Tag Archives: Doctor Strange

Four Color Primer: Valkyrie, Part 3

Tessa Thompson joins Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, and Cate Blanchett as the sword-wielding Valkyrie in this November’s Thor: Ragnarok. There are many wonderfully succinct character bios available on the Internet that can illuminate her powers and backstory, but this isn’t one of them. This is part three in another ridiculously verbose Idle Time primer on Valkyrie, and if you’d like to get caught up, start with part one. If you are up to speed, and still reading these posts, thank you. I had no idea this little journey through oddball Marvel comics from the 70’s and 80’s would result in more than 10,000 words on an admittedly minor character. I’ve grown quite fond of Brunnhilde of the Valkyrior, to be honest. Regardless, I need to think about wrapping it up. But not before an in-depth look at the next writer responsible for putting his stamp on the character.

the Six-Fingered Hand saga begins in Defenders #94

Over the course of a decade, beginning in 1970, a handful of writers and artists took this concept and design, which began as nothing more than a villainous blind for Amora the Enchantress, and began to flesh out a complex and compelling character. She is Brunnhilde, leader of Odin’s nine valkyries, immortalized in popular culture by Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle. For reasons as yet unclear, she was held captive by Amora, with her persona and powers bent to the sorceress’s will. Eventually that persona was permanently embedded in the body of a human woman, Barbara Norriss. In turn, Barbara’s psyche was trapped in Brunnhilde’s body, still held captive by the Enchantress. Brunnhilde fought nobly for years, while inhabiting Barbara’s body, as a member of the Defenders. During a war in Valhalla, the immortal body of Brunnhilde animated by Barbara’s psyche was damned to Niffleheim, and Valkyrie, as she was now known, went back to the hero business seemingly devoid of the psychic feedback and confusion that had been linked to Barbara Norriss (although she still happily made use of Barbara’s body).

She was still a member of the Defenders, and this famous “non-team” title had been a wonderful below-the-radar outlet for trippy forays into non-traditional stories, social commentary, and general experiments in superhero team dynamics. The next major creator to play around in the Defender sandbox was J.M. DeMatteis and he, much like Gerber before him, used this series to explore themes that may not have gone over as easily in a mainstream book.

Valkyrie is shot from behind and killed in Defenders #107 (May, 1982)

Gods & Goddesses, Death & Rebirth

DeMatteis’s later work, particularly on books like the Moonshadow graphic novel and DC’s Spectre, clearly showcases the author’s interest in spirituality and humanity’s place in the universe. But a look back at his earlier books, including a Defenders run that began with issue #92, reveals a related fascination with religious iconography, the psychology of faith, and the concept of an immortal soul. What better instrument of exploration than Valkyrie, a character herself inspired from human religious beliefs, right?

Wrong. As DeMatteis launches into his first lengthy storyline, “The Six-Fingered Hand,” Val takes a backseat to recent Defenders recruits Hellcat, Devil-Slayer, and Daimon Hellstrom, as well as Gargoyle, a character first introduced in Defenders #94. The Hand in question is an alliance of demons, captained by Mephisto, looking to unleash literal hell on earth. Hellcat, our dear Golden-Age Patsy Walker, reveals that she might be the daughter of the devil, and that she was sold into demonic servitude… by her mother! What a great opportunity for Valkyrie to sympathize. After all, the human body that she’s running around in belonged to Barbara Norriss, who was sold off to a cult of demon worshipers by her mother.

this all sounds really familiar…

But no. Throughout this storyline, replete with demonic possessions and satanic pacts, Valkyrie is a minor supporting character, operating almost exclusively in the background. You begin to get the impression that, had he been able, DeMatteis would have written her off the team. Even in the climactic battle, in Defenders #100, Mephisto separates her along with Clea and Silver Surfer, disregarding their worth as “children of other worlds” to be “consigned to an eternity as nothings — in a realm of nothing!”

