not really "on sabbatical" after losing the Sorcerer Supreme mantle. He's clearly still on the job, seeking out problematic mystical situations and engaging them. [+1]
Score: -2.75. Not an auspicious beginning.
Enjoyed Casey's internet research and the lore about Doctor Strange in the "real world" of Earth-616. Liked how posting to a web message board seeking out Doctor Strange had negative consequences. [+ 1/2]
Liked the truth-spelled glasses continuing past the first issue and showing Casey aspects of the real world, the people in masks and straightjackets. [+ 1/2]
Liked that Casey was abusing the vanishing spell, as a normal young person would, and it had consequences, and lead to her learning more about the rules of magic. [+ 3/4]
Neilalien really liked when Doc got upset in the alley at his current situation, about being too flippant, not learning anything this time around, frustration over his power level. The best moment of the entire miniseries. [+ 1]
Must give a little "meh": this issue is virtually free of explodo. It's a splash of salt water in the face of the Dynn, and the final situation is resolved by a quick three-panel schpiel appealing to a lonely creature's loneliness. Neilalien could have used a quick battle with the Dynn, or a minion, or some action rescuing people from the re-emerging vanished items- but it's not damning for the issue. [- 1/4]
Score: +2.5. In complete contrast to #1, Neilalien found a lot to like in #2, a good follow-up. The miniseries is rescued!
Neilalien really liked the entire child beauty pageant setting. If ever a setting was a goldmine for a demonic story, that's it. Liked the whole dilemma of the demon making deals with all of the mothers and the chaos it caused. [+2]
Enjoyed Larry telling Doc, "You survived the Big Bang!" A reference-nod to the Sise-Neg Marvel Premiere storyline. [+ 1/4]
Liked that Casey misread what the glasses were telling her. The glasses might be spelled to show her the truth, but it's still up to her to interpret the information correctly. [+ 1/2]
There is no way in hell Doc would have let Casey sacrifice herself in his stead for the girls, even if this is "Part 1" of a two-parter, and we do get the hint from Larry's reaction to the contract that she handled it in some clever way. If this is the direction the creators wanted to go, have Casey make the deal while Doc's not standing right next to her to protest, grab the pen, etc. [- 3/4]
Score: +2. Okay, the table is set, we've got this great demon-at-a-beauty-pageant story idea going. Bring it on home.
Alas, home was not brung. In Neilalien's opinion, this issue, and thus the miniseries, is undone.
Reality would not have survived one minute if the entire magical universe went bonkers and ripped itself apart because/every time one minor demon breaks the rules! Neilalien must agree with this review at Comic Critique. It's a cool concept that demons are really just as bound by their pacts as their victims- but Eternity getting a stroke over it? How about just having some weird demon-law council or the Living Tribunal show up and punish Virilian instead, keep the choas local? Surely demons have been overstretching their bounds since time began, and the cosmos didn't explode every time. And what about all those demons that surely just want chaos and destruction?- why haven't they been breaking contracts on purpose? Making the consequences so vast for exploiting ten pageant mothers did not work for Neilalien at all. [-4]
The solution to this magical aneurysm of universal proportions? Doctor Strange goes to perform surgery (he is a doctor) and repair/heal Eternity. Wait a minute! Isn't this supposed to be a new Doctor Strange, depowered, not the Sorcerer Supreme anymore, on a new path? The meme is that Doc's powers are so powerful and undefined that writers can't put him in dramatic danger anymore, the meme is that writers paint themselves in corners giving jaded readers ever-escalating threats until Doc's ridiculously saving the multiverse every month. Read the interviews with Waid and Brevoort from June 02009 again: IGN, Newsarama- don't you get the sense this miniseries was supposed to be the beginning of the end for those memes?- "the simple charm of the Lee/Ditko stories has been lost in an attempt to escalate Stephen Strange onto a cosmic path", he can't just toss around magical bolts anymore at the risk his trembly hands might backfire, etc. But now after the whole Brother Voodoo insult- Marvel can't even go four issues in this new Doctor Strange direction without having him rescue Eternity and all of existence? Bah! To the madhouse! [-3]
The broadcast message to all the mages to not use their magic for an hour felt clunky. Again, we've stumbled into a clunky situation because the stakes are absurd. Wouldn't every good mage be rallying to Doc's location to help him against the end of the universe? Wouldn't every villain be moving to exploit the chaos? The reason why this gets a "0" score instead of a negative is because at least we see one villain, Silver Dagger, trying to exploit the lack of magical protections. And plus, no other heroes are going to show up anyway because it's Doc's book and you don't mess with Batman's cake. 
