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Monday, 1 May 2017

Phantom Stranger 17 - Cassandra Craft debuts

Wein and Aparo open Phantom Stranger 17 (Jan/Feb 72) with the action continuing directly from the Neal Adams cover. The Stranger comes to the aid of a man running for his life, protecting some ancient scrolls, but gets taken down by the man's pursuers. A mysterious cloaked woman comes to his aid.

The Stranger wakes up in the home of Cassandra Craft, a blind psychic. The pair are both quite independent, but this helps draw them together, when they are not arguing. She uses her abilities to get an image of an Egyptian desert, and insists upon accompanying the Phantom Stranger there. On the plane flight, Cassandra questions the Stranger as to exactly what he is. Although his answers are vague, we do get more of a sense of him, and his mystical nature, through this scene than we have in any earlier stories.

Cassandra leads the Stranger to an archaeological dig in Egypt, where the man in charge is extremely friendly and welcoming. This is really just to get the pair off their guard, and it's not long before people are trying to kill them. While they survive that, they do wind up getting drugged and knocked out.

The leader of the dig is really Tannarak, now wearing a really odd green and yellow outfit. Tannarak is still obsessed with immortality, and is hunting for the legendary Phoenix.

He has mind controlled his followers, and puts Cassandra under his spell as well, and by using them manages to invoke and resurrect the Phoenix. Tannarka rides the bird and tries to use its fire to kill the Phantom Stranger, but he breaks the spell Tannarak has on his followers. By turning them against the evil alchemist, Tannarak is no longer able to control the Phoenix, and once again appears to die when the bird erupts.

The conclusion sees the Phantom Stranger ditch Cassandra in the desert, which is really assholish. He insists that he must continue his eternal journey alone.

Despite this, Cassandra Craft returns a few issues down the road. Tannarak is back as well, the following year.

Because this Phantom Stranger is longer than normal, the Dr. Thirteen story in this issue is a reprint from his series in Star Spangled Comics.

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