Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Phantom Stranger #24 - April 1973

The Phantom Stranger goes to carnivale at Rio De Janeiro!

While this spooky cover by Jim Aparo wouldn't be his last for The Phantom Stranger, it would be his last during his run as the book's regular artist. *sniff*

Inside, The Phantom Stranger, as odd as he is, is barely noticed during carnivale:


...now that's a splash page!

While all hell is breaking loose (literally), the Stranger, Cassandra, and Tannarak (sort of supernatural version of Jules & Jim) are looking for clues as to where The Dark Circle are going to strike next.

The Stranger says something strange force is keeping him from knowing where they will strike next. Cassandra takes that as he cue to have another seance to help him break through that mystical barrier, even though the seances leave her physically and mentally exhausted.

But Cassandra is no wallflower, and insists:

She gets a vision of a carnival and of a great statue. Tannarak reminds them that above Rio, where the world-famous carnival is now talking place, is the Corcovado mountain, where the statue of Christ The Redeemer resides. The three of them resolve to head there.

Soon, they are there, and they stumble across three costumed goons dragging a fourth man off into a dark alley. They step in and beat them up, with the Stranger even inadvertently knocking one of their heads off!

Turns out the three men aren't costumed at all, convincing them that they are indeed part of The Dark Circle.

The man they saved tells them about a mysterious group gathering on the mountain, and all four of them hop aboard a carriage and take off.

They find a bat-shaped rock formation on the mountain's side, and the Stranger heads toward it, disappearing while the others' backs are turned!

Inside, their worst fears are confirmed:

...the evil Tala!

She tells the other members of The Dark Circle that the "Sorcerer's Moon" is on the wane. It only shines one year per century, and now their time is almost up--they must combine all their powers to make one final push to take over the world. If they can't do that, they will destroy it!

Their #1 foe is The Phantom Stranger, who Tala brings into the middle of the group! He tries to fight them off, but there are too many of them, and soon the Stranger is trussed up on a mountain wall.

They have also captured Tannarak, Miguel, Cassandra, who Tala slaps for no good reason (I'd say jealousy is a good bet, since the Stranger always rebuffed Tala's advances).

Tala then begins her demonic ritual:

As the Four Horsemen begin to ride through the sky, the cavern begins to shake and collapse, freeing the Stranger. He starts battling Tala, then Tannarak also breaks free and dives for Tala.

As he tackles her, a fissure opens up beneath them, and they both plummet into it! As they are swallowed up, the two cleaved edges rejoin, as if they were never apart.

The Stranger starts to fight the rest of the Circle, and he commands Cassandra and Miguel to escape. They get out, leaving the Stranger behind battling


...man, what a sad ending.

It makes total story-sense to break the Stranger and Cassandra up, but if you're a fan of the character, you want to see Mr. Lonely happy, if only for a little while, and Cassandra seemed like the perfect woman for him.

But, as we'll see, there was more sadness--not all of it confined to the stories--ahead for The Phantom Stranger.


Luis said...

Fantastic cover! I'll never get tired of saying it or posting about it. Jim Aparo = Genius Artist. We miss him dearly.

Anonymous said...

"...not all of it confined to the stories..." I can't wait to find out what THAT means!

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