2010-10-21

Here Come The Drumms!

Various folks on the Sanctum Sanctorum and Strange Occasions blogs have shown an interest, so...



Ah, Brother Voodoo. A product of the 70's, long relegated to guest appearances and Fred Hembeck cartoons, the character recently catapulted to the big leagues when he was given the title of Sorcerer Supreme in the comic New Avengers.  Renamed Doctor Voodoo, he seemed destined for greatness, having been given his own ongoing miniseries by Rick Remender and Jefte Palo.  And that's what we'll be talking about today.

Here Be Spoilers


It's fitting that a book about two heroes sharing one body has a fair number of dualities. And my review will also incorporate a duality, as I will be looking at each issue as not only a standalone story, but also as part of the larger Marvel Universe.

Issue 1

The first issue, and the first duality, as the opening scene (released both as a preview and a digital comic) really has little to do with the rest of the issue, or indeed the series. Our hero, Jericho Drumm, beards the Dread Dormammu in his lair, trapping him there.

While this is an exciting scene, we immediately come up against some problems. The first is the Staff of Legba, specifically those stupid shrunken heads, which have about as much to do with real Voodoo (or even Marvel's take on the religion) as Live And Let Die did.

When they started speaking the "Language of Null" (apparently, also the language of Mars Attacks), it kicked be right out of the story. That being said, the "Gunner of God" bit (a phrase from real voodoo) and "barrier crows" were intriguing.

Unfortunately, after a strong start, things go downhill very quickly. After a brief tour of Drumm's new Sanctum (accompanied by a particularly Teutonic Stephen Strange) we accompany Jericho on his rounds at his clinic, where we discover he's missed rent payments for 5 months and was apparently somewhat rude to his girlfriend/nurse at one point.

This leads to his second battle, against the loa Marinette Bwa Chech. The battle is brief, as Jericho is blindsided by Doctor Doom. Because of this, we really don't get a feel for the new villainess, although I personally hear her dialogue in the voice of Naomie "Tia Dalma" Harris.

Jericho and Doom battle, and it's clear that our hero is outmatched. And the issue ends with Doom winning his prize (and rejecting it), while a broke Doctor Voodoo lies semi-conscious in another mystical plane.

And that's my biggest problem with the issue. While Remender throws a lot of concepts at us, rife with potential, we barely get a feel for the supporting cast, and after a strong opening, the lead character comes off a bit less than competent.

Continuity-wise, it's a bit of a mess, as Dormammu is felled due to the destruction of artifacts we've never seen before, and barely raises a finger to defend himself, and Remender uses terms like "Everdimensions" as if we should know what they mean. He does use a few names from Marvel canon (in new ways) but they seem more like flavor text than integral parts of the story.

The art is sketchy, but has the right mood, and Palo slipped in some neat cameos in the Scrying Stones scene and the fall through dimensions.

This issue had some backup material, all of which was reprinted from elsewhere. I was amused to see that "Dr. Voodoo" was the character's original name, though.

Issue #2

Jericho tries to fight his way back home, while having flashbacks to his tragic childhood. He barely succeeds, losing half of his Staff in the process, only to be betrayed by an ally who was under the control of Nightmare.

Seriously. That's all that happens. The first third of the book is Jericho recovering from his beating, the second is a long flashback, and the third sets up the temporary victory of the villain. And again, the issue ends with Jericho defeated.

The confident hero of the preview has been replaced by a dithering failure who cannot resist "the Unreal". He barely makes it home, after losing his MacGuffin. As a chapter of a book, it wouldn't be bad, but as a standalone, it feels a lot like filler.

I'm not crazy about the way Remender retconned a "curse" into Jericho's back story. It simply wasn't necessary, and felt tacked on for added Angst! potential. Especially since the flashback took the form of an illusion, and Jericho had the Eye of Agamotto (which canonically reveals truth) RIGHT THERE.

But the real retcon comes with Nightmare, who suddenly is immune to magic, and has gone through all of this effort to gain access to the Earth dimension... except for the minor fact that he was not only in another book (Avengers: Initiative) at the exact same time, but actually had his own miniseries at one point where he opened a nightclub called "Club Fear".

The visuals of his dimension were, admittedly, quite neat. His haircut... not so much.

The backup was a reprint of an earlier backup retelling Jericho's origin.

Issue #3

Doctor Voodoo battles Nightmare (and his possessed minions). Nightmare wins.

OK, a bit more than that happens, including a flashback to a previous Sorcerer Supreme, accompanied by either a loa or a Houngan (the scene is a bit vague) battling an evil god. We get scenes with the Hood, Hellstrom, and two Ghost Riders, but the bottom line is that Jericho loses. All of his plans either failed, or were secretly inspired by Nightmare to further his aims.



As you can guess, my opinion of the book started to fall apart at this point. It's written more like "Doctor Doom: Badass (guest starring Doctor Voodoo)", and really makes for odd pacing. The flashback was quite nice, actually, although it does lead to problems, like "How'd the Eye and Staff make it to their successors if they were turned into statues?"

