Strange Tales (Vol. 1) #136

Credits:

Cover Date: September 1965

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Mike Esposito, Steve Ditko

“Find Fury or Die!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Scripter: Stan Lee

Pencillers: Jack Kirby (layouts), John Severin

Inker: John Severin

“What Lurks Beneath the Mask?”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Steve Ditko

Inker: Steve Ditko

What’s Going On?

Nick Fury and SHIELD have to handle a Hydra strike force that is closing in on Nick!

Elsewhere, Doctor Strange winds up trapped in an evil dimension.

Details:

In the Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD feature:

  • Walking through New York City, Nick Fury notices some suspicious characters. Assuming they are agents of Hydra, he decides to lure them into a trap.

  • Fury walks into what appears to be a barber shop, but is really a hub for SHIELD activity.

  • When the undercover Hydra agents enter the barber shop, they are immediately incapacitated and hypnotized. Fury instructs them to believe that SHIELD’s headquarters is in a nearby warehouse.

  • When Hydra arrives at the warehouse, they are surprised by an automated trap and captured.

  • SHIELD may have won the day, but Nick Fury doesn’t celebrate because he knows that they didn’t capture anyone important in Hydra’s organization.

In the Doctor Strange backup:

  • When Baron Mordo tells Dormammu that the elusive Doctor Strange is searching for the secret of Eternity, Dormammu gets very upset. He urges Mordo to redouble his efforts to find Strange.

  • Doctor Strange has managed to hide from Baron Mordo’s forces by simply not using magic. He has been quietly visiting learned magic folk, asking if they know about Eternity, and leaving as quickly as he can.

  • Eventually, Doctor Strange finds someone who might be able to help. Actually, it turns out that the Ancient One could help, too, if he was conscious.

  • Doctor Strange is given an ancient scroll by Aged Genghis. He recognizes the word “Eternity” on the faded parchment, so he casts the spell and enters the resulting portal.

  • He exits the portal and finds himself in an odd pocket dimension.  There, Strange meets a captive man. He frees the man, only to learn that it was a trap!

  • The Demon of the Mask (that’s what the Marvel Wiki call him — he’s unnamed in this issue) switches places with Strange; our hero is now the one in shackles, while the Demon is now free and wearing Strange’s clothes. The Demon places a mask over Strange’s face to ensure that he cannot escape.

  • Without use of his hands or mouth to cast spells, Strange uses his mental command of his Cloak of Levitation to pummel the Demon until he frees Strange.

  • Once he is freed, Doctor Strange frees the rest of the Demon’s prisoners and destroys the Demon of the Mask and his little pocket dimension.

  • When Doctor Strange returns to Earth, he realizes that he must risk the Ancient One’s health and wake his mentor from his healing sleep. There is no other way to learn about Eternity.

  • To be continued…!

Is It Good?

This was another good issue. I am loving the James Bond/Man From UNCLE feel of the Nick Fury feature, and Ditko’s work On Doctor Strange continues to be fun and weird.

I was surprised that I didn’t miss Jack Kirby’s pencils on the Nick Fury story. Sure, he did layouts, but there is a big difference between Kirby layouts and finished pencils. Severin did a very solid job his first Marvel superhero-ish work.

As much as I am enjoying the ongoing Eternity saga in Doctor Strange’s back-up stories, it is beginning to like Lee and Ditko are treading water here. Doctor Strange has been on the run for months, and finding Eternity has been a subplot for the last five issues. Again, I am still enjoying the storyline; I just hope we start seeing some progress soon.

Continuity:

  • The Nick Fury feature feels like a standalone story, but the Grand Comics Database lists it as Part 2 of an ongoing story.
  • This is John Severin’s first work with Marvel in the Silver Age. He worked a lot at Atlas in the 1950s, including earlier stints on Journey Into Mystery and Strange Tales, back when they were sci-fi comics; his most recent work with Marvel was on Two-Gun Kid #57, in December 1960.
  • This is the first time we’ve seen SHIELD use a storefront as a headquarters entrance. I love this sort of 60s spy stuff.

  • Hydra once again reminds us about cutting off limbs, etc.

  • Hydra has changed their internal rules a bit since last issue. Now, if you are leading a mission, you have to remove your mask until you succeed or fail.

  • Hydra kills another one of its own members when he fails.

  • The Doctor Strange backup is Part 7 of the ongoing story.
  • Dormammu has imprisoned Clea for helping Doctor Strange in Strange Tales #134.

  • This is the first appearance of Aged Genghis. He is a very old, very wise sorcerer that happens to be slightly mad.
  • This is also the first appearance of Rama Kaliph. He is a potential ally of Doctor Strange, but Baron Mordo cast a spell of silence on him, so he cannot communicate.
  • Baron Mordo is getting tired of being Dormammu’s lackey, but is too afraid of his boss to act.

  • Doctor Strange seems to have killed the Demon of the Mask. If bathing him in the enchanted light didn’t do the trick, Strange destroying that entire dimension should have done the trick.

  • According to the Marvel Wiki, this character is never given a name and her story is never followed-up on.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • Sometimes, Jack Kirby’s layouts are more detailed than others. This is such a vintage Kirby contraption that I have to assume that he did full pencils on this page. But…why? It’s not like this gadget is important whatsoever or needed to be heavily detailed to match a previous image of it.

  • I absolutely love super-villain underling training areas.

  • I guess Hydra likes variety when having their members fight to the death. Last issue, they fought while riding a bizarre carnival-style ride. This issue, they opt for a guessing game.

  • The only person who looks good in Doctor Strange’s clothes is Doctor Strange.

  • “They have been trapped here from all ages — from all worlds — but, let’s be honest. They’re mostly from Earth, within the past few hundred years.”

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