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Strange Tales 138
"If Eternity Should Fail!"


Written And Plotted And Lettered And Typed And Edited By Illustrated By Bordered By Reviewed By Incredible Invincible Indelible Inevitable STAN LEE STEVE DITKO SAM ROSEN STEVE CHUNG

(Originally Reviewed On 03/27/02)

In the previous issue, The Master of The Mystic Arts received the secret of Eternity from the subconscious of The Ancient One! Now, on a lonely mountainpeak, Dr. Strange prepares to enter the realm of Eternity... via the spell of his enchanted amulet... only to find...?

Passing through the entrance, Dr. Strange finds himself in the dimension of Eternity, a realm which truly defies description. As he wonders what sort of reception he is to expect, The Master of The Mystic Arts sees a gleaming star leading him onward, hopefully to the one he seeks...

It is unknown how long Dr. Strange has walked... or how far he has traveled, since the concepts of time and distance are not as they are perceived in our dimension, but The Master of The Mystic Arts soon sees something ahead! An entryway with his amulet as its design is now before him, and with no option of turning back, Dr. Strange enters, where ever fibre of his very being is compelling him towards the light at the end of the corridor, where he has reached his destination at last! It is no mere light, but an entire univese in microcosm... a world within a world! As Dr. Strange watches in silent awe, it begins to grow, expanding as it changes shape, and assumes form... taking the image of... man!

The being speaks with a voice which is much more than a voice... speaking words which are more than words... presenting thoughts which no mortal has ever grasped before! Eternity stands before Dr. Strange, telling him to remain silent, for none may speak when he is present. The Master of The Mystic Arts is the second mortal to stand before him. The first was The Ancient One, and it was to he, that the amulet was given, and the power it contains!

Only those who wish to acquire power would dare to seek out Eternity, but before suich a boon would be granted, Eternity must learn if the seeker is worthy. Dr. Strange remains motionless while he is bathed in the mystic glow of revealment. The Master of The Mystic Arts knows that Eternity's power is beyond measuring, beyond mortal ken, and he feels every fibre of his being being scrutinitized. Eternity has learns what he has sought, and has seen that The Ancient One has chosen wisely when he had Stephen Strange become his disciple.

Eternity knows that Dr. Strange is seeking the power necessary to defeat Baron Mordo and The Dread Dormammu, which he learned by reading his mind. If they are not stopped, The Ancient One would die, and all of mankind would be in danger, but then Eternity pauses, and speaks no more. Dr. Strange watches as the figure of Eternity begins to grow smaller... altering his shape, not daring to question, for The Master of The Mystic Arts has not been given leave to speak! He wonders how long he must remain in this dimension and what the decision will be. Is he to receive the power he has sought to win the most important battle of all? Or is he to be forsaken... forever?? Eternity's voice tells him that he is not forsaken, and Dr. Strange sees that he has returned.

Dr. Strange is told to return from whence he came, for there are other matters which Eternity must attend to, and as for the power he has sought, it must be denied him! Eternity tells him that he already possesses the means to beat his enemies, for power is not the only way, and the events before him can best be resolved by wisdom. Eternity bids him leave, and The Master of The Mystic Arts turns, with Eternity's words playing in his mind. As he leaves the dimension, Dr. Strange wonders if Eternity lied and perhaps he couldn't or wouldn't help him. His last hope is gone, and he must face his foes alone, not able to match their combined powers! Striding forward, The Master of The Mystic Arts finds himself again on the lonesome mountainpeak. The spell has ended, and his amulet returns to its proper place, as Eternity becomes a rapidly fading memory. He is intent on meeting with The Ancient One and seeing if his teacher can solve the mystery of Eternity's last words.

As he soars among the Tibetan Mountains, Dr. Strange can only wonder what other-worldy matters would require Eternity's attention, but his problem of beating Mordo and Dormmamu is foremost on his mind. Entering the cave where The Ancient One is safely hidden, Dr. Strange is horrified to find that his teacher has disappeared! He sees the attendent clutching the drape with fear, the victim of an enchantment. Using the vapors of valtorr, the man's mind is cleared once more, but just as he begins to regain his senses, there is a sound behind them...

