Doctor Strange #17-19
Issue(s): Doctor Strange #17, Doctor Strange #18, Doctor Strange #19
This arc also marks Englehart's exit from Doctor Strange, and Marvel, and there's some immediate revisionism in the final issue by Wolfman (and Alcala).
The initial plot has Strange and Clea traveling back in time to meet Sir Francis Bacon and engaging in an Umberto Eco style storyline where Strange delves into the secret meetings and missing portions of Bacon's New Atlantis.
After confirming that Bacon intended New Atlantis as a blueprint for a utopian society in the New World, Strange and Clea move forward in time to meet Ben Franklin.
And for Clea, i mean "meet" in the biblical sense.
In both Bacon and Franklin's periods, Strange is harassed by a wizard called Stygyro.
And when Strange finds out about the Franklin/Clea tryst (and we are now into the Wolfman/Alcala issue, so here's Alcala's version of hot steamy Franklin/Clea lovin')...
...he decides that it's all a ploy by Stygyro, and that turns out to be true.
And then Strange decides that it was all a test by the Ancient One, and that turns out to be true, too.
Strange and Clea return to the present, and find that everyone is dead, metaphorically representing the fact that Strange knows that the entire world recently was destroyed and rebuilt.
After battling the skeletons, and seeing even Clea turn into one, Strange says he understands the purpose of this "test", and rejects it.
The Ancient One is telling Dr. Strange that it is time for him to ascend the way he did. Everything, even, supposedly, the initial destruction of the Earth by Eternity, was part of the test so that Strange would accept the finality of life. It's a little unclear to me, but it does seem to be designed to undo the implications of the Eternity/Nightmare story (as well as quickly undoing the Ben Franklin/Clea romance). I do think it's possible to read this in such a way that the Eternity/Nightmare story still happened; if not, it raises the question of whether or not Eternity and Nightmare actually participated in that story, and if so, why?
In any event, Strange rejects the Ancient One's offer/request. This results in him being stripped of the title of Sorcerer Supreme, and the powers that come with it.
This again seems to be undoing another significant event from Englehart's run. Maybe it was felt that Strange was too powerful as Sorcerer Supreme, although magic is always amorphous enough that i don't know what the practical difference is. In any event, we know that Strange will be Supreme again.
But Clea doesn't care about all that, as long as she can get some lovin'.
I am definitely in agreement that Englehart was going down a rabbit hole here, especially - but not only - with this last arc, but the wrap up and reversals come in very abruptly.
This arc begins with Strange tracking down James Mandarin, who had stolen some books from Strange's house after being returned from Hell last arc.
One of the books was New Atlantis by Sir Francis Bacon, which is what kicks off the time traveling adventure.
Lord Phyffe and Rama Kaliph, who have been staying at Strange's house, leave at the beginning of this arc. Phyffe is looking a little nervous, but we won't find out any more about him for a while.
In addition to all of this, we're introduced to Xander, the over-enthusiastic agent of a mysterious group of Creators.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: This arc should start soon after the end of the previous one since it begins with Strange and Clea chasing down James Mandarin. The Defenders learn about Strange giving up the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme in Defenders #46 (i mention this because the MCP has Strange #15-28 occurring after Defenders #46, which can't be right), so this has to take place prior to that, but not necessarily directly before; it's possible that he's been keeping that info to himself. Unfortunately, prior to that revelation in Defenders, Strange was also suffering from a separate intermittent power loss thanks to the Headmen; it's resolved in Defenders annual #1. Storywise you might think that Strange would attribute any loss of power to his demotion here and never suspect anything was wrong in the Defenders issues, but thanks to continuing threads in both books there's no way to push this storyline after the Headmen plot is resolved. So we'll just have to assume Strange adjusts very well to his reduced abilities.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
I'm curious- what do you think of Englehart's having Clea sleep with an elderly Ben Franklin? Englehart does seem to have issues with women, as we'll see when you review his depiction of Tigra and Crystal in 1986. (I can't wait to see your reaction to "Why do I have to melt before anything in pants?") Do you think Englehart's depiction of Clea is sexist?
