Strange Tales 130-134
Story: Stan Lee
Art: Steve Ditko
So I’ve decided to skip issue 129. Two years since I made my last comics related post, I have come to the realization that not every single issue (especially in the Silver Age) is going to be noteworthy. The issue involved a villain named Tiboro dressed in green who rules another realm. There are so many villains in this era that use green as their primary color, I have to assume it was a cheaper ink to print in. Dr. Strange easily defeated Tiboro in his pocket dimension and the end! It was a big surprise that the following issues contained a sprawling tale that doesn’t even have a complete end at issue 134 but was a good stopping point.
We must be at the point of Marvel’s history where they started to abandon single issue plots and moved into much more entertaining multi-issue storylines that leave lingering plot threads to pick up in even later issues. This arc has Baron Mordo back, but this time he has made a pact with the recently defeated Dormammu. Getting right into the action, Mordo and his disciples assault the Ancient One’s temple where Dr. Strange was training with him. In a series of dynamic panels, the empowered Mordo is too powerful and Dr. Strange barely escapes with the Ancient One mortally wounded in his arms. He sneaks off to a hidden cave and leaves the Ancient One in the care of a Tibetan hermit.
Using the robes of his master, Dr. Strange is able to trick Mordo and his men into following him to China, throwing them off the trail of the Ancient One. Grounded in Hong Kong, Strange switches to civilian clothing in an effort to sneak out of the city. Mordo, who is really growing impatient, puts out a telepathic help wanted ad to any evil mystic arts users in the area.
The next issue is entirely about Dr. Strange’s escape from Hong Kong which is a welcome change of pace. You really feel like the stakes have been raised because Strange is choosing to flee instead of fight. He is stumped as to how Mordo grew so powerful in a short amount of time. As he tries to navigate the city by foot to get to the airport and get back to New York, he is spotted by several of the evil sorcerers that are combing the streets. Dr. Strange uses his magic to create multiple illusions of himself moving in different directions which is a nice visual (and would be repeated many times here and with other heroes later). He does eventually reach a plane and uses astral projection to distract his pursuers as it takes off to the skies and heads to New York.
Dr. Strange is now back back in his home of Greenwich Village in a heavy rain. Aware that the Sanctum Santorum is most likely occupied by Mordo’s men, he projects inside to confirm his suspicions. In a very comedic fashion, he decides the best way to get in and deal with the henchmen is dress up like an angry villain seeking revenge against Dr. Strange and demand entrance. When the henchmen opens the door, Strange punches him in the face and knocks him out.
Just when Strange believes he has the upper hand though, when he tries to gaze into the Orb of Agamotto and get a handle on things it springs a trap! Baron Mordo is instantly notified of his location. With Dormammu’s power flowing through him, Mordo is able to warp to the Sanctum Santorum and lay an epic magical beat down on Strange. On his final blow, Strange realizes that the increased power source is from Dormammu as he is cast off into another dimension.
We now enter an issue titled “A Nameless Land, A Timeless Time” and it is unfortunately a bit of a filler. It’s got a very side quest vibe to it, a real Indiana Jones Temple of Doom. Strange awakens in an unknown place is trying to get back. He finds himself caught in a war between two sisters, one benevolent who remains nameless and the one called… Shazana! You can guess which is currently tormenting the citizens of this dimension. Dr. Strange, even in his weakened state, is able to use some tricks to reach her power globe and destroy it which coincidentally hurls Strange back to Earth. Will we ever hear of Shazana or her nameless sister again? I hope not.
Once returned, Dr. Strange decides to astral project and check on the Ancient One since it’s been a hot minute. Turns out he isn’t doing too well. After having some fever dreams muttering the word “Eternity” over and over to the hermit he is presently in a coma. Strange astral projects around various places trying to determine what “Eternity” could have meant but gets spotted by one of Mordo’s men.
It is on now, Mordo and Dormammu are both so over this chase. Just about every evil sorcerer on Earth is astral projecting and chasing Strange. We now switch over to Clea, who has been eavesdropping on Dormammu the whole time is very concerned for Dr. Strange’s well being. Realizing that unless she does something, it’s only a matter of time before they overwhelm him, she goes back to a trick that worked before. Lowering the barrier, she allows the mindless ones to once again wander into Dormammu’s domain and distract him. This forces Dorammu to bail on Mordo, leaving him with a lingering amount of power.
Meanwhile, Strange is getting surrounded and is forced to lead Mordo and all his astral projection companions up into space. He plays a game of chicken with Mordo by heading directly into the sun which is has some great visuals. Mordo is concerned that the astral form can be affected by the atomic energy at the source of the sun. His minions bail on him in mass and eventually he psyches himself out and retreats. The bluff worked and Dr. Strange takes a different route home to be with the Ancient One again. He briefly awakes from his coma and tells Strange that he must find Eternity before passing out again.
And so Dr. Strange finally returns to his body having escaped the combined powers of his two most powerful foes. Baron Mordo is rightfully scolded by Dormammu for not calling Strange’s bluff and claims he must rest after fending off the mindless ones. The issue ends with Dormammu beginning to suspect that two barrier openings in such a short time is a little suspicious… like someone is tampering with it from the inside.
Overall this was a very exciting and action packed arc. There are still lingering plot threads with the Ancient One on his death bed and Strange is going to need to find this Eternity fellow. I can’t wait to read the next issues because this is where Ditko really starts to go far out and explore some high level concepts which means fantastic visuals.