There wasn't a great deal of subtlety in the 1964 match-up between Dr. Strange and the Asgardian god of mischief, Loki. On the other hand, maybe you don't need to bother with subtlety, when you've got fanfare like this working for you:
There's a certain lopsided aspect to this face-off--Strange, an adept in the mystic arts but nevertheless a mortal, vs. an Asgardian god whose power is off the scale and knows mysticism on many levels. Writer Stan Lee doesn't hesitate to acknowledge the fact, yet still creates a solid story; and it's to artist Steve Ditko's credit that it comes off as visually captivating as it does. In later years, a writer like Steve Englehart or Chris Claremont might have given this kind of struggle room to breathe and explored its impact on Strange, as was the case when the character faced Dracula; but with only one issue at their disposal, and only eleven pages of it at that, Lee and Ditko still leave us with a tale which covers most of the bases we would want it to.
As with most stories involving Loki seeking to strike out at Thor (never mind the fact that in terms of success, Loki "strikes out" almost every time), Lee sticks to a typical formula of Loki attempting to locate a gullible super-being to manipulate into doing his bidding. For what he has planned, in this case he only needs a certain skill set, which Strange has to offer.
(It's odd how often Loki has plotted to steal the hammer of Thor, expecting to wield it once it's in his possession. Exactly how he plans to use it as a weapon remains unclear, given that "worthy" isn't one of the words we'd normally associate with Loki.)
With the deed done, Strange soon realizes that the evil he sensed is due to Loki himself, and he wastes no time in moving against him--to the utter astonishment of Loki, who's probably more amazed by Strange's presumption than by any power he brings to bear. Nevertheless, what Strange lacks in power, he makes up for in tactics, and he uses what power he has wisely and well. And in a crucial moment, he's able to defeat Loki's plan, if not Loki himself.
(We'll have to assume that Thor was flying at cloud-level if he was still in mid-fall by the time his hammer returned to him. Combined with the tweak in Strange's incantation, that's not such an unreasonable leap to ask the reader to make.)
With Loki now realizing he's on borrowed time, he begins to go all-out in his battle against Strange--and though Strange is resourceful, he realizes the capabilities and power of his foe all too clearly. It also has to be disheartening when Loki makes it clear that, under the circumstances, he's only facing Strange with a fraction of his might. (Strange might have sought a psychological edge, and responded with "Fool! Do you think I would waste my full might on a trickster like you? I could end this battle in a heartbeat, if I wished! You but amuse me, nothing more!" If nothing else, the look on Loki's face would be priceless--the split-second before he reduced Strange to a blot on the carpet, that is.
Regardless, Strange battles on--until unexpected help arrives.
In spite of his parting vow, whatever vendetta he held against Strange appears to indeed have been forgotten by Loki, at least to my knowledge. But if actor Tom Hiddleston has his way, we just might get a spectacular rematch on the big screen someday.
|Strange Tales #123 |
Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Steve Ditko
Inks: George Bell
Letterer: Art Simek