Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Phantom Stranger #17 - Feb. 1972

The Phantom Stranger faces an old foe and meets a new love!

After a series of covers set in classic, old-timey horror settings (an egyptian tomb, a house of wax, a voodoo ceremony) this issue's Neal Adams cover is set in a more current horror--a subway platform, the perfect symbol of modern times (well, 1972 at least)

Inside is "Like A Ghost From The Ashes" by Wein and Aparo:


Who is this mysterious stranger who came to The Phantom Stranger's aid?

We cut to the inside of an apartment, as the Stranger wakes up, and he meets his savior:

The beautiful Cassandra Craft shares her interest in the supernatural with The Phantom Stranger, who can't help but notice her mystical decor.

Cassandra trips into the arms of the Stranger, and we see that she is blind. The Stranger is polite and a little awkward, and we see that Cassandra is no wallflower

The Stranger tries to leave, but he feels very weak, "As if my powers--my very soul were being drained away." Cassandra claims she can help "see" what the problem is, so they hold a seance:
During the seance, Cassandra "saw" an image of something evil in the desert.

That's enough for the Stranger, who resolves to head there. But Cassandra wants to come along, and won't take no for an answer.

They board a plane, where they get to know each other. I'm not sure what airline they're flying on, but its showing some interesting in-flight material


The Phantom Stranger and Cassandra arrive in Egypt, and they follow a vague feeling of being led to a particular destination. They soon arrive at a huge cavern, where a "big dig" is taking place.

They meet the head of the dig, an archeologist named Orleander Boggs (man, did Len Wein come up with some great names in these stories).

While sitting for tea, Boggs tells them they are exploring the lost tomb of Anka-Tut. They have found some items, but not everything.

Boggs offers them a tent to stay the night in (hey, it was the 70s), and the two of them spend sometime talking under a moonlit night.

But of course, trouble arrives very quickly, when someone pushes a huge chunk of a cliff onto the Stranger! He dives out of the way, saving himself and Cassandra. He leaves her behind as he chases after his assailant.

He catches up to one of them, but more of them appear and gang up on him. While this is happening, a mysterious...stranger watches from afar.

The Stranger manages to fight them off, and Cassandra catches up to comfort him again. They make their way back to Boggs' tent, but

Later, the Stranger awakens in some sort of mystical bubble, while Boggs gloats.

The Stranger demands to know where Cassandra is, but Boggs assures her she is safe. He then reveals his true identity:

Turns out Tannarak didn't die the last time he and the Stranger tussled (The Phantom Stranger #s 10 and 11). And while he was escaping his apparent rocky tomb, he came across some mystical scrolls that led him to the tomb of the phoenix--the mythical bird who was said to live forever.

Tannarak believes that the phoenix will be his key to eternal life, but the Stranger of course tries to tell him its a mad quest.

Tannarak gives the Stranger a big "whatever" and heads outside, where his zombie-like followers (now including Cassandra) start to pray to the giant stone monument of the phoenix.

They chant and pray for it to rise, and:

...the phoenix arises!

The Phantom Stranger watches all this, and concentrates his power on some mystical artifacts inside the tent with him. He draws the energy from them, and manages to burst the mystical bubble he's trapped in!

He charges after Tannarak, who hops aboard the phoenix, which he commands to kill the Stranger.

Instead of trying to fight it head on, he turns to the "mindless supplicants" and convinces them they have unleashed evil on the world, and asks them to pray to deny Tannarak and the phoenix any supernatural power. And it works!:

...don't bet on it, PS.

Afterwards, the Stranger frees Tannarak's zombies from is spell. He then chooses to leave, but Cassandra won't let him go that easily, by planting a giant kiss on him!

But the Stranger is committed to walking this path alone, saying his curse is his and only his.

Another fun story, although I do have to take issue with Tannarak's new costume--what 3rd rate super-villain did he steal that from? His all-white outfit was much cooler.

The introduction of Cassandra Craft was, by Wein's own admission, a gimmick so that the Stranger had someone to talk to, but I think it works pretty well--she's a groovy 70s chick who digs the occult. If there had been a B-grade Phantom Stranger movie made around this time, I could've seen her being played by laraine Newman.

Fun Fact: This issue's letter page features a missive from a Dave Sim of Kitchener, Ontario!


The Groovy Agent said...

I love that Aparo channeled his inner Ditko for Tannarak's costume.

And that demonic subway car on the cover is awesome!

Anonymous said...

Great texture on that bottom panel of page 16.
I have to agree with our esteemed blogger concerning Tanarak's official super-villain togs; he wouldn't look out of place in a Space Ghost cartoon.

rob! said...

Great texture on that bottom panel of page 16.

i agree, bribaby. i know i go on and on about Aparo on this blog, but his work on these PS stories is so good that i wish DC would consider it for an oversized "Absolute"-ized collected edition, but i know that's unlikely.

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