Continue reading Four Color Primer: Valkyrie, Part 3

Secret Empire #9

The penultimate chapter of Nick Spencer’s Secret Empire hits stands this week, and, as one would expect this close to a climactic final confrontation with Captain Hydra, the action ramps up at a frenetic pace. This has been one of Marvel’s most entertaining and original event books since House of M, and, as with the alternate reality of Bendis’s series, when the architecture of Steve Rogers’s empire starts to fail, it doesn’t take long for the structure to come crashing down. Across the board, the heroes have been tallying victories: the Darkforce dome sealing off Manhattan is down, as is the planetary defense shield that had stranded the other heavy hitters in the stratosphere. The Underground has rallied, and New Tian is in open revolt. Corrupted superheroes like Vision and Scarlet Witch are on the verge of restoration, and presumed defeated combatants Winter Soldier and Black Panther make dramatic returns to the battlefield. And, perhaps most importantly, the haze of mead and self-deprecation that had been clouding the mind of Odinson, AKA The Unworthy Thor, finally seems to have cleared. There’s a “BOOM” that translates roughly to, “The Hel was I thinking?!”

Hope you haven’t experienced mega-super-battle fatigue yet. Because this issue has a pretty fun romp. And despite all the momentum gathering on the side of the heroes, Steve has one major play left in his bag of tricks, and it involves Arnim Zola, some Stark technology, and an impressive handful of cosmic cube fragments. It all figures to play out in an even bigger mega-super-crazy series finale.

Continue reading Secret Empire #9

Aaron & Bachalo’s Doctor Strange

Blame it on the Time Gem, that re-imagining of Doctor Strange’s Eye of Agamotto for the MCU, warping temporal conventions and mortal publishing schedules. This week’s Doctor Strange #20, the culmination of Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo’s brilliant run on the book, comes a week after issue #21. Weird, yeah? One might say strange, even. Or maybe Marvel was just really eager to get the first issue from the new creative team on the stands for its Secret Empire tie-in. The real reason for the twisted release schedule, however, can be found in the afterword of this week’s book: “Why, you ask, is issue #21 already on sale? DO NOT BLAME KADAVUS! Blame the incompetent editor whose buffoonery has put him on the edge of infinite torment!” Well, sure. It’s well-established that comic book editors are all buffoons, so I’m sure a slight delay on an oversized book brimming with mind-bending Bachalo splash pages and interior art from the legendary Kevin Nowlan can fall squarely on that moron’s shoulders.

And we’ll excuse it. Because, truly, none of us really wanted to see this creative team bid farewell. We typically spotlight series or storyline premieres in these weekly New Comics posts, but this time we’re making an exception. Since Aaron and Bachalo first introduced us to this new axe-swinging Stephen Strange in the opening week of the All-New All-Different initiative, Doctor Strange has been one of the most exciting and visually gratifying superhero books on the shelf. This new issue even brings back that “sexy incorporeal asian succubus” that had a little something to do with the book’s high finish in our ANAD rankings.

Continue reading Aaron & Bachalo’s Doctor Strange

Marvel NOW! – Week 4

No surprise, with Marvel’s latest Hollywood blockbuster scheduled for wide release on November 4, that we’re getting a double dose of the good doctor this year. Not since the Defenders days of the 70’s and 80’s has Doctor Strange featured simultaneously in multiple ongoing titles. Doctor Strange and The Sorcerers Supreme #1, by Robbie Thompson and Javier Rodriguez, hits shelves for week 4 of Marvel’s latest NOW! initiative, which gives us one more reason to thank Marvel Studios for making the Master of the Mystic Arts pop-culturally relevant. Unlike Aaron & Bachalo’s outstanding Doctor Strange series, however, or even any of the iterations of The Defenders over the years, this book looks to pull the focus away from Stephen Strange while emphasizing a fun new magical ensemble.

file_001-2The story picks up after the events of The Last Days of Magic with Strange still trying to recover what magical energy he can in our universe. Merlin, of Arthurian lore, and no stranger to the Marvel universe, assembles a super-team of super-sorcerers to combat an entity known as The Forgotten, which was purportedly unleashed on the past during Strange’s battle with the Empirikul. It’s like a Web Warriors for the mystical set, except with more flowy capes and fewer anthropomorphic pigs. Suiting up for action is a Wiccan from a future in which he is Earth’s Sorcerer Supreme; a Sir Isaac Newton from a reality in which he commands a “Mindful One” (a creature that looks a lot like Dread Dormammu’s Mindless Ones); a brash, younger version of The Ancient One; and two new characters: Kushala, the Demon Rider, and a mysterious pistol-wielding, swashbuckling woman known only as “The Conjuror.”