The surgery on Eternity could have been interesting. We get one image of Doc using a scalpel-shard of Eternity. Not interesting. And isn't one major point of the Doctor Strange character that he can't hold a scalpel that well? Why not find a way that's both more creative, and avoids the questions and faux-drama of needing Doc to steady a scalpel for the highest stakes. Neilalien might have went with using Cleopatra's Needle and Rapunzel's Hair to suture a burst Eternity 'blood vessel' instead. [- 1/2]
Astral form done correctly, with his apprentice garb (and without the Cloak, but Doc doesn't have the Cloak anymore anyway). [+ 1/2]
Nice touching moments between Casey and Doc's body. (You know what Neilalien means.) [+ 1/4]
Great to see classic rogues-gallery member Silver Dagger again [+1], but he does nothing except lovingly rub his penis all over Doc's face [-1]. [Total = 0] (And how'd he get to the Sanctum so fast? Teleportation shouldn't have been useful during the chaos hour.) Oh well, villains always take too long to pull the kill-switch, that's villainy.
What happens to Casey at the end is a startling downer. It makes sense- she saves Doc's life by using the verboten vanishing spell one more time on Silver Dagger's dagger. She gets a heroic ending. But where's Doc's heroic ending? If you have to end on a cliffhanger and unhappy ending- with absolutely no idea if there will ever be another Doctor Strange comic book again or a chance to address this ending- make it that Doc gets carried away into bondage, heroically sacrificing/substituting himself for Casey. At least one gets the sense Doc can escape that particular carbonite off-panel between issues. [- 3/4]
Larry reminds too much of Rintrah- he really needed a different design. Even Casey reminded of Topaz, or an early Clea- the magically-oriented helpless girl- the piece-of-soul thing definitely reminded of Topaz. The Doc-companion template needed more shaking up. [- 1/2]
Score: Too negative to contemplate.
For the record, Neilalien mostly liked the art. Doc looked great. Rios obviously had fun designing all the different creatures, and was up to all the storytelling challenges like showing what Casey saw through her truth-spelled glasses. It was charming. But yes, "charming" does have a slight negative connotation here. This artist choice- arguably the entire Casey young-girl sidekick thing- felt like a conscious move on Marvel's part to go after the hypothetical young-girl manga-lite accessible Runaways digest crowd. And perhaps this title will do well selling to that group in that format. But Neilalien can guarantee you that this miniseries did not sell well to the modern direct-market fanboy because the art and the young-girl sidekick really filtered buyers down to the hardcorest Doctor Strange fans. This reminds Neilalien of the backlash against Erik Larsen's cartoonier art in The Defenders. Those that bought- or rather, didn't buy- these singles don't want Rios' art style- they wanted the art we saw on the covers, they wanted the edgy horror-conveyance art style seen in Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural. Marvel can't win: if they're not showing how industry-killing efficient they are at giving their direct-market customer exactly what they want in inbred, seedcorn-eating, repetitive fashion, they're alienating that direct-market customer with every risk they take, as they did here with choosing the definitely talented but possibly mismatched Rios as the artist of Strange.
Reviews of the Waid/Rios Strange, updated as found:
#1: "[T]oo light and fluffy for its own good"; questioning Rios artist choice [IGN]
#1: "With a half-assed script and lots of pages of hard-to-follow demon action with tentacles and three or four kinds of fire, this is a minor league effort all around" [Trouble With Comics]
#1: Worst book of the month [Multiversity Comics]
#1: A home run; gives us people to root for [Newsarama]
#1: A cute done-in-one that didn't shine [The Buy Pile]
#1: "Not the Dr. Strange I was looking for" [iFanboy]
#1: Positive: "this isn't quite Steve Ditko's take on Doctor Strange"; a new humbled Doc with a charming new disciple and modern fresh art [Comics Bulletin]
#1: Unambitious and disappointing [Weekly Comic Book Review]
#1: "I think the character deserves better, especially considering what he's been through recently" [Mania.com]
#1: Finds it hard to believe this is the best Doctor Strange pitch Marvel's gotten lately [Comic Book Resources]
Doctor-Strange-Related Sighting: Baron Mordo in X-Factor #205. Mordo's return, and scheme to kidnap Monet's father in order to trap her and feed off her unique life essence to put his own cancer into remission, disrupted by a militant anti-mutant group, continues at snail-speed with a page or two in this issue. "I was given a new lease on life thanks to some... temporal shenanigans... That need not concern you. But as I returned, so did my cancer. I am not about to let my body's weakness doom me a second time."
