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Strange Tales 157
"The End of The Ancient One!"


(Originally Reviewed On 7/31/01)

Produced By The Masters of Mythopeia: Spellbinding Magical STAN and MARIE LEE SEVERIN

Inking: Lettering: HERB TRIMPE ARTIE SIMEK By their amulets ye shall know them!

The creature known as Zom has been freed to deal with the menace of The Unspeakable Umar, but with her gone, Zom is now the greatest threat of all, as The Ancient One and his pupil, Dr. Strange learn to their regret! (Holy Iron Mike, Batman! This creature has mitts bigger than Mike Tyson's!)

Dr. Strange senses that Zom seeks to snare them in the Seven Bands of Cyttorak, and his mentor knows that if the strands meet, they will be doomed! Zom is determined to destroy all mankind, but first he must slay them, and he begins to tighten the strands, but Dr. Strange manages to sever them... A momentary respite, for Zom seeks to attack again, as he is mystic power incarnate, and The Ancient One warns his student that it is time for his final rest, and that Zom must slay the aged teacher, for only in his defeat can he pass his powers onto Dr. Strange! He will have none of it, as he races for his teacher, but The Ancient One knows that only Dr. Strange can save the world from Zom! The large creature gestures and sends The Ancient One into the heart of a stone pillar, where his essence is to be fused forever, even as the elderly mage seeks to warn his pupil about the coming of...

Seeing his mentor fall, Stephen Strange cries that in the name of the all-seeing, on the site of Stonehenge, in the name of the all-freeing, he will be avenged, but as he asks what The Ancient One meant by the coming, Zom seeks to destroy him, just as the final words of The Ancient One refer to the forelock, and he is gone. With no time for grief, Dr. Strange seeks to fathom the mystery of the forelock, and Zom casts a spell of distortion, and The Master of The Mystic Arts finds himself within a mystic maze of madness, which he must escape before he becomes a nameless, shapeless nihility! (Holy Liefield, Batman!) In the name of the vishanti and his deceased teacher, he ends the distortion!

Dr. Strange feels a new surge of power coursing through him, for The Ancient One in his sacrifice has bequeathed his power to his student, and Stephen Strange seeks to be worthy, as he invokes the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth and crush Zom! As he soars towards the giant, Zom casts one sweep and shatters a pillar, and at that moment, Dr. Strange senses that the forelock must be referring to Zom's hair! (Holy Homer, Batman!) Another sweep and Zom shatters another pillar, as he sees Dr. Strange drift closer on his cloak of levitation, and not so much as making a gesture to stop The Master of The Mystic Arts. Dr. Strange studies the forelock, and realizes that some weakness must be there. Even closer does he drift, as Zom speaks of mankind's destruction, and other conquests, as well...

Now! Dr. Strange seizes the forelock, as Zom gloats as how Dormammu and Eternity couldn't stop him, but he senses his forelock, and trembles! Merciless fiend whose mane I entwine, do what you will, these strands must be mine! (By the all-powerful Stan, it sure beats a pair of scissors, doesn't it?) Zom seeks to reclaim his forelock, but the amulet frees it, and Dr. Strange falls back, only to have his cloak snared by a last desperate lunge from Zom!

Casting a spell with the Vapors of Valtorr, Dr. Strange lands on the ground, while Zom begins to burn, and Stephen Strange sees his foe cry in agony, as he senses an aura of menace in the air! Zom is gripped with fear without his forelock, as The Master of The Mystic Arts ponders the words of The Ancient One about the coming... and using the all-seeing Eye of Agamotto, he sees the faces of people from all over the world, who are all awakening, for they too are practitioners of the mystic arts, and sense the aura of evil! Zom has regained his senses and resumes the attack!

Zom tells Dr. Strange that because of his rash act, all is lost, and as The Master of The Mystic Arts seeks to learn what happened to his mentor, Zom speaks of the coming of... The Living Tribunal! Holding the forelock before him, Dr. Strange asks about The Living Tribunal, who and what its powers may be, but... THOOM! By The Lettering of Simek, Dr. Strange is driven back by the force of Zom's mystic thunderclap, losing the forelock in the bargain! With the approach of The Tribunal, Dr. Strange must be destroyed so that Zom may face it on his own!

With the reverberation subsiding, Zom does not continue the attack, and the next instant, a mystic light is seen coming over the horizon, and a booming voice commands that the hour of judgement has come! Zom knows that The Tribunal is almost upon them, and if such as he may be rendered impotent, then this must be some incomprehensible force, indeed! Dr. Strange uses a spell of revival on the pillar where The Ancient One was snared, but some unknown force has shattered the incantation before it could take form... The Power of The Living Tribunal! In despair, Stephen Strange's hands cradle the pillar as his friend... his teacher... and brother has been taken from him, his life for the life of his student, but the final challenge awaits,and he must prove worthy of that trust! Sensing the presence of another, Stephen Strange is about to turn, as The Living Tribunal has arrived...

Zom's growling voice freezes him in his tracks, as he seeks to use the Demons of Denak to seal Dr. Strange's life in the ultimate doom! (By The Book of Bendis, this must not be!) With the power of The Ancient One, Dr. Strange is able to burst free of the spell, while the Mystic Moons of Munnopor shatters it completely... with the soundless sound fast approaching, and a fury with which the heavens turn ashen... Before his eyes, the burning figure of Zom begins to be engulfed in flame, once more to be imprisoned, as he was before, but with the severing of the forelock, a sense of evil has risen in the minds of the mystics of mankind, and because of the actions of one man, a grave threat now exists which now threatens the worlds beyond worlds...

For this action, Dr. Strange and the planet Earth must be totally destroyed, as is the judgement of The LIVING TRIBUNAL! And the man known as Stephen Strange can only stare in shock, as he sees the towering golden figure, whose features are partially concealed within a white hood, its glowing eyes staring blankly outward, its chest emitting a bright beam of light, and its disembodied head cast in an aura of seraphim! This is the sight that Dr. Strange must ward off with his arms.... until next month!

I first came across this story in the Dr. Strange Marvel Treasury Edition back in 1975, with stories by O'Neil, Thomas, Ditko, Brunner, Colan, and Severin. Very memorable read, indeed.

Zom wouldn't look out of place in the W.W.F. alongside The Undertaker and Kane, with his hairy countenance, and torso, looking like a cross between Sasquatch and an Elvis impersonator.

The incantations by Stan Lee are way out and quite as formidable as a punch and quip from Spidey would be.

At San Diego, I was fortunate enough to meet Marie Severin, who was pleased to see that someone remembers and enjoys her work. She was happy to see Herb Trimpe's name on the inks, as they did compliment each other on the art, and I did mention that I did meet Mr. Trimpe at Wondercon this past April, so in that respect, it was a very good year.

Unique are the challenges that The Master of The Mystic Arts must face, and the introduction of The Living Tribunal is no exception, rivaling Galactus in his other-worldliness, it makes me wonder how such would-be Wapners as Ronan The Accuser and The Guardians of The Universe would fare against him.

It's funny, as a seven-year old in 1975, I wasn't scared by the appearance of Zom or The Living Tribunal (pronouncing the latter's name as Try-Bun-all), but as an adult, I would lose a brick if I caught sight of either one of them. It would make jury duty all the more interesting, though.

Steve Chung
"The End of The Review!"