Strange Tales 159-161
Story: Roy Thomas, Marie Severin, Raymond Marais, Dan Adkins
Art: Marie Severin, Dan Adkins
The creative team carousel continues as a host of writers team-up to complete these 3 issues. While they are all talented in their own ways, the series is starting to give the impression that it is just spinning its wheels. Issue 159 has Dr. Strange returning to his Sanctum Santorum, which was destroyed just a few issues ago. Wong reveals himself from hiding nearby and explains the area’s destruction. Using his sorcery, Dr. Strange is able to rewind time and bring back the building with little effort. So that’s one major change immediately undone.
There is no time to waste since the Living Tribunal promised the destruction of Earth unless the evil that was unleashed by Zom was taken care of. Strange moves to his magical viewing globe to witness a new influx of evil spreading across the planet. We then shift scenes to a cultist with an M marking on his face, recruiting people from across the globe to worship and free a mysterious evil entity. They gather in large and begin a summoning ritual.
Dr. Strange rushes to the large gathering of these cultists to attempt to stop them. He puts up a good fight and distracts a lot of them but there are just too many and the ritual is finished. The last panel of the issue reveals the one who was freed: Baron Mordo! I feel like they could have left him in the oven a little longer, he was only banished to another dimension within the year of this publishing. Another big change almost immediately undone.
When the next issue picks up, Strange is now held captive by the cultists and is at the mercy of Mordo. While Mordo is whining that the Ancient One has passed on his powers to Dr. Strange in the event of his death, Strange is trying to explain the dire situation they are all in. He proposes a truce but Mordo won’t have any of it. He sends in all of his devout followers to kill Strange, but they are unorganized. Strange is able to find the cultist who started all of this and take him through a portal to a remote location. In isolation he is able to break the chain of mind control and suggestion that Mordo established. Learning how to deal with this mental infection, he returns to the group and performs a mass dispel.
He pushes Mordo out of his body into the astral plane where he finally convinces him of the looming threat. Of course Mordo is overwhelmed and terrified and attempts to flee the area. Strange makes a bizarre choice here. Instead of just letting Mordo go, I guess he feels that he needs Mordo? He siphons the evil unleashed by Zom which is infecting this large group of cultists and gathers it together – giving it all to Mordo so that he can act as a physical containment for it.
He thinks that Mordo will act in the interest of Earth. Of course this backfires as Mordo is overcome with power and immediately turns on Strange, casting him off into another dimension and getting revenge for his own banishment. The story gets even more bizarre from here though.
In the final issue, Strange spends the first couple pages exploring this unknown space, being attacked by both a hostile environment and the creatures within it. We then transition to a woman who was introduced to readers WAY back in issue 114 of Strange Tales (thanks to the editor’s note). She had been one of the mind controlled cultists in the previous issue. She apparently went back home to her London flat and started using sorcery to probe her own mind. It’s through this she learns that she was a victim in a conflict between Strange and Mordo in that early issue. As soon as she realizes this though, Mordo banishes her to the other dimension as well. It’s a bit hard to follow, the story beats are pretty clunky here.
At any rate, Strange encounters her in the other dimension and recognizes her as Victoria Bently. He has a much better memory than I do. She is about to be eaten by a giant alien ant. He is able to wrestle it off of her using magic and they begin to piece together what is happening. Not long after though, a looming voice interrupts them from behind. Nebulos, Lord of the Planets Perilous reveals himself. What his purpose is, we will need to wait until next issue to find out. This arc is going in all sorts of places.