Despite some solid building blocks in Strange’s main title and Scarlet Witch, three other failed attempts at cultivating an enchanted corner of the Marvel universe (Weirdworld was pretty good; Howling Commandos was not; Black Knight was just awful), have only hurt property values. But Thompson’s premise and team are encouraging. Moreover, what elevates Sorcerers above classic magician vs. monster fare is the art of Javier Rodriguez. Fresh off his great run on the ANAD Spider-Woman, Rodriquez gets to trade in the sci-fi for fantasy, adding beasties next to aliens in his creature portfolio. The design of the Forgotten’s cultists is particularly devilish. And the double-splash of Merlin guiding Strange on a temporal journey to the principal battlefield is a gorgeous piece of Jim Starlin-meets-Brendan McCarthy artistry that is worth the entire price of admission.

Continue reading Marvel NOW! – Week 4

All New All Different Marvel – Week 49

Somewhat overlooked amidst Marvel’s Civil War II blitz and impending Marvel NOW! initiative is the new Doctor Strange, emerging from Aaron and Bachalo’s recent arc as one of the most promising and exciting takes on the character in decades. Obviously we have the new movie to thank for Marvel’s attention, but this rejuvenated Sorcerer Supreme was long overdue regardless. This week’s Doctor Strange #11 serves as an interlude between last month’s conclusion to “The Last Days of Magic” and next month’s multi-title NOW launch. This is no mere filler issue, however, as Jason Aaron formerly introduces us to the new status quo in Marvel’s magical universe. And, in no uncertain terms, the “new face of magic.”

file_000-6Leonardo Romero provides the art for the present day sequences: a composed, almost minimal counterpoint to the frenetic, hyperactive aesthetic realized by Chris Bachalo, back before Strange & Co. fought off The Empirikul and pushed the reset button on our universe’s magical hard drive. Aaron, like Jonathan Hickman before him, is a Bond villain of the Marvel Universe, successfully razing the world in order to let it grow anew. Unlike Hickman, however, Aaron is still in the driver’s seat, and seems to have big plans for the good Doctor, along with all of his magical friends.

Continue reading All New All Different Marvel – Week 49

All New All Different Marvel – Week 1

Marvel’s latest series relaunch is its most ambitious to date, with up to sixty new titles debuting this winter. Unlike similar events in the past, whether it was Heroes Reborn whose issue re-numbering eventually defaulted and resulted in schizophrenic dual-numbered issues, or the more recent Marvel NOW! which seemed to target properties that were developing their own cinema-inspired identities, this year’s All New All Different Marvel bears a few significant differences.

For one, the name is pretty dumb. It doesn’t have the snap of DC’s “New 52” or even the brevity of “Marvel NOW,” but maybe the cumbersome label makes it easier to shed, months down the road, when this new universe has been established as the new normal. Which brings up the second key difference: this time, the relaunch is universal. In the wake of the latest Secret Wars event, bits and pieces of various Marvel realities – some that we are familiar with and some of which are brand new – are coming together to form this new universe. All of the groups are affected: the X-Men books, the Spider-books, and, of course, the Avengers titles.

As we did with the 52 series that comprised DC’s relaunch, a dedicated team of Idle Timers will be reading the first issue of every series under the All New All Marvel banner. We’ll then rank them from worst to best, and share insight from both long-time comics fans and neophytes. Sometimes the best feedback, for a venture designed to hook new readers, comes from folks coming in cold. MH hadn’t even ever heard of Doctor Strange, if you can believe it. Continue reading All New All Different Marvel – Week 1