Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Phantom Stranger #8 - Aug. 1970

The Phantom Stranger vs. The Ice Giants!

Near the North Pole, the S.S. Night Wind (great name!) inches through the nearly-frozen water, when they see something that they just can't believe--some sort of Ice Giant!

Suddenly, The Phantom Stranger appears and warns the ship's crew that they are in the presence of evil:


...welcome to "Journey To The Tomb of the Ice Giants!" by Denny O'Neil and Jim Aparo, who contributes a particularly excellent splash page this time around.

Later, at the Muttson Oil Company, we witness a meeting between the angry Mr. Muttson and his worried subordinate. After giving orders, he makes his way into his personal steam room, when something goes horribly...wrong!

Later, the police find Mr. Muttson frozen in a block of ice. They are stymied as to how this happened, so they call in a local expert who just happens to be in town...Dr. Thirteen!

Soon after Thirteen arrives, so does the Phantom Stranger, and they have their usual argument, science vs. the supernatural. When the sheriff tries to arrest the Stranger, the lights go out and he disappears.

Thirteen then tells the sheriff that he might know how this happened, and how it reminds him of a previous case, "The Adventure of the Brittle Blossom!"

It involves another man mysteriously "frozen", but Thirteen reveals it to be the work of a greedy nephew. When the nephew pulls a gun, Thirteen lets him have it:

...Aparo could really make a punch look brutal. How the guy didn't die after being punched into a plate glass window, I don't know.

Clues lead Thirteen to go looking for the Night Wind, and they board a helicopter out to find it. While on the way there, they see something gleaming in the snow.

They investigate, and its...a giant sword? Suddenly Mrs. Thirteen is attacked by something huge, something unbelievable:

The Phantom Stranger reappears, and demands the Ice Giant release its captives!

The Giant says they must be "sacrificed" according to their tribal customs. But if course, there's someone else behind all this...the villainous Tala, who appears in the snow!

Tala tries again to convert the Stranger to her side, using her most persuasive argument:

But the Phantom Stranger will not be distracted, even by the comely Tala, and he pushes her aside.

He demands the Ice Giant release the Thirteens, which it refuses to do. This forces the Stranger to do something he loathes--use physical violence!:

While this attack works for a moment, the Ice Giant eventually backhands the Stranger, knocking him to the ground.

He looks up to see an army of Ice Giants, who claim that mankind has awakened them from their slumber, and they are here to reclaim the Earth!

The Stranger tries to get them to stop, making an impassioned argument, showing them that the world they once knew--clean and pristine--is now gone, in an astonishing two-page spread by Aparo:

(click to see it in its full glory)

The Ice Giants decide there is some wisdom to the Stranger's plea, and halt their charge. But they demand a human to take with them, and Tala cheerfully offers up Mrs. Thirteen!

The Ice Giants grab Maria and head back to their cave, while Dr. Thirteen lay unconscious. The Stranger retrieves him, and uses some dynamite in their helicopter to seal the Ice Giants' cave off forever.

Suddenly, Maria reappears! The Stranger wonders how this is possible, and Tala informs him it was a trick she played on the Ice Giants--they took her when they thought they had Maria, and then Tala used her magic to escape. She chalks it up to being a "delightful prank on the giants." The Phantom Stranger doesn't get it.

Maria sees them both disappear, Dr. Thirteen wakes up, still not believing anything that happened was supernatural, preferring to think his wife is delirious from shock.

As they head back to civilization, Maria merely sighs at her husband, knowing what she saw...

One of my favorite issues of The Phantom Stranger, everything about this story is fun, in a Universal Monsters horror sort of way--a lonely corner of the world, a creepy monster(s), with a little bit of social commentary thrown in.

Sure, giant, green underpants-wearing, talking icebergs are kinda silly, but they work in this context. And I obviously wasn't the only one who feels this way, since the Ice Giants make a return appearance a few issues down the line.

Aparo's work here is just superb, with his well laid out double-page splash being the high point. All his characters are distinct and memorable, even the throwaway ones. He hit the ground running with this assignment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow! What a Story! I've been following along your PS summaries so far, Rob, and they have been a real blast. Still, I think this one definitely takes the cake. You can really see a mythos developing around PS, and Jim Aparo....my goodness, what could I say about his art. Once giants walked the land, but we live in an age that is distinctly less fantastic for the lack of men like him.

I'm really enjoying this new site Rob...and I am fast becoming a fan of the Phantom Stranger! I love the Noir feel to him, mixed with the mystic element.

Also, I find myself really like Dr. Thirteen as well! Ha, I can tell you're not a huge fan of him, and since I haven't read the stories, it is pretty hard to say anything concrete, but it really seems like he and the Stranger play off each other marvelously well.

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