Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Phantom Stranger #20 - Aug. 1972

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The Phantom Stranger has to protect an innocent child who just might be a god!

As you can see, with this issue Jim Aparo took over the covers from Neal Adams. And while its hard to imagine having a better cover artist than Adams, Aparo of course did a fine job, as well.

Inside, we start our story inside a remote hideaway in the Orient:



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The Lama's assistant, Kamset, is less than pleased by this young charge's sorcery, slapping him down, then grabbing him and throwing him out a nearby window!
The kid plummets to his death...except, someone is there to save him:

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Back in the temple, we see that the Lama is dead. Without a leader, they turn to Kamset to find the newest reincarnation of the Great Lama.

Kamset rounds up his people and sets out for Tibet, where they believe the baby has been born. What the people don't know is that Kamset intends to rule himself!

At the Lake of the Sacred Spirit, they see the face of their newborn master. At that same moment, some local Communist soldiers fire at them, which brings The Phantom Stranger onto the scene!

After knocking out the gun men, the Stranger warns that what they saw in the lake was a deception, and that they will be betrayed!

Kamset attacks the Stranger, commanding some of sort of sea creature to come out of the lake and drag him under
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As the Stranger thanks the young boy for saving his life, we see that Kamet has arrived in the tiny Tibetan village on the trail of the newborn. They make their way up a snowy ledge until they arrive at a tiny hut, and inside is a scared young woman and her baby:

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Kamset order his people out of the tent to celebrate, and once he's alone with the woman, he asks her what kind of treachery is going on--he believes this child is a fake!

He tries to prove this by wiping the mark off the child, but sees that it is real! He thinks this is some sort of game of the woman's, and he slaps her hard, knocking her against a stone wall, killing her.

He then moves onto the next step of his plan, killing the child(!) and replacing it with his own choice, but he is stopped by the young boy, who is the infant's older brother!

He grabs the child from Kamset and runs off, but Kamet uses his mystical powers to slow the boy down--first by conjuring a wall of flame, then a rock slide on the icy cliff. But then The Phantom Stranger arrives, and does battle with Kamset, whose magical powers seem evenly matched.

Finally Kamset hauls off and punches the Stranger, and makes a final mad grab for the child:


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...one of my favorite Phantom Stranger stories (I love the whole Lost Horizon feel to it) and of course Aparo executes it perfectly.

His rendering of Kamset looks more than a little like Boris Karloff when he played Fu Manchu in the 1932 classic The Mask of Fu Manchu:


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I know there's only so many ways to go visually with a Fu Manchu type, but I can't help but think Aparo saw the movie at some point in his life (he was born in 1932--coincidence??) and it influenced him when it came time to visualizing the villainous Kamset.

1 comment:

Bribaby said...

I think the Aparo cover is fine, too, and the drawing of the Buddhist temple nestled into the snowy mountainside is masterful.
If I'm not mistaken, I believe this issue marks a first: the first time the Stranger fired a mystical power bolt!
My only gripe about this story is that Wein kind of "over-wrote" it, which was pretty common among comic writers in the late 60's-early 70's. The panel of Kasmet bouncing down the mountain on page 18, for instance, would have been better without the superfluous captioning. We can see what's happening; sometimes it's better to let images speak for themselves.

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