Chalk up yet another great cover by Neal Adams, featuring an abstract design idea that probably had some of the folks in DC's production department scratching their heads--the flat purple "nothingness" contrasts really well with the rest of the cover, making for an eerie, disjointed effect.
Inside, The Phantom Stranger tells us of weird events happening all over the world:
Meanwhile, on the Brooklyn Bridge, even more drama is unfolding:
...as if all this isn't enough, the story then cuts to a stolen space capsule, orbiting the Earth(!), manned by two angry proto-hippies, who are using this to protest their government's priorities--letting "chil'ren" die while they're "shooting birds at the moon."
Suddenly, communication with the capsule cuts off, and it plummets to Earth, landing in the Atlantic Ocean When found, inside, the capsule is...empty.
At the same time, The Phantom Stranger reads a newspaper account of a glowing pyramid arising in the Sudan, news that causes him to angrily crumple the paper and head there.
He decides to go the old fashioned way:
Lynn's brother arrives, only to be attacked by two grenades tossed in his direction. The truck he is driving explodes, killing him instantly, right in front of Lynn and the Stranger!
Lynn takes matters into her own hands, and without mercy:
Cut to: the mysterious glowing pyramid, where we see a group of zombie-eyed followers listening to the angry ramblings of their leader, a masked man who calls himself "The Messiah of Evil."
Inside a small antechamber is...Lynn! She turns around only to see The Phantom Stranger, and she asks him how she isn't dead from the explosion.
Before he can answer, two of the Messiah's henchmen come in to get her. The Stranger tries to fight them, but they have extraordinary powers, and with one touch the Stranger is knocked out.
Lynn is brought to meet the Messiah, and we see who it is under the hood:
The Stranger strains to calm himself, and get rid of the hate he has for Tannarak, instead looking to strike in the name of justice.
This works, and weakens Tannarak long enough for the Stranger to deliver a solid left hook. He then sics his guards on the Stranger, so he then grabs Lynn and takes off.
They find themselves in another room, one you wouldn't think to see inside a pyramid:
Turns out this pyramid--and all the strange events happening in the world in the last few days--were the result of an alien race, who had planned to take over the Earth, thinking it was totally evil!
But they see that the Stranger is a force for good, and that he risked his life to save Lynn, so maybe this world has some potential (whew!).
The pyramid starts to rumble, with Tannarak and his men still trapped inside:
Tannarak is a perfect foil for the Phantom Stranger--a grandly theatrical villain, and one with the kind of vague powers that enabled a writer to keep bringing him back over and over, no matter how certain his death seemed at the end of any given issue.
I know I'm repeating myself, but I can't help it--one of my favorite elements of these issues of The Phantom Stranger is how every issue has a different setting--it gave the book a "big budget" feel, not being locked into the stories only taking place in one location. And of course Aparo handled the specific details of each setting masterfully.
One last comment, regarding the format here: looking over my earliest posts, I found myself dissatisfied with ration of description vs. artwork--in that I explained way too much when its better just to show you the amazing work Jim Aparo was delivering with each issue.
So from now on, the play-by-play will be a little lighter, and we'll have a lot more beautiful Aparo art to look at!