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Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Phantom Stranger 31 - the puzzle wall, and Black Orchid begins

Black Orchid begins as the back-up series in Phantom Stranger 31 (June/July 1974). She would be the only back-up feature who didn't wind up interacting with the Phantom Stranger in at least one story.

Drake and Talaoc deal with Asian political problems, religion, and drugs in their lead story. The best part about it is the massive puzzle wall that monks are building to keep in the demon Kang. No one takes this seriously, and the corrupt government are using the area for shipping illegal drugs.

An American solider is heavily involved in all that, and the story spends most of its time on him. We see how he became ad addict during the Vietnam War. The Phantom Stranger tries to get him to clean up and change his ways, but of course that is pointless.

His increasing drug use and paranoia makes him an unsuitable partner, and he winds up turning on the others. In trying to stop the Asians from leaving, he blasts apart a chunk of the wall, which releases the demon Kang. The Phantom Stranger holds the demon back until the monks can start building the wall again, but the soldier has already died.

Sheldon Mayer and Tony De Zuniga, the creators of the Black Orchid series, resume her tales a few months after the end of her run in Adventure Comics. The Black Orchid series was always difficult to pull off, as the readers never knew who she really was, or even the extent of her powers. This story sees her come to the aid of slaves on an island, lured by the promise of good jobs but forced to work in mines.

As with most Black Orchid tales, there are a few women who could possibly be her, although she comes to rescue one of those right off the bat.

The bad guys never suspect Black Orchid is really Carla, who stands guard over the slaves. Black Orchid replaces "herself" with a putty statue while defeating the other guards and leading the people to freedom. This is actually probably the weakest of her original tales.

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