Posted by: Michael | May 15, 2013 7:59 PM
It's really too outlandish to take seriously, but i didn't find it sexist. Englehart does a surprisingly good job in his run treating Clea like a serious character, especially highlighting the fact that Strange has been neglecting her and hinting at the problems inherent in having a student for a lover. Strange's inability to confide in Clea about the recreated world made the former point very clear, but there were other moments as well (i highlighted one from issue #11). It's something that eventually gets resolved much later by Roger Stern, but it seems like Englehart might have gotten there himself if he stayed on the title. And it's done with low melodrama - Clea isn't a shrieking harpy or overly sullen or anything like that. But clearly her decision to have an affair is a result of all this, and it's a reasonably natural reaction by someone of any gender. Now, should it have been with an 80 year old historical figure? Obviously not. But Dr. Strange really does build the guy up (added a scan) and subconsciously Clea could have been influenced by that, both from the perspective that she's an alien sorceress who respects mental achievements over the physical and from the perspective that it's potentially someone Strange might have been nade jealous of. Mainly, i'm sure that Englehart wanted to play up the idea that Franklin was a "ladies' man", and i do think this was a dumb and silly move, but i don't personally think it was sexist.
Generally i think 1970s era Englehart has been a step up from Stan Lee and Roy Thomas on the feminist front. Clea is handled fairly well, Umar was a credible villain, Valkyrie was usually pretty good, Mantis... Englehart's heart was in the right place, i think, prostitute origins aside. (There's some stuff in his Cap run that was a lot worse - the Sharon/Valentina/Cap/Fury relationship was pretty awful, and Viper became a caraciture of a radical feminist. "Pig! You think my sex makes me soft?")
I especially react to 1980s Englehart's treatment of Tigra because she was deliberately created as a feminist character and it's disturbing to see her turned into a sexpot. And generally it seems Englehart gets worse in the 80s. But i'm not sure i would say that you can draw a direct line from his 70s period to his work after he returns in the 80s.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 15, 2013 9:39 PM
I really enjoyed this story and wish Engelhart had been allowed to finish it. I hadn't k own that Stygyro was to have been powered by America itself, but that makes sense. Was a reversal intended, with Stygyro the good guy and Franklin not as he seemed? I think Engelhart intended the seduction to be real rather than an illusion, but I do get the sense there was more to it than Ben's octogenarian sex appeal.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | May 15, 2013 10:10 PM
@Walter et al: Here is an alternative ending to Englehart's fantastic occult history of America, which the Stainless One was even impressed with:
Posted by: Nathan Adler | May 16, 2013 6:57 AM
founding father score!
Posted by: kveto | February 27, 2016 7:01 AM
Anyone remember where Strange returns to being Sorcerer Supreme after this arc? I tried looking online, but all the mentions seem to be to when he stopped being Sorcerer Supreme again in the '90s, to when he lost the title again after World War Hulk, or to when he lost most of his artefacts in Peter Gillis' run. I guess he gets depowered a lot.
Posted by: Jonathan | February 28, 2016 12:52 PM
Basically he's restored in Doctor Strange #28, or rather he learns that he really was all along.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 28, 2016 12:57 PM
Thanks! I guess that might explain why everyone was saying being replaced by Doctor Voodoo was the 2nd time he'd lost the title, when it seemed to be the 3rd.
Posted by: Jonathan | February 28, 2016 2:13 PM
Wait, wait, wait. I don't have these issues, so I'm maybe missing some of the subtlety here, but wait. Clea having consensual sex with Benjamin Franklin is one thing. She and Strange aren't married, and she's from an alien culture, and he's one of the Founding Fathers, and it's the seventies, so whatever. But it turns out she actually had sex with evil-wizard-in-a-bad-hat Spyro Gyra under false pretenses as part of some weird exam for Doctor Strange from the Ancient One? How is this not a big deal?
Posted by: Andrew | December 31, 2016 9:44 AM
Didn't they imply in #20 that the destruction of earth didn’t really happen? Anyway, Wolfman didn’t waste any time in undoing Englehart’s stuff.
Posted by: Dave Bave B | September 13, 2017 9:51 AM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|