The Lost finale: Neilalien's math is Emotional Payoff +100, Analytical Payoff -90, which adds up
to a positive, but not particularly satisfying, +10. Choking back the tears, so into the characters, the soulmates, the
redemptions- but also weeping for a couple more answered questions. Especially: All the fertility/pregnancy/children/Walt stuff
that was such an early plot driver- now all completely useless screen time? The nature of Smokey. And you know Neilalien was very
disappointed the Ancient Egyptian angle went undeveloped (contrast with his joy when the statue was revealed to be
Tawaret, or the hieroglyphics at the Temple). The nature of the
light at the heart of the island, and the stoppered hole in the ground? Neilalien can probably let that one go as the
ultimate mystery- the trunk in Repo Man or the briefcase in Pulp Fiction- don't have to stomp out all sense of wonder and MacGuffin
magic- but it was annoying that people would agree to give their lives protecting it without knowing or even asking what the heck
it was. But the most disappointing thing (after not having more hottie Ana Lucia on the show)? All the lugnuts online
after the finale, puffing their chests that they had correctly predicted since Episode One that the Island was Purgatory
and everyone was dead all along. Granted, the whole thing is delightfully open to interpretation- but bejeez, if they ever
tried to concretely answer/explain ~anything~ on Lost, they made it crystal clear in the last lines of the mythic poem that everyone
did NOT die in the initial plane crash, and everything that happened on the island was real (it would have been such a cop-out
otherwise- so glad to hear the Dharma Initiative attempt to study and exploit island energy, and everything else, wasn't
Tommy Westphall's dream)- and that it was the Sideways World
which was some kind of timeless Purgatory-like place where mostly everyone created, re-remembered their lives and congregated
after each of their respective deaths (Hugo and Ben could have protected the island for 2,000 years) to meet Jack upon his
island death after saving the world. "If you unplug it and then plug it back in again, it works, and it's technically legal"-
candy vending machine, indeed! To all involved in the creation of Lost: Thank you for the emotional candy. In a sea of bland
entertainment, you provided a paradise island of a show, with great characters and adventure and storytelling risks in an intriguing,
interconnected world. The problem is: The desire to watch it again or buy the DVDs and see all the details and connections
missed the first time [thank you Entertainment
Weekly episode recaps!] is utterly overwhelmed by the inability to now give a rat's shit about all the plotlines and mysteries
that disappeared and went nowhere.
NEW AVENGERS #3
Written by BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS, Pencils & Cover by STUART IMMONEN, Variant Cover by STUART IMMONEN, Women of Marvel Frame Variant by TBA
Who is the true master of the mystic arts? Well, it ain't Doctor Strange and it ain't Doctor Voodoo. The bad news is he's here and he is in charge. And he is gleefully ripping this dimension apart, piece by piece, in his search for relics of power. How are the legacies of Iron Fist, Doctor Strange and Wolverine connected? Find out here in this brand new eye-popper from Bendis and Immonen! 32 PGS./Rated A $3.99
Tor Books has re-issued Steve Englehart's 01981 novel The Point Man about a man exploring the world of magick; recommended to Doctor Strange fans [Comics Should Be Good]
More about that Doc-ness in Challengers of the Unknown #1-8 by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale [Comics Should Be Good]
Kyle studies magic and becomes a Doctor Strange pastiche. In one of the funnier pages of the title, he rents a Greenwich Village loft that looks suspiciously like one from a Marvel comic we all know, and says that the landlord was a "strange" man ("Wong" even has a cameo in the book).
This is how the eBay magic happens, people. [Progressive Ruin]
Taking photos of stuff to sell on eBay isn't as glamorous as you thought.
Fun Fringe season finale this past week included alternate-dimension DC comics covers! [Bleeding Cool] [DC Source]
Big Lost finale tonight! Cross your fingers for a better ending than The Sopranos, X-Files and Battlestar Galactica!
What comics arguments do you never want to hear again? [Robot 6]
Sean T. Collins' Unholy Trinity:
(1) Literary/autobiographical/art-comix are self-pitying, misanthropic, pessimistic, and tedious.
(2) Superhero comics are just quasi-fascist male adolescent power fantasies.
(3) Manga isn't real comics, it's just big-eyed panty-flashing speed-lined nonsense for people who fetishize Japan.
