Thursday, January 1, 2009

DC Super-Stars #18 - Jan. 1978

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The Phantom Stranger and Deadman meet again!

Less than two years after his book was cancelled, The Phantom Stranger got another solo shot, again teamed-up with Deadman, in a sort of supernatural version of Power Man and Iron Fist.

This issue's cover is by Jim Aparo (yay!) and features an opening very reminiscent of classic PS stories:

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But then the book splits off into two solo stories, the first starring Deadman titled "Hour of the Demon!" by Martin Pasko, Romeo Tanghal, and Dick Giordano.

After Deadman takes on members of a weird cult of actual gargoyles(!) who are stealing children(!!), we meet up with The Phantom Stranger:
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"Wraiths In The Rain" is by returning PS writer Gerry Conway, with art by Tanghal and inker Bob Layton.

The Stranger wanders off, and is met by another "old friend", Tala!:

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Tala blasts the Stranger, knocking him out.

Inside the hotel, we see the Thirteens meet up with who they are there to meet, including Tom Fagan, head of the Rutland Parade. Also there are people we just might be familiar with:
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...Carla and Gerry Conway, Marty Pasko, Paul Levitz, and Romeo Tanghal!

Thirteen is in town to investigate all the supposed supernatural goings-on in Rutland. And there's trouble right off the bat, when the town's sheriff storms in and points out that Fagan's house, a big mansion up on the hill, has become a lightning rod!

We see that the house is being hit by a series of lightning bolts--a statistical impossibility. In addition to that, outside the house, we see the unconscious Phantom Stranger seemingly hanging in mid-air!

Thirteen, the sheriff, and Fagan drive up to the house, and the Stranger tries to warn them away. Lightning strikes again, and their eyes seem to be playing tricks on them:
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Inside the house is a well-dressed man named Quinton Abel, who has put out an opulent formal dinner for his "guests." Despite their reluctance, the three men feel slightly compelled to sit down for the meal.

They are poured some wine, and when Thirteen takes a sip, he realizes...it's not wine!

Thirteen happens to look into a giant mirror in the room, and he sees a horrible vision of the room as a burned out wreck, with a giant demon feasting upon the body of sacrificial victims!

Of course, all this supernatural stuff drives Thirteen nuts, and he is not relieved when a vision of the Stranger appears, trying to warn him that what he's seeing might come to pass!

Thirteen then sees that Fagan and the sheriff have become possessed from drinking the wine, so he does what the Stranger tells him to do--grab the mirror and smash it over the head of Abel!

When he does, he sees the demon from the mirror--Qabal--burst forth in agony!

Now everything is quiet, and Fagan and the sheriff wake up from their hypnosis. Thirteen thinks all of this was a hallucination. Ye gods, Terry Thirteen is tiresome.

Now its time for our two stars to meet up again:
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The Stranger explains that the destruction of Qabal was the thing that freed him from Tala's grasp, and she must be defeated, and only both of them have the combined power to do it.

Near dawn, The Phantom Stranger--inhabited by Deadman--finds Tala, and they engage in a battle of mystical power. The Stranger seems to be able to resist Tala's powers, which she cannot understand, since she is much more powerful than he.

Finally, the Stranger deals Tala the finishing blow:
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...is this truly the end of Tala? Only time will tell.


This issue is unusual for several reasons--one, it reads like an unpublished issue of The Phantom Stranger, since it seems to pick up so many of the threads of that book's last issue (except for Cassandra Craft, who is neither seen or mentioned).

Also, it references events that took place in House of Secrets #150, which was not yet published! Weird.

In any case, not a bad story, and it was nice to see Tala again--and of course a Jim Aparo cover is always welcome!


1 comment:

Bribaby said...

As a kid reading this, I never really quite understood the Stranger crucifixion panels, what they were supposed to mean or tell the reader, or why the cross was invisible, and why it was such a weird looking cross...but in the end I just chalked it up to inexplicable, unexplained, supernatural Stranger weirdness. And I think that's a good element for any Stranger story.
I also remember that the creepiest part of this story was Deadman entering a body just as it DIED...and he became trapped in the corpse. Gave me the wim-wams!

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