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Strange Tales 144
"Where Man Hath Never Trod!"


Edited With Perspicacity By: STAN LEE
Written With Percocity By: ROY THOMAS
Plotted And Illustrated With Profoundity By: STEVE DITKO
Lettered With The Windows Closed By: ARTIE SIMEK
Reviewed With The Shades Down By: STEVE CHUNG

On the splash page, the reader relives the moment when the Dread Dormammu, who was defeated by the master of the mystic arts, turned his rage towards the mysterious silver-haired girl who befriended Dr. Strange!

On the mystical screen, the master of the mystic arts insists that the duel is between he and the dread one, but in giving his word not to attack Dr. Strange while he's in his own dimension... Dormammu has struck at him through the only way he could -- by banishing the girl -- his subject who betrayed him! While his student fights for his life elsewhere, the astral form of the Ancient One drifts through an other-dimensional corridor... He searches for the girl who aided his disciple, and only thus can he repay Dr. Strange for his loyal service to him. As the search continues, the Dread Dormammu receives a message from Asti, the All-Seeing, who brings word of the Ancient One's progress! He is approaching the outer reaches of cosmic infinity! (Holy Starlin, Batman!) Asti then asks if the trap for Dr. Strange should be set, and the dreaded one orders him to act before it is too late! If Asti fails to lure Dr. Strange into an alien dimension where he is under no vow to spare his life, the mercenary will suffer the doom planned for him! In his sanctum sanctorum, the master of the mystic arts has returned after a battle with Baron Mordo's minions... He asks his mentor for word of the girl, and the Ancient One bids that he come with him...

Following his teacher's astral form through a mystical barrier, Dr. Strange finds himself in a different universe! (Holy Busiek, Batman!) He sees the Ancient One and a regal figure who rules this dimension. He tells Dr. Strange that the Ancient One has sensed the presence of a powerful magic spell on the outer edge of infinity -- a spell which could only have been cast by Dormammu himself! The ruler cautions the master of the mystic arts from travelling there! For none who gone been there have survived to tell of it! The well-meant warning fails to dissuade Dr. Strange from repaying his debt to the girl who saved his very life! The Ancient One warns his student that this may be a trap, but this is a risk which the master of the mystic arts must take. In the twilight area of the edges of infinity, Tazza, the sole resident of the realm receives a message from Dormammu... He is told by the dread one that Dr. Strange is on his way to destroy him! Tazza thanks him for the warning, not knowing that it was Asti carrying the dread one's magical spell, who has lured his foe into the cosmos! Those who dare to enter Tazza's realm will not leave it alive!

As the image of the dread one fades from the mystical view-screen, Tazza's cat-like form undergoes an elaborate transformation... He is confident that Dr. Strange will meet his end, as did all the others -- frozen and immobile for all time! Now in the shape of a mystical flying scavenger, Tazza goes to test Dr. Strange's powers -- to see if the master of the mystic arts is worthy to stand forever in the hall of heroes! In moments, Tazza has found his quarry... Dr. Strange senses a being of evil and great power, while Tazza abandons his guise in favor of that the deadly Samandra! Only quick reflexes saves Dr. Strange from instant doom... The reptilian creature seeks to ensnare the master of the mystic arts, who realizes that this is no mere unthinking beast from the infinite void... He senses human-like intelligence behind its appearance! Dr. Strange uses magical spells to defend him -- as he blocks the Samandra's advances with his cloak of levitation!

The creature flees all too easily! Having served its purpose, Tazza sheds the disguise, and after measuring the extent of Dr. Strange's power... he makes his final transformation -- into an amoeba-like form, which is able to counter the spells used before! The master of the mystic arts discovers that the creature is immune to his magical bolts! The tentacles begin to encircle him -- and he is helpless to prevent it! The amoeboid encases Dr. Strange -- preparing to absorb him into its own body! He uses his enchanted amulet to magnify his mental energy -- into rays powerful enough to shatter the amoeboid... As the amulet begins to throb with its pulsing glow (Holy Jen Contino, Batman!), the master of the mystic arts disappears, enveloped by the amoeboid attacker! (Holy dead letter office, Batman!)

A burst of blinding light and explosive energies -- Dr. Strange is free! The amoeboid changes form once again -- and flees! The master of the mystic arts sees that his foe is flying so slowly, as if he wishes to be followed! Dr. Strange soon finds himself outside a dusky dwelling, and knows that he needs no crystal ball to warn him of danger! He goes on -- in order to learn where the dread one has sent the girl! Inside the palace, the master of the mystic arts finds his foe awaiting him... He tells Tazza that he seeks naught but information... Tazza tells him that Dormammu has already warned him of his intentions, but he is invincible! Others have found themselves in the kingdom of Tazza, and they are all around him -- and none have ever returned from whence they came! They are here, alive but immobile, for all eternity!