And Remender's choice of dark god (Ogoun) was perhaps poorly timed, as the backup of the very same issue introduced the Vodu, gods of Voodoo, and Ogoun is depicted s rather heroic-looking (particularly in comparison to Sagbata, the creator of zombies)

No other real continuity problems, otherwise. I'dve been happier if Remender had used one of the Sorcerers Supreme from Marvel Tarot, but that's just me. As I mentioned above, the backup is another reprint, showing the creation of zombies by Sagbata and Chthon.

Issue #4

Daniel Drumm, possessing Hellstrom, vs his brother for the fate of the world. Wherever will he find help?

(Hint: Starts with "D", ends with "oom")

We get another flashback, this time to Jericho's origin, with added "curse". And Jericho FINALLY uses the Eye to purge his own possession. Now he'll really kick butt, yes?

Well, no. Instead, he goes running off to Bondyé, the Vodu heaven, opening the same gate closed in the previous issue's flashback. There, he discovers... it's empty. After all the talk and build-up, only one goddess remains, and she basically tells them that they can't win, and they should let the energies of Bondyé do all the work. Then Jericho closes the gate (which took the lives of two masters to seal the first time) all by himself.

So they go off to visit Doctor Doom, who is the only person on Earth who was able to resist Nightmare. Cuz he's so cool and smart and crafty and perfect.

Meanwhile, in a scene I'm sure both Remender & Palo loved doing, Nightmare tortures various heroes with their worst fears. Lots of neat stuff in the background here. I'll admit I liked these bits. And we end with a dramatic splash of our heroes, weakened somewhat by the fact that the shrunken heads on Jericho's staff look like they are using pacifiers.

The backup completes the tale from the previous issue, showing the origin of the first Brother Voodoo. Ogoun is shown again, taking the side of humanity against Sagbata. But given that I'm pretty sure these backups were his only appearances, it's not really worth losing sleep over.

And then we come to the climax.

Issue #5

Doom and the Brothers Voodoo are killing possessed heroes right & left. While Jericho succumbs to the Penance Stare, Doom takes down Ghost Rider solo. And Doom speaks this line to the title character of the entire book:

"Cease your sniveling."

Eventually, they win, thanks to Doom's science, and Doom predictably betrays them, absorbing Nightmare's power. And FINALLY, Jericho does something right, as it turns out he had Daniel secretly possess Doom.

(line of the series, by Daniel: "Doom's thoughts. Wow. Lots of crazy Gypsy swearing going on")

Nightmare is sent to Bondyé, and fades away. Doom tries to seek vengeance, but after Jericho punches him in the face, he gives up and goes away.

That's right. Victor Von Doom, who was hyped up all series, gives up after a straight jab. Not even a particularly strong one. Despite the fact that he wears a metal mask, and that should have broken Jericho's hand (he didn't even have Daniel's strength added).

And, as Jericho goes back to his ordinary life, we discover that this was all a plot by the dark god Ogoun, and the goddess they thought was supporting them was Marinette in disguise.

No backup this time, so we can focus on the main story. Once again, Doom looks cooler than the hero, who whines more than he fights. Once again, a gate which was supposed to be a major deal was sealed with a simple spell. And once again, a victory turned out to be exactly what the bad guy wanted all along.

In the end, I was really disappointed. Rather than give us a heroic character who was taking on bigger responsibilities, Remender chose to focus on his insecurities. Rather than explore the new cosmology he'd set up, Remender chose to spend most of the miniseries battling a single foe, who was only defeated by science (in a book about sorcery). And there was FAR to much Doom love, even if he was ultimately defeated.

Now, Remender may have written this with the idea that Jericho would be more effective in his second arc, but to be blunt, I wouldn't have picked up issue #6 even if there had been one. He did not succeed, in my opinion, in making his characters worth following.

As for the cliffhanger, given that Nightmare was last seen back in his realm in Chaos War, it all seems to be a moot point. The only followup we ever got was a Remender short where Jericho and his nurse go out on a date, but wacky hijinks ensue.

Supreme? Not so much. And that's the biggest disappointment of the series, to me. Remender, in various interviews, implied great potential in the ideas he wanted to bring to the book.

But in the end, little of that potential made it to the page.

4 comments:

Strange said...

Thanks for writing this review! I have similar feeling in many areas. I honestly don't know that much about Brother Voodoo, so I went into this story without too many biases. I didn't come out of it with a lot of positive feelings though, and I think you hit on why. In the first couple of pages Voodoo waltzes into the Dark Dimension and dominates Dormammu, something that should be way out of his power level even as Sorcerer Supreme, and then he spends the rest of the book not being particularly effective. It was a bit frustrating to read.

Also, your post made me think of something. In this mini they mention several times that it was the BROTHERS Voodoo who were made Sorcerer Supreme, and Daniel (probably) just died (again)...

Mario said...

You are most welcome.

Yeah, I noticed the Brothers Voodoo thing. Did you also notice that Daniel spent more time with the Orb (another "Eye of Agamotto") than Jericho?

I don't think it was on purpose, though. Call it a hunch.

~P~ said...

I am sorely tempted to read your post, but I want to wrap up my review before I do so.

Trying not to "cross the streams of consciousness", so to speak.

But as soon as I post my long half-finished post, I'll come back and soak in your grey-matter matters.

~P~

Mario said...

Fair enough. Think of it as motivation. ;)