Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Phantom Stranger #12 - Apr. 1971

The Phantom Stranger becomes a sinister warning of divine justice!

After yet another super-spooky cover by Neal Adams, we open with millionaire Jason Phillips, just as he enters his castle home with his new bride. He is troubled to see a mysterious, cloaked man standing inside, pointing at him!

His wife sees no one, but is troubled to see this when they enter the main dining room:

Years ago, Jason met a woman named Irina, whom he fell in love with, despite her fragile heart, insuring she would not live long.

Soon enough, Irina did die, and in her will she intends to leave her millions to charity, unless he takes Irinia with him, wherever he goes, in her custom-made sarcophagus(!). Jason tearfully agrees--and inherits her vast fortune.

The Phantom Stranger appears again, at their dinner, rattling Jason, but seemingly invisible to anyone else.

After the wedding party has ended, Jason makes his way downstairs, and:

The Phantom Stranger demands Jason look inside in the coffin, and he screams in terror! Jason then sees the coffin is locked...this whole thing has been a hallucination.

His new bride, Wanda, finds him downstairs, and tries to comfort him. It works for a moment, but then Jason sees Irina's ghostly image outside on the balcony!

He chases it, and there again is The Phantom Stranger, demanding that Jason "look inside his soul." Jason responds by punching the Stranger, who plummets off the balcony, only to disappear. Wanda thinks its Irina's coffin that is driving Jason mad.
The next day is no better:

Wanda has the coffin put into storage, but that doesn't stop Jason. He heads there, having to see if Irina is still in there. And guess who's waiting for him there?

Jason threatens to kill the Stranger with a handy ax, but he reminds Jason of the true story about how he and Irina met--yes, they fell in love, but Jason was not who he appeared to be.

When Irina's heart began to give out, and she asked Jason for her life-saving pills, this was his reaction

Turns out Jason was lying to Irina all along, and just waiting for the moment for her to die!

Jason is infuriated that someone knows the truth, and he chases the Stranger outside with the ax, swinging wildly in the air. He's so crazed with anger he thinks the oncoming bright light is another one of the Stranger's tricks, but:

In addition, starting this issue, Dr. Thirteen got his own solo story, courtesy Jack Oleck and Tony De Zuniga:

This issue's PS story is great, creepy fun, and I'm glad that they didn't feel the need to shoehorn Dr. Thirteen into it, giving him another chance to harangue the Phantom Stranger. And for those Dr. Thirteen fans, he got a chance to shine as the main character of his own story.

This was the first real instance of the Stranger being a sort of symbol of divine justice, an approach that stuck to the character on and off for the next few decades.


Wings1295 said...

Sounds like a great issue. In these instances, the Phatom Stranger reminds me of a less sadistic Spectre.

Anonymous said...

The best thing about this story was the way the Stranger was used; it kind of defies expectations, with him allowing himself to be knocked off the balcony...and then the sequence with his gloved hand rising out of the water, grabbing the oar. Spooky! And I am glad that Dr. 13 got his own story. I like that the book was willing to balance its format with an overtly supernatural tale and a Scooby-Doo-rational-explanation-behind-everything one.

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