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Monday, 1 May 2017

Phantom Stranger 22 - Cassandra Craft returns, and Dr. Thirteen visits an unfriendly town

Cassandra Craft returns as Wein and Aparo continue the Dark Circle story in Phantom Stranger 22 (Nov/Dec 72).

The story opens with Cassandra briefly re-introduced, and then kidnapped by the Dark Circle. The Phantom Stranger receives a vision of her begging for his help, but when he finds her, she turns on him and blasts him with some powers she doesn't really have. But we find out that the Dark Circle has brainwashed her, and apparently somehow provided these. 

The Phantom Stranger finally learns about the Dark Circle, a collection of evil mystics. Johnny Glory is mentioned, and this is the point at which Broderick Rune and the evil priest are revealed to have been members as well. The Dark Circle guys burn the Phantom Stranger, but are really just sending him into limbo.

Cassandra has already been sent to limbo, and is meant to deliver the final killing stroke. The Phantom Stranger is none too keen on fighting her, and so allows her to believe that she has killed him. This breaks the spell on her. Her mind restored, the Phantom Stranger brings both of them back to reality.

By this point the Dark Circle members have already turned on each other, so the Phantom Stranger has little trouble dispatching them. He sets out to find and defeat the remainder of the group, and intends to leave Cassandra behind. This time she doesn't let him get away with that, and insists that they are meant to be together. The Phantom Stranger agrees, and they head to fight the Dark Circle together.

The story continues in the next issue.

Skeates and SeZuniga provide a different sort of Dr. Thirteen story in this issue, which has him and Marie stopping off in a small town. Before they even arrive, we see how one man has chosen an outcast in the town, and is working to convince the other residents that the guy is evil.

By the time Dr. Thirteen arrives, the man has become a complete pariah. Everyone in the town shuns him and treats him like a monster. By the climax, the town has become convinced that the man is a vampire, and they kill him, driving a stake through his heart.

Dr. Thirteen comes off so much better in this story than he usually does. He is furious at the townspeople, and though they turn on the guy who actually committed the murder, the one who started the rumours originally, Dr. Thirteen blames all of them for going along with it, refusing to use their compassion or common sense.

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