Sunday, 20 June 2010

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2. Dr Strange

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2, Dr Strange, Steve Ditko
(Cover from 1965.)

"The Wondrous World Of Dr Strange!"

Written by Stan Lee.
Drawn by Steve Ditko.
Lettered by Sam Rosen.

"Whoa-ho-ho, it's magic," sang 1970s' hit-makers Pilot. "Never believe it's not so." They also sang a song about their Auntie Iris. Sadly only the first of these ditties is relevant here as Spider-Man officially meets Dr Strange for the first time ever.

Of course, those with memories that stretch all the way back to yesterday's review'll recall Peter Parker met Dr Strange in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (as did Flash Thompson's fist) but this time it's Spider-Man's turn. Sadly this is the only new tale in the mag, as the Herculean efforts of the first annual aren't repeated and this one's bulked out by a bunch of already reviewed tales from Spidey's early days [1][2][3].

In our one new outing, Spidey and Strange find themselves up against the power of Xandu the magician. Xandu has one half of the handily alliterative Wand of Watoomb and needs the other to become all-powerful. Trouble is, Dr Strange has it. So, Xandu hypnotises two bar-room bullies into being unstoppable engines of destruction and sets them on Dr Strange. Despite being the Master of Mystic Arts, Strange proves surprisingly inept in his attempts to thwart them, and Xandu has his hands on the wand.

Spider-Man though has blundered onto the scene and he and Strange join forces to defeat Xandu. The villain defeated, Dr Strange flies off, a plug from Stan Lee for Strange Tales ringing in our eyeballs.

It's an oddly naive but pleasing tale with Steve Ditko having to balance the otherworldly look of Dr Strange's mag with the more everyday style of Spider-Man's adventures. He does this pretty well although it's never going to be a totally perfect fit, and the two hypnotised thugs seem oddly simplistic visually, and out of place, in a Dr Strange tale - especially the section where they beat Strange up. The Master of Mystic Arts succumbing to mere fisticuffs? The indignity of it all. Spider-Man's not strictly central to events - serving more as a distraction to Xandu at key points in the tale, while Strange finishes off Xandu and robs the Wand of its power. But it's a pleasant bit of fluff, and even the fact that Xandu looks a bit of a berk, with his monocle and silly moustache, can't damage it.


cerebus660 said...

This story seems a missed opportunity to me. The villains are run-of-the-mill and there's no sense of occasion to Spidey and the Doc's first meeting - they sort of stumble into an adventure together, with no "at last we meet" scene. Still, you can't go wrong with the Ditko artwork, always a treat.

The Cryptic Critic said...

It is all a bit throwaway. Still, it's a lot better than the next story I'm going to be reviewing...

Anonymous said...

It's first Spidey comic I ever read as a kid and it blew me away. And the cover has always remained my fav thru all these 50 years!


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