Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Marvels: Strange Tales #122

"3 Against the Torch!" by Stan Lee, Dick Ayers & George Roussos
(July 1964)

Do you guys realize it's been almost half a year since we've seen Doctor Doom? I miss that guy. I'd much rather have him come back than waste an entire issue convincing us the X-Men are awesome. (They're not.)

When we last left Doom, he was hurtling through the cosmos. If you remember that story ("The Master Plan of Doctor Doom!"), he had the Terrible Trio, three enhanced henchmen--Handsome Harry Phillips, Yogi Dakor and Bull Brogin--that helped him capture the FF. He stored them in a pocket dimension afterwards, but according to this story, once Doom disappeared into space, he lost his power over the three, and now they're just hanging out, waiting for Doom's return. I guess they must be bored waiting, because now they get the idea to go ahead and attack the FF on their own to pave the way for when Doom gets back to Earth.

I'm sorry that Stan decided here to bring back the least interesting element of that story: the Terrible Trio. But that's the kind of softball villain we get more often than not in the Human Torch stories and... look, how much longer does this go on? I've made no secret of this in the past, but I really am burned out on these stories. They're just filler. There was one great story where the Torch fought Namor, but otherwise it's just been varying degrees of filler. I will not miss these stories when they eventually go away.

Anyway, the Terrible Trio try to take Johnny Storm in his home, he fights back, they douse him with water a couple of times, the last time apparently doesn't take (whatever, dude), and he defeats them. Oh, and he manages to not destroy his souped-up Stingray when Handsome Harry uses it as a getaway car.

So all's well that ends.

No, that's not a typo.

Stray observations:

:: "The doorbell! No matter who it is, it'll be better than watching another TV commercial!"

:: Johnny's shower sprays out concentrated steam heat instead of water. He uses it to dry off after the first time he's doused. The second time is a total cheat. "Oh, uh, you didn't give me enough of a soaking." Total bullshit. It's so lazy and ineffectual because this story just doesn't matter.

"The World Beyond" by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko

Maybe it's an off month, because this story feels a little weak, too, I'm always up for the weirdness of Doctor Strange, but the way he faces off against Nightmare in this story feels a little bit... well, not like a cheat, exactly, but a little too much like one of those stories that's just a lead-up to a punchline.

While poring over mystic tomes, Doctor Strange falls asleep without saying the protective chant that keeps him safe while he's sleeping. Now caught in the Nightmare World with none of his powers, he becomes the eternal prisoner of Nightmare, who taunts him.

But then a demon called the Gulgol shows up; Nightmare describes him as "my mortal enemy from the netherworld!" Nightmare can never defeat the Gugol, for the Gulgol never sleeps.

Strange agrees to banish the Gulgol if Nightmare restores his freedom and his powers, which Nightmare desperately does. Then Strange simply snaps his fingers and the Gulgol disappears. See, one thing Strange could do was hypnotize Nightmare into seeing his enemy, and with his powers restored, Strange escapes back to his own chambers.

It's not an incredibly satisfying story, and some of the weirdness of the visuals is dialed down to blank white backgrounds, but I generally like the Doctor Strange stories so much that even an off one is better than, say, a Johnny Storm story. I chalk it up to Stan and Steve being overworked.

I would love it if we could just get two Doctor Strange stories an issue, really.

Next Marvels: Inside info about Iron Man.

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