Strange Tales 146
Story: Stan Lee, Dennis O’Neil
Art: Steve Ditko
This would be Steve Ditko’s last issue of Strange Tales along with issue 38 of Amazing Spider-Man. He left due to creative differences with Stan Lee. It is hard to say exactly what happened as Steve was extremely reclusive, never giving any interviews. Stan Lee was an exceptional showman, always spinning a positive take on any supposed conflicts with him and other creators. I would heartily recommend anyone to watch the fantastic BBC documentary “In Search of Steve Ditko” to learn more about him. He was an exceptional talent, his ideas and drawings would inspire generations. He sadly passed away in 2018. This issue feels like a creative sun going supernova before his departure at Marvel and was an amazing experience to read through even so many years later.
Dormammu is enraged at his loss against Doctor Strange from several issues back. He is forbidden from attacking him on Earth and devises a plan to tempt him another plane of existence. Using all of his power he suspends the cosmos where Eternity rests. Then he possesses Strange’s amulet and makes it emit a weak call for help impersonating the woman Dormammu had banished. Strange, knowing that is likely a trap but has to take the chance, goes for the bait and finds himself in another realm with Dormammu.
They begin to battle while Strange quickly realizes he is going to be no match for this assault. Then Eternity reveals itself, enraged at Dormammu for even thinking he could control such a primal force. Not taking yet another hit on his ego, Dormammu doubles down and directly assaults Eternity. They clash together, Eternity warns him that he cannot survive an attack. As Doctor Strange watches them collide, he wonders what will happen if Eternity also perishes from the attack. The entire universe could collapse.
The result is catastrophic and flings Strange off into the unknown reaches of the time and space. As he left wondering who has survived and how he will return an unseen power grasps him and begins carrying back to a dimension with time. Then finally, back to the Ancient One who has been using his power to anchor Strange back to the realm of Earth.
He explains to Strange that Dormammu has perished, reduced to nothingness. If he exists at all it is with a disembodied spirit sworn of mind and will. The Ancient One does not know what the fate of Eternity was. With Dormammu’s passing, all who were banished by him are allowed to return. Baron Mordo returns from the depths, giving a disgruntled thanks. But more importantly, the woman who has helped him time and time again has returned as well.
She finally reveals her name to him, Clea. She thanks him and tells him that he must go back to his home so that he can continue to protect the realm from threats. She is left behind, but it will not be the last time we see Clea. The issue ends here. It was jam packed and was beautifully drawn. Denny O’neil seems to be finding a voice with these characters and it complements Steve Ditko’s art wonderfully. It’s too bad this was Ditko’s last issue on the book, but he was able to tie up his storylines and leave the character in an intriguing place with new possibilities opened up to him.