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Strange Tales 155
"The Fearful Finish --!"


(Originally Reviewed On 8/09/01)

A Mystical Marvel Masterwork By: STAN LEE and MARIE SEVERIN Lettered By ARTIE SIMEK Reviewed By STEVE CHUNG
...Because A Wealth Of Enthralling Enchantment Awaits Thee, And Not A Wondrous Word Is To Be Missed...!

In the previous issue, The Unspeakable Umar has send a deadly spell across the distance of infinity towards the imprisoned Clea, and even as the enchantment begins to head for its victim, The Master of The Mystic Arts moves with the speed of thought! (Holy Speed Force, Batman!)

He uses the Vapors of Valtorr and the Roving Rings of Raggadorr in making his progress past the dreaded spell, and Clea is now in his line of sight, where she is suspended in tme, and in the bleak castle of Umar, she has just completed casting her spell for Clea's death, but as she turns, only a faint vibration remains of Dr. Strange! Reaching his goal, The Master of The Mystic Arts turns and commands in the name of The Ancient One that "Let that which is, be not! Let that which was, live on! Let Clea be forgot! Reverse thy course! Begone!" (Yup, and the spell knows better than to argue with a magician with the stunning visual appearance by Marie Severin and the vocabulary of Stan Lee)

Holding hands with Clea, Dr. Strange acts as her protector, maintaining physical contact, and begins to move with blinding speed! By the secrets of the seraphim, they move faster than any have ever gone before, but in doing so, they find themselves on an interdimensional road of perdition, and if they make contact with their other selves, they will be trapped, not to mention if they float off the track, they will be trapped in limbo! Using his amulet, the band is severed and FZZZASP! everything goes black and white...

Both are now in the realm of non-existence and await the coming of their other selves, and when it comes to pass, both merge back into one! Clea is floored by what she has seen and knows that Umar will not be long in striking back, while Dr. Strange regrets that he lacks a spell to allay her fears, and so, both are aloft in swift flight, but Umar has spotted them, and the land which they stand on begins to attack them as if it were alive!

While The Master of The Mystic Arts conjures, Clea is caught in its grip, and the fiery flames of the faltine free her from the not-so good earth! Since the trip across the dark dimension is too far, Dr. Strange uses the spell of thought to contact The Ancient One, who learns of their situation in The Dark Dimension...

A bridge of elemental thought is soon formed, and The Ancient One has shown the way, but a dark storm is spanning the dimensions, and seeks to drive them away, but although he is a univese away, The Ancient One senses the storm, and concentrates his very life essence in the struggle! Sometime later, Dr. Strange arrives in the archway of The Ancient One with Clea in his arms.

The Ancient One seems tired, but Dr. Strange can tell that more is on the mind of his teacher, whose face is filled with fear! Umar is still about to strike, so powerful is she that no one on Earth is safe from her, and only the spell of vanishment can give Clea safety, but to Stephen Strange, he knows that it is the most dreaded spell of all! The Ancient One bids his disciple leave so that he may complete the spell in private, and so powerful is the spell that the words are not revealed on the page, while outside, Dr. Strange knows that none have ever returned from the spell of vanishment, but he also knows that she'll be safe from Umar!

The spell is over and Clea is safe, but Stephen Strange knows that he has lost her, and intends to return to the dark dimension to confront The Unspeakable One for what she has wrought, but The Ancient One tells him no! Hers is the power of Dormammu and it grows stronger by every hour and his student's rage has caused him to forget this fact, as Umar is not an evil foe, she is evil incarnate! Dr. Strange knows that his mentor speaks the truth, but still does he seek Umar's destruction, and for the first time, he will disobey his master! For if Umar lives, then his training has been in vain and there is no true justice, while faith will also perish. The Ancient One is proud of his student , but is also sorry for what he must do, as he binds Dr. Strange with mystic spells...

The Master of The Mystic Arts would rather die a thousand deaths than to even consider attacking his teacher, and believes that The Ancient One seeks to remove his power, but the elder says no, only seeking to save his disciple from himself! Knowing that the spell of vanishment cannot be used since the scroll itself disappeared with Clea, Stephen Strange wonders if his aged mentor has gone mad?!? It is not the spell of vanishment which must be done, but still must Dr. Strange be sent from this very sphere of existence, and as the Doctor wonders what The Ancient One has in mind, he turns and tells his startled pupil that if he remains in the chamber, indeed, in this very universe, he will most certainly meet his end, for as The Ancient One gazes at an hourglass tells him that UMAR WALKS THE EARTH!

I first came across this story in Origins of Marvel Comics, with its unforgettable beginning and stunning ending, as you wonder with Stephen Strange if The Ancient One has taken leave of his senses, and if he must get outta Dodge before Umar arrives!

This past July, I was fortunate to meet Marie Severin, who was kind enough to sign this book, and has such a splendid handwriting, as she remembers these Dr. Strange stories quite fondly, and remembers happy times working with Herb Trimpe on the inks.

Leave it to Stan Lee to come up with exquisite incantations, while Marie Severin presents a most magnificent Master of The Mystic Arts, and captivating Clea, while giving us a unique tour through the dark dimension, which would give Wally West the runs.

Her art is quite dramatic and is evocative of that of Bill Everett, with simple use of linework, so much is achieved in the storytelling.

One of the earliest stories I've read back in 1976 at age 8, back at elementary school in San Bruno, when my cousin sought to check out Origins of Marvel Comics, and a certain web-slinger's origin caught my eye, so much so that I grabbed it out of his hands, checked it out, and raced up the hill to read it at once, not disappointed at all.

This review is dedicated to Tom Orzechowski The Caliph of Caligraphy and Lord of Lettering.

Steve Chung
"The Fearful Finished Review --!"