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Monday, 1 May 2017

Phantom Stranger 23 - Phantom Stranger vs Quasimodo, and Spawn of Frankenstein debuts

Wein and Aparo send the Phantom Stranger and Cassandra Craft to Paris on the trail of the Dark Circle in Phantom Stranger 23 (Jan/Feb 73), which also sees the debut of a new back-up series, which nevertheless features Dr. Thirteen.

It's Cassandra's psychic senses that lead them to Paris. We see that murders are taking place, starting with the bell ringer at Notre Dame Cathedral, and that Quiasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, is one behind this. Despite this, once the Phantom Stranger and Cassandra get on the case, they are lead to the Paris Opera House, and a scene straight out of Phantom of the Opera plays out. The Phantom Stranger saves the crowd from the falling chandelier, but then finds that this was a diversion, used by the Dark Circle to kidnap Cassandra yet again.

The man dressed as the Phantom of the Opera turns out to be Tannarak in disguise. Cassandra recognizes his voice right away, so he doffs the mask once the Phantom Stranger shows up. This is the first time Tannarak is shown to dress all in white, which will be his most frequent look in stories to come. It fits, being the opposite colouring to the Stranger. Tannarak is working with the Dark Circle, but not a member, the way Quiasmodo is.

While Tannarak keeps the Phantom Stranger trapped using weird music from a pipe organ, Quasimodo, who has a really funky blimp, prepares to steal the Pillar of Souls, which has all manner of alchemical powers. Tannarak has been promised immortality for helping out, but once Quadismodo has the pillar he tries to kill Tannarak.

The Phantom Stranger saves his old enemy, and together they go after the Dark Circle members. Tannarak kills Quiasmodo, crushing him with the Pillar. As the story ends, the Phantom Stranger recruits Tannarak to help him and Cassandra take down the Dark Circle for good.

The story concludes in the next issue.

Marv Wolfman and Mike Kaluta launch the Spawn of Frankenstein story in this issue, which begins as they dig the frozen body of the monster out of the Arctic ice.

The dead Frankenstein creation is brought to a university, by a guy conveniently named Victor, who intends to resurrect it. This is greeted with condemnation not only from the university, but also from Victor's wife, who I guess has read the book or seen one of the movies, and knows what a stupid idea this is. She calls Dr. Thirteen to come and talk some sense into her husband.

Terry and Marie Thirteen arrive, but too late. Victor has already made his cool resurrection machine, and the lightning has brought it to life. The machine goes wild, killing Victor, and even blasting Marie Thirteen.

Terry Thirteen is furious, and does what he can to kill the creature who he blames for the accident. The Spawn of Frankenstein doesn't get to say anything, but Kaluta's art is expressive enough that we know the creature feels guilty, even though he isn't, and wants to help. He can't, though, as the whole building comes crashing down.

The debut story ends with Marie Thirteen in a coma, and Terry Thirteen vowing to hunt down the Spawn of Frankenstein and get vengeance for his wife.

The story continues in the next issue.

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