Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Phantom Stranger #26 - Sept. 1973

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As the cover promises, The Phantom Stranger meets The Spawn of Frankenstein!

Sporting a very spiffy cover by Mike Kaluta, this issue of The Phantom Stranger is the last one to be produced by Len Wein and Jim Aparo, so they decided to pull out the stops and do a full-length story, featuring both characters in a story called:



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...oh great, Dr. Thirteen is back. The end of the Wein/Aparo era and the return of Terry "Wet Blanket" Thirteen? How much am I supposed to take?!?

The Stranger arrives to offer his condolences (very nice of him), but also to tell Thirteen that he senses trouble that both of them should attend to.

Thirteen--well, you can guess what his reaction is--and the Stranger disappears without a trace before Thirteen can harangue him some more.

Meanwhile, the Spawn of Frankenstein (or Sprank, for short) is inside this same hospital, on a mad search to find something. After collecting various medical and mechanical items, he needs just one more item.

He assumes it is inside a giant wall safe, which he rips off its hinges to open. Inside he finds what he's looking for, some sort of device that looks like a weapon. The Stranger shows up to stop Frankenstein from taking it, but he backhands the Stranger, knocking him down.

He then points this weapon at the prostrate Stranger, only for Dr. Thirteen to rush in an attempt to save him!

Frankenstein knocks the ax Thirteen is carrying out of his hand, picks him up, and:


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Frankenstein starts to leave, but not before picking up Thirteen's unconscious wife and taking her with him!

He returns to his creepy, abandoned house, aiming the weapon at Rachel (a character from the Spawn of Frankenstein back-up strip). He wants to pull the trigger, but something inside him stops him. He fires , but purposely misses Rachel, hitting a nearby wall.

The monster than collapses, and we see two ghostly spirits rise from his body! The two spirits are mad that Frankenstein defied them by not killing Rachel, so they hop into the bodies of Theresa Thirteen and Victor Adams (another SOF character).

Theresa Thirteen, now possessed, uses magic powers to make a bunch of empty suits of armor come alive and attack Frankenstein. They all pile on him, but:

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Before he can get to them, the fire burning in the house goes wild, smothering Frankenstein. The floor gives out beneath him, and he plummets to a dirt hole underneath the house.

Meanwhile, The Phantom Stranger and Dr. Thirteen are on their way to the house!

Back inside, the two ghostly demons try to trap Frankenstein in a bunch of metal chains, slowly squeezing the life out of him. But, try as they might, Frankenstein will not give up:

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I love that last panel--the sheer force of impact Aparo gets across. How does this guy still have a head after this?

Frankenstein sees that the demon inhabiting Adams' body is leaving, and surmises that physical violence is more than the demons can endure. Since the host bodies seem to remain unharmed, that means the best way to get rid of the other one is...to hurl Theresa Thirteen out the window!

He does so, but now the Stranger and Dr. Thirteen have arrived, and Terry catches his wife, not seeing the demon that is still inside her. She wakes up, and zaps her husband, then blasting a nearby chandelier:


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Frankenstein reappears, and Thirteen attacks him, firing a pistol at him. Of course, the bullets do no harm, and Frankenstein grabs Thirteen by the neck, about to kill him.

He is stopped by The Phantom Stranger, who says he believes that Frankenstein is not actually evil, and mentions to Thirteen that its impossible for his wife--who is supposed to be comatose--and Adams--who is dead--can be up moving around!

The demons know the jig is up, and they leave their host bodies, shooting up through the house's roof, into the night sky. They "command" the moon in the sky to destroy the house and everyone in it, and the Stranger, Thirteen, and Frankenstein take that as their cue to get out--but not before he grabs his beloved Rachel's unconscious body.

The moon blasts the house, destroying it, and then the demons command it again to blast our heroes! The Stranger deflects this newest blast with his medallion, aiming the force of the blast at the demons
:


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Even after all this, Thirteen is still holding onto his "there is no supernatural" belief system. Wow.

The Stranger has disappeared, leaving the Spawn of Frankenstein to wander off, alone. The end.


Certainly a rousing, go-for-broke ending, and Aparo--who always excelled at fight scenes--does a particularly good job conveying the sheer mad, destructive power behind the Spawn of Frankenstein's attacks.

I guess the only thing that disappoints me even slightly is that, since this was the last Wein/Aparo issue of The Phantom Stranger, the Stranger himself takes a backseat to his back-up feature co-star, but what the heck. Its still a lot of creepy, ghoulish, action-packed fun.


On the letters page, the editors of the book end with this:



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...oh, I think they will!

1 comment:

Bribaby said...

Interesting team-up. I had no idea it ever occurred. The Spawn of Frankenstein was an intriguing character who I felt never really got his due; he needs a writer who can really examine what it's like to be a stitched-together reanimated corpse. I didn't catch his issues in Morrison's Seven Soldiers; maybe that was a worthwhile treatment. But he sure likes to fight with his feet, doesn't he?
My favorite sequence is the one on page 15; SOMETHING happened, the Stranger saved them somehow, but neither the writer nor the character explains exactly how. Spooky and mysterious...just the way I like my P.S.

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