Mordo's phantom emissaries bid him to follow them. The attendent tells Dr. Strange that it was Mordo who found The Ancient One and seized him. When the man begins to reproach himself, The Master of The Mystic Arts tells him not to and that the mission is now in his hands. As he follows Mordo's wraiths, Dr. Strange wonders if Eternity knew about this, and if the being thought his was a hopeless task? Within his shadowy sanctuary, Baron Mordo senses Dr. Strange's approach and knows that the prize is theirs. The Dread Dormammu corrects him, for Mordo is merely his agent, a fact which would do the Baron well to remember. Mordo turns his attention to The Ancient One, and tells Dormammu that they should destroy him, but The Dread One wishes to find out what Dr. Strange had learned from Eternity, and only by the threat to his teacher's life will they coerce him into revealing what they wish.

Dormammu places The Ancient One within a mystic time trap, where he'll be invisible to Dr. Strange's all-seeing amulet, and the victory he has sought is almost in his grasp! In The Dark Dimension, Dormmamu turns from the mystic viewer and eyes the mysterious girl who aided The Master of The Mystic Arts on his last visit. Imprisoned in a mystic cell, she is to pay the ultimate penalty, but not before she witnesses the final defeat of Dr. Strange. After all the months of the chase and danger, the players have gathered together, and The Master of The Mystic Arts demands to be taken to The Ancient One, for if he has been harmed, he swears by The Shades of The Seraphim... but he is silenced by Baron Mordo, for it is he and his master who'll give the commands, and Dr. Strange has played his final hand... and lost! From the mystic viewscreen, Dormammu greets his mortal foe, and assures him that he won't escape this time, for it is he who is the power, and Dr. Strange who is to be the prey!

From the writing of Stan Lee, to the plot and illustrations of Steve Ditko, and the lilting letters of Sam Rosen, this is one tale which captures the readers' full attention.

The reader is given a guided tour of Eternity's dimension, which leaves even The Master of The Mystic Arts in silent awe.

We learn that it was Eternity who gave The Ancient One the amulet.

I first came across the character of Eternity when his "final" battle with Dormammu was reprinted in a Marvel Treasury Edition. Also in another Marvel Treasury Edition, he was captured by Nightmare during New Year's Eve. How? I dunno. In recent years, Eternity would appear whenever there was an Infinity crossover or What If? I prefer his early appearances, and as would be the case with Galactus, each subsequent appearance would detract from the impact of the dynamics of his first appearance.

In What If Korvac Had Used The Avengers As Pawns, Eternity is shown to represent life and the universe.

In Fred Hembeck's Fantastic Four Roast, he refers to Eternity as "Mr. Universe."

Steve Ditko would later illustrate Captain Universe, the hero who could be you. In that selfsame Fantastic Four Roast, Aunt May wielded the power.

By The Waning Wits of Wizard! I'm sure that this first meeting of Dr. Strange and Eternity would qualify somewhere in those 25 Greatest Moments of Comics or those 100 Marvel Must-Reads, but alas, it happened before 1979, nor is it an X-Title. Bleaugh!

In relative terms, Dr. Strange meeting Eternity for the power he needed to beat Mordo and Dormammu is akin to the employee asking his boss for a raise, or a student being sent to the principal's office.

As with Eternity's dimension, the boss' or principal's office is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to be forsaken there.

Eternity is truly one of those awe-inspiring characters of The Silver Age. Along with the likes of The Living Tribunal by Marie Severin and Herb Trimpe, as well as Kaluu and The Unspeakable Umar by Bill Everett. Kaluu was so tough, that even Dr. Strange was unable to conjure up an ectoplasmic image of him to see, while his mentor chided him for his unseemly arrogance in preparation to confront he who stole The Book of The Vishanti.

This Review Is Dedicated To J.K. Carrier, Jen Contino, and Kevin Grady.