Wednesday, September 18, 2019

In The Mind Of The Mystic!


When we last left Dr. Strange and his revered master, the Ancient One, all hell was breaking loose at the Crypts of Kaa-u--"hell," of course, meaning the evil creature known as Shuma-Gorath, who has surprised Strange by springing forth from the mind of his dying mentor, while assuming his image. Yet the Ancient One has told his disciple that he wished to be brought to the Crypts because he realized that he was nearing the end of his life and so took steps to hasten his death--which is what Shuma-Gorath desires to happen, since it will mean the evil one's rebirth. Has the Ancient One not thought this through?

It's unlikely that the Ancient One is helping Shuma-Gorath of his own free will, since he's already lashed out at the Shadowmen (who are carrying out the orders of the Living Buddha, one of Shuma-Gorath's followers) when they threatened Strange's life; we only know that his doing so played right into the hands of Shuma-Gorath. So what's the explanation here? We'll let Shuma-Gorath himself explain how the Ancient One has been the key to his rebirth all along.




Shuma-Gorath's elucidation doesn't quite cover all the bases, since we don't know what threshold of the Ancient One's decline will provide sufficient energy for releasing Shuma-Gorath into our reality--but we can assume that Shuma-Gorath for now must continue to gestate inside the Ancient One's mind, feeding off of his mystic energy until that threshold is reached. If that's the case, then it's a race against time for Strange to stop him--and as he's said, he has an idea of where to start.




Yet that plan may or may not pan out, since it involves the crucified image of Strange which he first regarded as either warning or prophesy on the part of Shuma-Gorath, but which he discovered came from the Ancient One's thoughts instead. That state of torment appears to no longer be the case--but with his foe so deeply embedded within the Ancient One's mind, will Strange have the time to make use of what he finds?

The answer comes in an approaching storm of anger, as the horror of Shuma-Gorath at last stands revealed.






The scene which shows other mystics sensing the conflict is a nice touch by Brunner and Englehart, serving to heighten the story's tension and give the threat of Shuma-Gorath a more far-reaching and deadly aspect that could indeed result in the end of the human race as we know it, should this writhing, ancient evil prevail this day.

As is evident, Strange's merging with his "double" has proven to be futile--and now out of options, and out of time, he's forced to pursue the one course of action that even the Ancient One would have wanted him to take, which will mark a true turning point in this second phase of the character's publication life.






As the Crypts of Kaa-u crumble into rubble, with the Living Buddha and the Shadowmen arguably getting their just deserts while being caught up in the carnage, Strange's thoughts, filled with grief and even shame, have him on the verge of renouncing his sorcerous vocation--until a voice from a most unexpected source offers an explanation that turns despair to wonderment, in a splendid sequence by the story's co-creators that bids farewell to a longstanding character and, for the first time, leaves Stephen Strange to discover his own destiny.





It was frankly surprising to me that the Crypts bit the dust, given that Englehart established them as the official tomb of all of the Ancient Ones. (Imagine Strange having to look forward to being called the Ancient One.) Granted, none of the Ancients would have wanted their resting place tainted by the presence of vicious armed warriors and unsavory characters such as the Buddha and the Shadowmen--though Englehart could have had Strange, in his grief, purge them all from the premises. On the other hand, if your crypt is instead going to be an alcove that displays your skeleton, standing, like some sort of trophy, perhaps it's time to consider a new design for such a sacred resting place.

As for Shuma-Gorath, the door is left open here for his return, which indeed takes place a number of times beginning in the late '80s and continuing into the 2010s, the conflicts drawing in mainstream characters such as Luke Cage, the Avengers, and the FF, along with a number of others. Whether it's occurred to the Ancient One that the efforts of himself and Strange to end the creature's threat were for naught is anyone's guess; though he must think it ironic that, in his current state, he's now one with Shuma-Gorath, as well.

Marvel Premiere #10

Script: Steve Englehart
Pencils: Frank Brunner
Inks: Singing Sons of the Crusty Bunkers
Letterer: John Costanza

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