Strange Tales (Vol. 1) #134

Credits:

Cover Date: July 1965

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Frank Giacoia

“The Challenge of…the Watcher!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Bob Powell

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Bob Powell

Inker: Wally Wood

“Earth Be My Battleground”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Steve Ditko

Inker: Steve Ditko

What’s Going On?

The Human Torch and Thing travel back in time to save history from Kang the Conqueror.

Doctor Strange continues to search for the power to defeat Baron Mordo while hiding from Mordo’s forces.

Details:

In the Human Torch & Thing story:

  • While Reed and Sue are out, the Watcher comes to the Baxter Building to enlist the Fantastic Four’s aid. Kang the Conqueror has traveled back to medieval times to alter the timestream! The Watcher settles for two heroes instead of four, and explains the problem to them.
  • Kang’s first action was to defeat and imprison the wizard Merlin.

  • Kang then challenged King Arthur and his knights to jousting competitions. When Kang won, he banished Arthur and was the new king of England.

  • From there, Kang plans on conquering the world, which will change history so much that heroes like the Avengers and Fantastic Four will never exist!

  • The Watcher takes Ben and Johnny back to the past to fight Kang. They make quick work of his supposedly advanced army.

  • There’s a bit of drama as Kang uses his futuristic weapons to keep the Torch from flaming on. Thinking quickly, Johnny frees Merlin from the dungeon, and the wizard restores his powers with magic.

  • Merlin’s return convinces Kang’s army to turn on him. The combined might of the Human Torch, Thing, Merlin, and an army (and some timely sabotage of Kang’s weapons) swings the tide of battle against Kang.

  • Kang escapes back to the future, and the Watcher returns Ben and Johnny to their proper time. The end.

In the Doctor Strange story:

  • Doctor Strange has returned to Earth, but is still on the run from Baron Mordo’s forces. His first act upon returning is to check on the Ancient One. His mentor is very weak, so Strange uses his amulet to heal him a bit.

  • The Ancient One had been muttering something about “Eternity,” which means nothing to Strange. He decides to investigate the subject in the Ancient One’s library. He finds nothing and is noticed by Mordo’s spirits.

  • With Dormammu lending Mordo and his forces power, Doctor Strange is unable to defeat or trick his enemies.

  • Meanwhile, in the Dark Dimension, Clea decides to take a risk and help Doctor Strange by distracting Dormammu. She weakens the barrier keeping the Mindless Ones at bay, and when they broke through, Dormammu has to abandon Mordo to focus on the immediate threat of the Mindless Ones.

  • Without Dormammu’s help, Baron Mordo can’t overpower Doctor Strange, but Strange doesn’t know that. Strange decides to try and bluff his way out of Mordo’s clutches.
  • Strange sends his astral form into the Sun. Mordo fears that the intense heat would kill him, even in his astral form; there’s a real chance of that, but he thinks that Strange has a spell that will protect him. Mordo falls for Strange’s bluff and retreats. Strange is free to return his astral form to his earthly body without being caught.

  • To be continued…!

Is It Good?

The Human Torch & Thing story was pretty bad. Kang’s plan was idiotic, and the heroes were not particularly endearing. It was just a dumb, one-off story. I have not enjoyed this feature at any point, so I am glad to see it conclude. I hope the Nick Fury feature that begins next issue is better; it is interesting that the change isn’t promoted inside this issue, though.

The Doctor Strange story continued the ongoing Dormammu epic, and it was another good issue. Ditko continues to impress with his imaginative artwork, and the story was pleasantly weird.

Continuity:

  • I’m not sure when the first story takes place. The Fantastic Four lost their powers at the end of Fantastic Four #38, and the Thing quits the team right after regaining his powers in Fantastic Four #40. So, either this story takes place before Fantastic Four #38, or after Ben rejoins the team in a future issue, because Ben and Johnny have their powers and Ben is still on the FF in this story.
  • The Watcher last appeared in Avengers #14.
  • Kang last appeared in Avengers #11.
  • Merlin last appeared in Avengers #10.
  • This is the first time we’ve seen King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table in the Silver Age.  They last appeared in 1956’s Black Knight #5.
  • This is the final issue of Strange Tales to feature the Human Torch and the Thing. Beginning next issue, Nick Fury will have his own ongoing feature.
  • The Doctor Strange story is part 5 of 17 (!). He has returned to Earth, but is still hiding from Baron Mordo. Strange has yet to realize that Dormammu is lending power to Mordo.
  • The Ancient One, in his weak and incoherent state, keeps muttering things about “Eternity.”

  • After a few issues of wanting to help Doctor Strange, Clea finally acts. In the aftermath of distracting Dormammu, she fears that he will rightly conclude that she allowed the Mindless Ones through his defenses.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • I love that the Watcher basically says, “You know that I am sworn to never interfere, BUT…it’s time for me to interfere.”

  • So…the Watcher can appear anywhere and anywhen (apparently), but he doesn’t bother to find Reed and Sue when the safety of the timeline is at stake? He just shrugs and takes whoever is at the Baxter Building back in time? And if he can see anything happening, how did he not know that Reed and Sue were gone?
  • In the Marvel Universe, medieval peasants like Kang at least as much as they do King Arthur. Remember that the next time someone tries to make Arthur sound like a good guy.

  • Kang’s unbeatable futuristic weapons include…a medieval Stilt-Man armor?

  • I love it when a scientific feat is not explained explicitly because the characters in the story are too dumb to understand the explanation.

  • Good thing radioactivity doesn’t linger, and the spot where Kang stood is definitely safe now!

  • Having read all of the Doctor Strange stories to date, I have no idea why Dormammu is so sure that there is no spell to protect astral projections from the Sun. There are no set rules for what Doctor Strange can and cannot do, but Dormammu immediately dismisses the notion?

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