Sunday, 8 November 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #109. Dr Strange

Amazing Spider-Man #109, Dr Strange
(Cover from June 1972.)

"Enter: Dr Strange!"

Words by Stan Lee.
Art by John Romita.
Lettering by Art Simek.


What's this on the splash page? Why, it's Stan Lee, promising us the imminent arrival of a surprise guest star. As Dr Strange is on the font cover, we might foolishly assume that guest star to be Dr Strange.

And we'd foolishly assume right.

Dr Strange, ex-world-class surgeon, ex-rehab candidate and now world-class mystic, created back in the days when a man might walk the streets of Greenwich Village, calling himself Dr Strange, without people asking questions.

But, as it turns out, Spider-Man, has questions. He has more questions than a hyper-active attorney. Upon being intercepted by the occultist - as he finally finds a way to escape the clinging clutches of Gwen - our hero wants to know just what's the deal with Flash.

Happily for all of us, the good doctor can tell him. Apparently, some Vietnamese cult want to sacrifice Flash so that their holy one can live again. He was the old man we saw Flash befriending in "flash-back" last ish and he was killed by the US attack on his temple. The cult hold Flash responsible and they aim to make him repay that debt.

Now, most people in their boat might bring in the lawyers but these are men of sterner stuff and they want real compensation. The sort that only comes with a human sacrifice. We should, I think, remember that this was almost forty years ago and such stereotyping of South-East Asians as mad cultists, ready to stick a knife in you at the drop of a hat, had yet to go the way of the dodo. Their plan revealed, the obvious thing to happen now is for Dr Strange to fire a spell halfway across New York at them and sort it all out.

But, of course, that wouldn't be much of a story - nor would it give us the class of action we crave. So he and the wall-crawler make their way to wherever it is in the city that Flash is being imprisoned and quickly sort it all out. As Spider-Man keeps the others occupied, Strange brings the "dead" man back to life with a quick spell and everyone's happy. Not least the old man. It seems he'd never been dead at all but had merely avoided being blown to pieces by going into a trance. You have to hand it to him, that's one hell of a trance that can make mortar fire bounce off you.

So now Flash is saved, the old man's saved and everyone's happy. Web Head can go home and get down to some good old-fashioned canoodling with Gwen right?

Wrong.

Sadly, by the tale's end, it's all doom and gloom again for our masked law-enforcer as he ponders the possibility that, now that Flash is back on civvie street, Gwen might be more attracted to him than she is to Peter. Poor old Peter, his personal life really is one big long car crash, isn't it?

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