Friday, November 21, 2008

The Phantom Stranger #16 - Dec. 1971

The Phantom Stranger visits...the House of Wax!

A House of Wax is a horror standard, so it was only a matter of time before The Phantom Stranger set a story in one. Neal Adams' cover is wonderfully creepy, so let's see what happens inside:


The Phantom Stranger attends the opening of Tallow's Museum of the Occult, and senses an overpowering evil inside it. Hmm...

That night, a young woman is walking home on a foggy street, when she is attacked by two men! But their plan is cut short when The Phantom Stranger appears, knocking one of them out!

The other miscreant, though, seems oddly prepared

The Stranger escapes, but the two men run off.

He makes sure the young woman is okay, which she is--sort of. While she's not physically harmed, she cannot remember who she is! The Phantom Stranger takes her hand and says he will help her come out her mental fog.

He takes her to some sort of shelter, complete with four-poster bed. He promises "You are quite safe! Nothing can harm you here." (Is this the debut of The Phantom Cave?)

Anyway, the young woman falls asleep, and has some amazing visions

The creepy Lord Tallow tells his queen that is her turn to sleep the endless sleep--to be cast in a veil of wax!

She doesn't take too well to this news, and tries to flee. Tallow grabs her, but The Phantom Stranger is there, and frees her of Tallow's grip. They then head back for "the daylight."

Now awake, she and The Stranger take a walk, where they run into Ernie Drapper--the woman's fiancee! He knows her as Dalia, but she has no memory of this man.

When Drapper gets agitated, the Stranger steps in and tries to calm the situation. This enrages Drapper, who wraps his hands around the Stranger's throat! Suddenly, another burst of that inky darkness appears, knocking both Drapper and the Stranger out.

They wake up later, to see that Dalia is gone. Drapper realizes that he overreacted, and he follows the Stranger when he says he knows where Dalia is.

They sneak into the Occult museum, and tip-toe past the lifeless wax statues.

Wait, did I say lifeless?

The wax figures keep the Stranger and Drapper under control, while the museum's owner, Mr. Tallow, emerges dressed as he was in Dahlia's dream. He says they will reclaim their Queen, and shows Drapper what his love truly is--an ancient, dessicated corpse, as revealed in yet another wax likeness!

Drapper gets enraged again, breaks loose from his captors, and flings a lit torch at Tallow. The room immediately fills with flames, as the formerly live beings devolve back into piles of gooey wax.

As Tallow is killed by a collapsing roof, the Stranger grabs Dahlia, and they escape.

But as they watch the place burn to the ground, the truth is revealed:

sg of Len Wein's creepiest PS stories, complete with a downer of an ending.

Sure, it ends with Dahlia professing her love for Drapper, but as The Phantom Stranger heads off for another adventure, or to hang with the Justice League or something, poor Ernie is left all alone.

That said, this story is told with all the brio and confidence of two talented, creative people working at the top of their game. Wein's story is, as I said, creepy and fast-moving, and of course Aparo's work is gripping (and even though its a horror story, Aparo wasn't above having some fun--did you catch the Cain and Sargon cameos on page three?).

One of my favorites of the Wein/Aparo run on The Phantom Stranger.

1 comment:

Garnet said...

Nice Ditko Dr. Strange-flavoured netherworld that Dalia falls through there on page 8.

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