Point taken about massive generalizations- but art comix really are the gift that keeps on giving! Exhibit A:
Synopsis of Daniel Clowes' mastery of art/craft/color in his otherwise unreadable, miserable, "gag"-strip-structured Wilson [Hooded Utilitarian; includes links to much more, for the interested] [link was updated]
Congrats to Jay Potts and Neilalien fave webcomic World of Hurt for winning Best Artist, Best Male Character, and Rising Star Glyph Awards [Comics Reporter]
We still haven't seen on screen what Lee and Ditko put on paper:"Are our imaginations so sclerotic that we depend on Hollywood to legitimize our fantasy, or is it that we are simply trained to see a motion picture adaptation of a text - any cultural object, from The Da Vinci Code to the Bible - as the apotheosis of our culture? Because, frankly, all the superhero movies that have ever been made have done nothing more than convince me how good the originals are..." [The Hurting]
This was Neilalien's first/childhood comic shop- he laments its closing. It sounds like the legendary shop is closing, um, around now...? (Isn't it inane and surprising in this day and Information Age that someone is putting out a 'newsletter' with undated items?) Best wishes to owner Hal. A great guy- but it must be said: Nothing nukes your collectionist tendencies in the crib quite like (a) the long bike ride home, comics nestled under the jacket, especially if it was raining, book corners getting jostled and squished, and (b) Hal, with his greasy potato-chip fingers as he rang up your purchase, manhandling the spearmint-condition books you just spent a half-hour meticulously picking off the racks and piles. Thank you Hal- so frustrating and horrifying at the time, but you probably saved future Neilalien a fortune in mylar, CGC slabbing fees, and anxiety.
Marvel solicitations for July 02010 include New Avengers #2; magic in the Marvel Universe to be revamped?; cover shows Luke Cage and the Eye of Agamotto [Comic Book Resources]
NEW AVENGERS #2
Written by BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS
Pencils & Cover & Variant Cover by STUART IMMONEN
All new Marvel magic by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen! The Avengers don't even get a chance to move in to their new digs when a dimensional invasion tears right into the heart of the team. This is a story that wlll completely reinvent the rules of magic in the Marvel Universe and have long-lasting effects on a handful of your favorite Marvel characters. Plus: an Avenger disappears!
32 PGS./Rated A $3.99
Long rant re: the above revamp by Doctor Strange uberfan [Sanctum Sanctorum Comix]
Two of many takeaways: "Doctor Strange is NOT a 'super hero' and should not be handled as such." "What I have a hard time understanding is why [a 'total reinvention' of Marvel Magic] is needed at all."
Fake Doctor Strange movie trailer from 'bloodrunsclear' [YouTube]
Snagging heavily from Nic Cage's The Sorcerer's Apprentice:
Since Neilalien is so belated with his what-will-be-mostly-negative braindump of the Strange miniseries, he hoped to recapture the timeliness factor by posting it when Marvel eventually released the TPB. Turns out they released it a couple weeks ago already. Pretty sneaky, sis!
As many DC Universe legacy character revamps that progressively went to minorities get undone by the returns of the originals- from John Stewart as the new black full-time Green Lantern in the 80's to a new asian Atom in 02006- comics unfortunately get whiter again [Comics Alliance] [via ADDTF with more: "blame the people who thought the best way to diversify the DCU was to stick new guys in the old guys' laundry" [in the first place]]
Is A Colourist Worthy Of Royalty? Does any colorist move the sales needle? Tony Harris, Erik Larsen and Kurt Busiek debate on Twitter [Bleeding Cool]
Harris has also been busy tweeting about starting a new comic book creators organisation/union/guild; pendulum swinging back in that direction after recent years of company-owned prominence? [Bleeding Cool]
Tom Spurgeon massive punchy interview with retailer Brian Hibbs [Comics Reporter]
Let the backlash begin: comic-book movies are Hollywood's most bankrupt genre [Salon]
Why does everything in the universe have to travel that same old predictable arc from obscurity to vomit-inducing glut?
Iron Man 2 shovels in $100 million internationally already; USA release this Friday [LA Times The Big Picture]
Why did it open internationally first? The World Cup! Or is it piracy?:
According to Moore, Paramount did want to get "Iron Man" out into the world market in time for it to have a solid theatrical run before World Cup mania distracted a huge part of its potential audience. But a closer look at the film's global release schedule shows that Paramount carefully crafted its theatrical bows to reflect individual country's attitudes toward piracy.
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