Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Phantom Stranger #9 - Oct. 1970

A superbly spooky cover by Neal Adams, involving...voodoo!

This issue opens with Dr. Thirteen, meeting an unnamed country's president, who has just found his secretary...dead!:


There's no mark on the man, only the "death warning." Thirteen of course doesn't believe in dying of fear, but the President insists this is so.

He says he's been trying to expose this "Obeah Man" as a fraud, but even with his vast government powers has been unable to stop him from carrying out a reign of terror. Thirteen agrees to help.

On their way to an old fortress where rumors of human sacrifice is taking place, Thirteen tells the President of another case, involving voodoo, and a man who suddenly found himself unable to walk:

The man, named Edward Ashley, told Thirteen about his time in Africa, when he ran afoul of the local voodoo witch doctor, who they called the Ju-Ju Man.

During a fight, Ashley shot the Ju-Ju Man, but before he died, he cursed Ashley and promised to return from the grave to get revenge.

Later, the Ju-Ju Man did seemingly return, and showed Ashley the voodoo doll he had made of him. Thirteen doesn't believe any of this of course, and offers science-based theories to explain it all.

While on the ride back from the fortress, Thirteen spots those same pack of kids that have been involved with all the Stranger's adventures lately. He figures, if they're here, so is the Stranger.

The kids profess not to know, but when Thirteen returns to the car

Dr. Thirteen tries to convince the President that this Phantom Stranger guy is a charlatan, but he is ignored. The Stranger warns of "great evil abroad on this island."

The group drives deep into the jungle, where they find a voodoo ceremony taking place, and a mysterious hooded figure turns out to be

...Tala! Like a bad penny.

The Phantom Stranger pushes past Tala and clocks the Obeah Man (or the Ju-Ju Man, whatever he's called) in the face, causing him to drop a gold decanter, called the Seal of Solomon.

The Stranger scoops it up as the Obeah Man collapses into a heap, as if he wasn't really there. He then closes the lid on the container, trapping the evil of the Obeah Man inside "forever." He then hurls it into the ocean, where it disappears from view.

Tala is fairly good-natured about this, and she swears she'll be back to practice her dark arts against the Phantom Stranger again. She then disappears into mist, laughing all the way.

Dr. Thirteen thinks this was all a phony light show (huh?), but the President believes what he's seen, and thanks the Stranger for his help. As they argue, the Stranger vanishes into thin air, leaving the good doctor vowing revenge:

...what a pill this guy is!

Starting with last issue's Ice Giants tale, The Phantom Stranger as a title was really on a roll, even with different writers. Each issue's setting was in a different, spooky location (frozen tundra, mysterious jungle), giving each story a very distinctive look and feel.

And of course, Jim Aparo was delivering some of his best, most dynamic work.


Wings1295 said...

"Just a light show"??? Thirteen is beginning to annoy me, too.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Thirteen comes off as a real moron here. It reminds me of the stories where Superman and Batman marvel at and or dismiss supernatural elements, despite the fact that they rub elbows with Dr. Fate, the Spectre and Zatanna on a regular basis.

I was always a huge fan of Mr. Aparo, but I had forgotten what raw energy his early stuff had. I don't want to criticize his later work at all, because I still enjoyed it immensely, but he seemed to get real comfortable with certain static faces, poses, layouts, etc. Not that most artists don't do this, it just seems his earlier artwork has a spontaneity.


Anonymous said...

You know, I liked Dr. Thirteen's earlier look much better. He just was so very pulp-ish with the trenchcoat and fedora. He fit into the world much better. I am also beginning to see your exasperation with him, Rob, but I imagine that, if he were written better, he could bring a lot to the stories. Man, that Aparo art just won't quit, will it? Too awesome.

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