The Amazing Spider-Man Annual 2
Story: Stan Lee
Art: Steve Ditko
This was an unexpected surprise as I was finishing the first volume of the Dr. Strange Marvel Masterworks, the method of how I’m reading through the character chronologically. In the 2nd Amazing Spider-Man annual, Ditko was able to create the first crossover of his two most famous co-creations and it was a lot of fun to read.
The story begins with Spider-Man swinging through Greenwich Village as the panels move down to the streets below where a coated figure enters a bar where two goons have just smashed up the whole place. The man in the coat reveals himself as Xandu and mind controls them. His inner thoughts explain his end goal, to retrieve the other half of the Wand of Watoomb!
Could you guess that Dr. Strange is the owner of the other half? The two henchman, now powered by magic, enter the Sanctum Sanctorum and blindside Strange who puts up a fight but is knocked out and left unconscious.
As the two men exit out of the rooftop window Spider-Man just happens to be swinging by. Spider Sense tingling, he knows they aren’t up to any good and tries to stop them. His webbing and agility aren’t enough though and they also prove to be too much for Spidey. Not before he is able to tack on a tracer to one of their legs though.
We transition to Xandu’s lair where he has combined the two halves of the Wand of Watoomb granting him unspeakable powers. As he gets busy creating passages to other worlds and times, Spider-Man catches up to his tracer and finds himself in the middle of some black magic. Xandu spots him on the wall and they start going at it. Spider-Man webs him in the face causing him to drop the Wand. He counters by casting a spell to banish Spidey to another dimension but not before he can web the Wand and take it with him. Enraged, Xandu sends his two mind controlled goons in after him.
Now we are treated to Spider-Man navigating Ditko’s fantastic drawings of other dimensions. Leaping along small moons and massive rivers of unknown liquids while fending off the two goons who are desperate to get the Wand of Watoomb back. Meanwhile, Dr. Strange is finally waking up in his Sanctum and wastes no time levitating to the Xandu’s lair. He enters a magical battle with Xandu when Spidey pops back out of the other dimension with the two henchman in tow.
Xandu reacquires the Wand and is too powerful now, forcing Strange to retreat as Spider-Man lures the two men to the alley outside. Strange is able to astral project through the two mind controlled men and snap them out of it, allowing Spider-Man to finally focus on helping him. The two reenter the lair and face Xandu together. The combined magical and physical assault prove to be too much for Xandu as they are able to disarm the Wand of Watoomb from him and web up his hands preventing any further magical abuse.
Dr. Strange thanks Spider-Man as he takes the Wand and uses his amulet to drain and destroy it. He then uses his magic to probe the memories of Xandu to find that he was a student of the mystic arts obsessed with power and decides it is best to alter his memory and remove his knowledge of what happened and all evil ambition. I love the mind wipes that happened in so many of the conclusions of comics in the 60s. It’s super unethical for a hero to be doing but you got to wrap up the one and done story some way that can’t always be jail time.
The story ends on an encouraging not as the two unlikely allies form the start of a friendship that will be revisited many times over the next decades. It was also neat to see Ditko getting to plot and draw his two creations together before he would soon leave Marvel with frustrations collaborating with Stan Lee.