Doctor Strange #3-4
Issue(s): Doctor Strange #3, Doctor Strange #4
Unfortunately, these issues are more about the mechanics of bringing the characters back from the "dead" (we've already seen them "alive" in an afterlife dimension in previous issues of Gillis' run) and there isn't room for the characterization and interaction that were the highlights of New Defenders. And there's also the fact that, while Interloper and Manslaughter are interesting characters, they need more "normal" characters like Beast or Iceman to bounce off of. And Doctor Strange doesn't count.
Before we get to the Defenders story, though, Doctor Strange still has some loose ends to deal with after his long quest down the black magic path. The first is a formal reconciliation with Clea, who came back into his life last issue.
Clea gives him a ring that basically indicates that they are married. Actually, it's a single ring that they both wear, a cool little concept.
The second, after Clea leaves, is the creation of a new vessel to hold the energy from the talismans that were destroyed.
From that, we cut to a scene of a professor of comparative literature finding a book he didn't know he owned, but it's not as simple as the book being a new talisman. We'll come back to Professor Dafydd ap Iorwerth and his friend.
The third thing is Dr. Strange saying goodbye to Morgana Blessing, who was badly injured during the same story where the talismans were destroyed and Strange began his dark journey.
As he's leaving, Morgana notices that Strange's hands don't tremble any more, the first time since his accident that made him give up his profession as a surgeon.
So back to those professors. The two of them and a student that one of them (the friend, not the guy who found the book) was sleeping with travel to central Wales, where they also pick up a lorry driver.
Strange goes to Wales too, and finds a bicyclist who has fallen, and brings her to a fairy-ring where the others are already transfixed.
And once she's added to the group, they become the Defenders.
Those are aspects of the Vishanti above the Defenders. And notice that the guy who found the book hasn't actually been transformed.
I should note that Gargoyle was among the characters that "died"in Defenders #152, but we haven't seen him in Gillis' Strange run. This professor wasn't supposed to be Gargoyle, though. Gargoyle appears in concurrently published Gillis-written issues of Solo Avengers along with Moondragon.
The characters are soon attacked by spirits of air, earth, and water, which Dr. Strange bargained with during his dark period. And that has apparently rendered him unable to deal with them directly with his magic, so the Defenders have to fight them.
At least until the professor tells them to stop, and they do.
Issue #4 is unfortunately a bit of a mess. It turns out that the Dragon of the Moon was behind the minor delay of the bicyclist as well as the spirit attack, and has now transformed the local area into an fiery realm overrun with demons (please don't call it an Inferno). So the Defenders have to fight their way through that with the professor falling into his role as a reincarnation of Arthur Pendragon and a living vessel of the energy from the broken talismans.
Notice the taunt at Strange about not being willing to put blood on his hands again after his return from the black magic path.
Eventually they face off against the Dragon of the Moon...
...and eventually kill it by imbuing Valkyrie's Dragonfane sword with the talisman energies.
Well, Professor is the one who actually kills it.
It seems Gillis had to rush to get this wrapped up before Roy Thomas takes over next issue. I don't know if he intended to do more with this Dragon Circle idea perhaps in Doctor Strange or was setting it up with the hope of starting a new Defenders series since he was getting bumped from this title.
This is pretty much it for Peter Gillis' run at Marvel (barring some Solo Avengers and Marvel Comics Presents type stuff), which i think is unfortunate. But i guess ending with the death of the Dragon of the Moon makes a kind of sense. This is also the end of Richard Case's Doctor Strange run as we go to a whole new creative team for next issue. Sometimes his faces were wonky (see the panel with Clea and the wedding ring above) and his action was a little stiff, but he generally did a nice job with the mystical stuff.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place after the Devil-Slayer story in Marvel Comics Presents #37. Doctor Strange #28 says that Strange was in Wales for this story during Inferno. I've placed this story before the Inferno back-up in X-Factor annual #4 since Strange is around in that story to tell investigators that Inferno was a mass hallucination.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (9): show
I always thought it was anticlimactic to have Strange and Clea "married" just by donning some rings.
