Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Doctor Strange [1968] #172 - Marvel Comics

DOCTOR STRANGE No. 172, September 1968
“Another legend-laden landmark ripped untimely from the talented tentacles of… Roy Thomas”, Issue One Hundred and Seventy Two of “Doctor Strange” (formerly titled “Strange Tales”) provides a classic “Master of the Mystic Arts” verses Dormammu sorcerous shoot-out, with plenty of grandiose chatter taking place between the two magical combatants before both are plunged headlong into the usual Silver Age gobbledygook adventure of supernatural firestorms, doleful demons of Denak and the “all-seeing” Eye of Agamotto. In fact the twenty-page periodical is so full of “snarling, sinister spell[s]”, “all-conquering [demonic] hordes” and consignments “to oblivion unending” that it is easy to see just why the Alley Award-winner reportedly said in 1971 that readers of this series “thought people at Marvel must be heads [i.e. drug users] because they had similar experiences high on mushrooms.”

This vast array of innovatively-named incantations, enchantments and doorways to other dimensions does however, also regrettably cause the Missouri-born author’s narrative to become rather unfollowable in places. Especially when the action-packed plot flits from present, past and then present again in order for Master of the Mindless Ones to incomprehensibly regale his incarcerated adversary with “the story of Dormammu’s sole defeat” against “the unfathomable entity known as… Eternity”.

Indeed such is the prominence of the Great Enigma’s character throughout this comic book, and the detail to which Thomas goes in order to relay the protagonist’s “blasphemous attack” upon Eternity, “as is deathlessly recorded in the Book of the Vishanti”, that one could argue the American author partially penned “…I, Dormammu!” as a solo mini-adventure for the bombastic ruler of an alternate dimension. It is certainly evident that the “perennial foe of [the] sorcerer supreme” has the lion’s share of ‘screen time’ due to his eventual banishment to “the Realm Unknown”, and subsequent battles with the “most grotesque of demons in all the Cosmos!” Not to mention his menace-laced reunion with “the Unspeakable Umar”; the Dread One’s own “treacherous” sister who had once “rejoiced” at his “apparent death!”   

Perhaps this “Marvel Comics Group” publication’s most notable feature though, besides the odd editorial notation from “Sorcerer Stan”, is its introduction of Gene Colan as the title’s “new regular artist”. Famous for a flair to create realistic “shadowy, moody textures”, the Bronx-born New Yorker pencils some incredible-looking mythical backgrounds teeming with stars, planets, mists and asteroids. Whilst the sheer variety of Dykkor demons he populates his later panels with are quite simply phenomenal.
Writer: Roy Thomas, Artist: Gene Colan, and Inker: Tom Palmer

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