Strange Tales 147-150
Story: Stan Lee, Dennis O’Neil
Art: Bill Everett
We enter the post Ditko era. Bill Everett takes over as artist for the series while Stan Lee continues to plot with Denny O’Neil doing the actual dialogue. Bill Everett is a legendary artist in his own right, working in the Golden Age of Marvel and creating Namor. He struggles a bit to match the style of Ditko though, you can tell he is trying to imitate and it falls a bit flat. Denny continues to find his voice with the characters and starts to build up Doctor Strange’s supporting cast.
Issue 147 was a surprising recap issue, catching up readers with the current status quo. Strange’s servant Wong informs him that they are out of money and some building inspectors come by to inform them the building is not up to code and will need to be repaired. These plot threads will have to wait though as the Ancient One summons Strange. It seems that in the aftermath of Dormammu’s defeat an old friend turned enemy of the Ancient One is back and his name is Kaluu.
The next issue has the Ancient One telling the story of both Kaluu and his own origin. Turns out he isn’t just old, he truly is ancient having lived for 500 years. His birth place was in Kamar-Taj, a hidden land in the Himalayas. It was a peaceful village left to its own devices but the Ancient One and his best friend Kaluu became interested in the occult, looking into how to improve their society through magic.
Of course those good intentions were not shared by Kaluu. After learning of these magical powers Kaluu takes over and enslaves the other villagers with intent of conquering other lands. When the Ancient One tries to stop him Kaluu binds him into stasis through a powerful spell. From there he tries to conquer other lands but his people fall from plague and pestilence due to his abusing of powerful magic, leaving an empty village. Kaluu flees to another dimension called Raggador as the Ancient One wakes up from his spell.
Issue 149 returns the present where Kaluu has reached the front door of the Sanctum Sanctorum and is assaulting it with all sorts of magic. Both Strange and the Ancient One do their best to repel the attacks as he tries to breach and gain entry. There is a bit of comedy here as random pedestrians and cops are trying to figure out why Kaluu is just standing in front of the house with his arms up, his magic invisible to them. Eventually the cops decide to arrest Kaluu and he quickly dispatches them with that same stasis spell he used on the Ancient One 500 years prior.
Kaluu’s attacks are too much and the Sanctum Sanctorum’s defensive magic fails. But when he moves inside to finish the two heroes, he is shocked to find them gone. The entire house is trashed save two lit candles. It turns out that the Ancient One was able to cast a spell of time travel, allowing the two of them to travel back to Kamar-Taj while their souls light the flames of the candles.
Kaluu tries to blow out the candles in a variety of ways with no success. Meanwhile many centuries earlier, the Ancient One and Strange fight a Griffin guarding the source Kaluu’s spells – the Book of Vishanti! The hoary hosts of Hoggoth be praised! Wasting no time they burst out of the flames with the book in hand in one of the more impressive panels by Everett.
Kaluu is caught off guard but not concerned as he has already learned every spell in that book. What he didn’t anticipate was the book itself being used as a weapon. Strange reflects the stasis spell back onto Kaluu suspending him. The Ancient One then manipulates time further and casts Kaluu to the end of time, a never-ending limbo.
So for all that talk, Kaluu didn’t really leave a terrifying impression. He was dealt with pretty easily but at least it was in an entertaining way. The remaining pages of issue 150 take place in the Dark Dimension where Dormammu once ruled. Without his presence, the mindless ones are left unchecked. Clea attempts to reach out to Doctor Strange for help when a mysterious woman appears and easily deals with the mindless ones. She is revealed as Umar, sister to Dormammu. With Dormammu gone, his banishment of his sister was lifted. Things are about to get more interesting!