Tazza refuses Dr. Strange's humble request and prepares for him to join the ranks of the other unmoving beings in his hall... (Holy Jemas, Batman!) The master of the mystic arts points out that one of the forms behind Tazza is ... moving! The ruler sees one of the defeated heroes preparing to attack him!! The former captive heads slowly towards his captor, but is defeated once again! Another captive awakens, and Tazza wonders if his battle with Dr. Strange has weakened his age-old spell upon them? A magical gesture shields Tazza from any rash attacks! A third captive has risen to battle Tazza, who may have to conquer them all!

At the very second that Tazza's mystical spell strikes the former captive, the invisible astral form of Dr. Strange abandons the body... The ruler's enchanted bolts cannot truly harm the bodies of those already under his spell! In this way, the master of the mystic arts was able to force Tazza to expend much of his magical energies on useless targets! (Holy Human Target, Batman! Dr. Strange isn't taking any chances!) Once his astral form has re-entered his body, and after having tested the extent of his powers, Dr. Strange issues a challenge for the deciding battle! The ruler realizes that it had been his visitor who somehow restored movement to his captives! Tazza is confident that he possesses more than enough power to defeat him, but Dr. Strange believes that the ruler is overestimating himself! His mystic shield easily wards off the mightiest of blows! In truth, the master of the mystic arts doesn't know which of them possesses the greater magic -- yet he must goad his foe into attacking recklessly! He launches an offensive of his own! Tazza finds his own spell sent back at him!

Dr. Strange finds that Tazza attacks more skillfully than even he had imagined! For the moment, he can't strike back -- he must choose the exact moment to act --! Tazza has surrounded him by a mighty myriad of deadly energy rings! With a single mystical gesture, the master of the mystic arts lays waste to the encircling bands! Tazza is shocked that Dr. Strange was able to overcome the spell! The moment of the ultimate gambit has come... with the master of the mystic arts asking for Tazza's surrender, but the ruler bursts free, only to find his own defenses breached by his own carelessness! Held in place by Dr. Strange's spell, Tazza is asked for the girl's location in the dark dimensions! The ruler knows nothing about the female -- he only knows that the dread one warned him that Dr. Strange came to destroy him!

The master of the mystic arts knows that Tazza is speaking the truth, then orders him to release the spirits of those victims kept in bondage over the years, and releases the ruler once the deed has been done! The eager spirits praise Dr. Strange for his deeds, as they eagerly merge with their physical forms... All are now free to go, and if Tazza decides to treat strangers harshly, then he will clash again with the master of the mystic arts! The former captives thank Dr. Strange and hope that they can someday repay him for freeing them! In the Dark Dimension -- the fearful mercenary Asti faces the Dread Dormammu... The dread one tells the talking mask that he is merely toying with his foe, until he is truly ready to crush him! And there can be no mistake -- crush him he shall! As as the words are spoken, the weary master of the mystic arts heads for home... He must rest for a time, but he must soon rescue the girl who helped him! Then, he and the dread one may find themselves in final battle -- so he must prepare for that distant day!

In 1966, Star Trek premiered... with the opening lines... "Where No Man Has Gone Before..."

The girl's fate at the hands of Dormammu is so dreadful, Dr. Strange clutches at his cloak of levitation against the chilling moment on the splash page.

Asti is a floating yellow mask with red eyes and mouth. He resembles Hawkman's mask in appearance.

In some panels, Tazza resembles a precursor in appearance to Annihilus.

Roy Thomas seems to be having fun with the captions and dialogue. It clearly shows that he was an English teacher, especially when it comes to the alliteration in the action.

The first captive has a green helmet, green sleeves, orange tunic, orange gloves, and orange boots. The second captive has a white cowl, white outfit, and blue trim. He resembles the Silver Scarab from Infinity Inc. The third captive has a purple cowl, a purple winged cape, and pink outfit. He looks like a cross between Batman and the Man Called Nova.

Dr. Strange employs clever use of his astral form to make the captives move again. His astral form is invisible and intangible, and has been seen by The Incredible Hulk.

Steve Ditko draws the world of Dr. Strange and Dormammu as if he's been there in person. Thanks to this artist, we readers can visit such realms for ten pages a month.

Interestingly enough, the mystic spells employed by Dr. Strange and Tazza are quite visual, but silent, and no Simekian sound effects to bowl us over. Still, Artie Simek is a master when it comes to composition and placement of word balloons and captions for maximum effect. When I think of Marvel letterstyle, I automatically think of him and Sam Rosen.

This Review Is Dedicated To J.K. Carrier, Hoy Murphy, and Kevin Grady

Steve Chung
"Where Man Hath Never Reviewed!"