Posted by: Michael | September 12, 2014 8:04 PM
I wonder if you shouldn't be tracking at Sian Bowen, Genevieve Cross, Roger Loomis, and Will Fanshawe as they make further appearances as the hosts of Valkyrie, Andromeda, Manslaughter, and Interloper.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | October 17, 2014 4:50 AM
I think i'll track them the way i've tracked characters like Zarathos and only include them when they actively show themselves or do something.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 17, 2014 7:25 AM
I know Genevieve Cross for sure appears on-panel in an upcoming Andromeda story in Namor's book. Not sure about the others though. Possibly Sian Bowen & Valkyrie. I'll have to do more research.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | October 20, 2014 10:30 PM
None of the Dragon Circle, bar Cross, appear ever again.
I think Sian might be hand-waved to in the Black Knight series. But that's about it for Valkyrie appearances until 2010. Manslaughter makes one more appearance in two issues of Cage (of all things) and there's no reference to Loomis. And not only does Fanshawe not return but Interloper doesn't ever appear again.
And the story feels the need to alert us to an upcoming Marvel Comics Presents story but makes no effort to direct us to Avengers Spotlight to find out about Moondragon and Gargoyle. There's absolutely no mention whatsoever of the two in these issues (or the Strange Tales ones). It's boggling, really. Of the dead Defenders, Gargoyle was the only other one Strange knew. How the hell did it never come up in this or Strange Tales? Even if it was just a throwaway statement to direct us to Spotlight.
My other problem is Manslaughter. In both this and the Strange Tales stories, the guy is not written. He's just there. This doesn't work at all, since he is both unhinged and an evil killer. Other than a few generic "Oh boy, violence! Yay" lines from him, they don't address the fact that he's NOT a hero. Instead they just have him there, looking like a hero and doing nothing of consequence.
And the ending doesn't really explain the fate of the Defenders and the Dragon Circle or even if they will stick around. Turns out the '89 Handbook took a lot of liberties to try and explain why and how the whole thing "works" (and I'm guessing the Sub-Mariner issues helped too). But other than that it was never touched again and, other than Andromeda, even the characters weren't really touched again. Ironic that they subsequently appeared less upon return than when they were dead. Then we get to 2010 and Marvel just ignored it to reset Valkyrie.
Posted by: AF | January 23, 2016 4:49 PM
I remember someone saying on here that Manslaughter is basically Deadpool pre-Deadpool. Its too bad he never really came back or was used by any other writers other than Gillis to fill that type of character that Wade ends up filling.
Posted by: Ataru320 | January 23, 2016 5:34 PM
Part of the reason for that is probably because Manslaughter's costume design is kind of goofy and lame. He's just not a cool looking character.
And did Valkyrie really not appear again for like 20 years? It's always strange when you see a character brought back to prominence in the modern day and then look back and realize they didn't appear for decades at a time.
Posted by: Red Comet | January 23, 2016 6:42 PM
A different Valkyrie resurfaces in the meantime. Samantha Parrington, the one from Hulk #142.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 23, 2016 6:51 PM
@Red Comet-Valkyrie does have a few appearances between 1989 and 2010, including a 1997 oneshot that I've never read but that I've been assured is pretty horrible.
Posted by: Michael | January 30, 2016 5:43 PM
She shows up in Thor later this year in a "blink and you'll miss her" role. Michael, I read that Valkyrie one-shot a couple of years ago -- yeah, it's crap in that special way only '90s crap can be.
Posted by: Robert | January 31, 2016 12:02 AM
And by "later this year" I'm referring to 1992, not 1989. I just realized what year this entry was.
Posted by: Robert | January 31, 2016 12:04 AM
Does the one-shot make any allusion to the Dragon Circle?
I've had a look, she also appears in two issues of X-Force (of all things) and 2 issues of Ghost Rider. Then she got replaced with Parrington. Talk about a character they really had no idea what to do with.
Also, don't forget she also got replaced by another Valkyrie (one that doesn't even exist!) in the awful Starlin/Marz Thor run.
And then when Marvel do bring her back in 2010 it is lame and they don't really do anything with her except confuse her origin even more and make sure to ignore and never acknowledge the existence of Parrington. There's a bunch of Valkyrie appearances in Hulk and She-Hulk that predate her one-shot and you genuinely have no idea if it's meant to be her or Parrington.
Posted by: AF | January 31, 2016 3:41 AM
@AF, no nothing about the Dragon Circle. It takes place during that period when they changed Thor back into Journey Into Mystery and had all the Asgardians going by regular names with no clue about who they really were. The story was about her remembering she was Valkyrie after a confrontation with D'Spayre.
Posted by: Robert | January 31, 2016 4:31 AM
It sounded alright up until that last word.
Posted by: AF | January 31, 2016 8:07 AM
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