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Monday, 1 May 2017

Phantom Stranger 24 - the Dark Circle storyline ends, and Spawn of Frankenstein steals a corpse

Wein and Aparo bring the Dark Circle story to a conclusion in Phantom Stranger 24 (March/April 1973)

Cassandra Craft leads the Phantom Stranger and Tannarak to Rio de Janiero for the big finale, and Aparo does a great job opening the story with a Brazilian carnival. Some people in spooky costumes are chasing after a man who witnessed a Dark Circle ritual, and the heroes come to his aid.

So we get to see the Phantom Stranger and Tannarak fighting side by side. It turns out the people are not actually in costumes, as the Phantom Stranger discovers when he knocks a skeleton's head off. The guy they rescued tells them the Dark Circle operate out of the mountain Corcovado, but they probably didn't even need to hear this from him. A driverless horsedrawn carriage materializes, and takes them all the way there.

We quickly find out that the Dark Circle is run by Tala. A lot of readers wrote in negatively about this, and I really don't see why. It makes it her best story since her debut, and it's not like there was any other big villain around who could have made a better leader. She is drawing off the powers of her followers to usher in the apocalypse. She takes the Phantom Stranger prisoner, and has her followers hold Cassandra and Tannarak.

Tala invokes the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and sends them out to destroy the world, starting with the big Jesus statue.

The Phantom Stranger gets free, as he always does, but it is not him who actually winds up defeating Tala. Tannarak is none to keen on being kept out of the action, and appears to sacrifice his life, bringing Tala down into a gaping crevice which seals up behind them. Without Tala, the Horsemen vanish, and the mountain begins to collapse. The Stranger orders the guy they saved to flee with Cassandra, making her believe that the Phantom Stranger died in the cave-in. He didn't, we see that clearly. What a way to dump her. Downright cruel.

Cassandra Craft returns a couple of years down the road in this book. Tala is next seen in 1978, in the DC Super-Stars Phantom Stranger/Deadman team-up. Tannarak has to wait until 1982, showing up in the Phantom Stranger's back-up series in Saga of the Swamp Thing.

Wolfman and Kaluta continue the Spawn of Frankenstein back-up story at the grave of Victor. Terry Thirteen is there, along with Victor's widow, and both are determined to hunt down and kill the creature they blame for Victor's death, and Marie being in a coma. This story is narrated, by Spawn of Frankenstein, his thoughts. He heads into town and steals some clothing. A hat and a cape. No shirt. Guess he likes the buff green look. We see him attack a couple guys who try to mug him, before he heads back to the graveyard.

These first few stories come off really well. Kaluta makes the monster look scary, while Wolfman's narration makes him more sympathetic. The Spawn of Frankenstein takes out a couple of grave robbers, before stealing Victor's corpse himself. He intends to resurrect him.

The story continues in the next issue.

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