Strange Tales #131: "The Hunter And The Hunted!"

Strange Tales #131
 "The Hunter And The Hunted!"
 April, 1965

 Written In A Stygian Swampland By... STAN LEE
 Drawn In A Dismal Dungeon By... STEVE DITKO
 Lettered In A Conjurer's Castle By... ARTIE SIMEK
 Reviewed In A Massive Moat By... STEVE CHUNG

 Our story thus far... Baron Mordo has been aided by the Dread Dormammu and has Doctor Strange on the run!! Although the Master of the Mystic Arts in Hong Kong, he is capable of fighting back!

 A solitary figure makes his way along the gloom of a Hong Kong street... Doctor Strange has been using himself as a decoy to draw the threat of Mordo away from the Ancient One! He wonders how much longer can he elude the Baron's power. If only he could learn how Mordo has gotten so powerful! He cannot fight what he cannot understand! The minions of Mordo have spotted their prey and they know their master will reward them for this evening's work! As they attack, the Master of the Mystic Arts blinds them with his amulet!! Before they can assume a new attack, Doctor Strange uses both magical spells and bare fists to render his two assailants unconscious! Meanwhile, their master stands in the temple which once houses the Ancient One, and he is in communication with the Dread Dormammu! The follower knows there can be no second chances and he also knows that they are allies -- not master and slave! Their alliance only lasts as long as the Dread One finds him useful!

 Once contact has been broken, Mordo summons one of his disciples and sends him to Hong Kong to find Doctor Strange! The disciple will be his eyes -- his ears -- and his hands! The follower's mind goes blank as his masters recites these words -- "Let your body vanish -- and your atoms race -- with speed of thought through time and space!" Once the incantation and mystic sign have been made, Mordo's disciple finds himself in Hong Kong, and his brain throbs with a life all of its own! Mordo is inhabiting his body and directs him to a smuggler's den! Once inside the waterfront den, the disciple speaks for Baron Mordo, and commands them to search all of Hong Kong for Doctor Strange! When they refuse, Mordo appears in the air before them!

 The Baron makes an example of them by unleashing the Vapors of Valtorr and snaring one of their number! When they bow to his will, Mordo orders them to go, and releases the captive so that he may aid in the search! Now, the oriental underworld has joined with Mordo's followers in the search for the Master of the Mystic Arts! They continue to search under threat of Mordo's wrath! Ethereal sinister spirit forms also float in search of Doctor Strange in Hong Kong! It is known that the Master of the Mystic Arts is somewhere within the city, but there is no trace of the hunted! We are about to find him...

 In a crowded airport, an airline ticket changes hands, and Doctor Strange vows to remain hidden until his flight's departure! He is aware that anyone he passes may be in league with Mordo! Although others may not detect the grim spectres who search for him, the Master of the Mystic Arts can perceive them! The best place for him is down at the waterfront! Even if he is seen, it will be assumed that he will be escaping by boat, and not by air! His mystical senses warn him about several bystanders who are now surrounding him! As he unleashes the Shades of the Seraphim, they are upon him!

 The Master of the Mystic Arts is well-armed with his knowledge of sorcery, muscle power, and fighting skill! He is also one man fighting many foes! Doctor Strange uses a stronger spell and the powers of the Vishanti to cause them to disperse at his command! Mordo's disciple is just around the other corner, and his master is eager to locate his quarry! Before another attack begins, the Master of the Mystic Arts creates an illusion to make his enemies uncertain of which image is his true self! The illusion succeeds and he has to hold out a while longer!

 When Mordo's disciple arrives on the scene... his master disperses the illusion, vows to seek out his prey... and utterly destroy him! As Doctor Strange makes his way along the alleyways and back streets of Hong Kong, he can sense Mordo's sheer hatred radiating towards him! One of the wraths has spotted him! As others approach, Doctor Strange creates his multiple body illusion once more, and enables each illusory figure to hypnotize their opponent!!

 As the wraths are hypnotized in mystic confusion, the Master of the Mystic Arts continues on his way to the airport! He realizes he cannot successfully battle Baron Mordo here on his home territory and their next battle must be at a time and place of his own choosing! As long as Mordo possesses his increased power and the Anicent One remains in hiding -- Doctor Strange will never stop fighting the Baron! Mordo's agents are at the aiport and the Master of the Mystic Arts can feel their stifling auras of evil! If they see him, he will never make his flight! He must reach the aircraft and spots a cargo handler! By the Seven Rings of Raggadorr, the innocent one's will is his own and he will obey as commanded -- and when they are done -- he will remember nothing of what has happened!

 As the cargo handler changes direction, Doctor Strange knows that Mordo's followers will sense his presence, and will be unable to directly pinpoint his location! The cargo handler drives under the wing of the waiting aircraft -- concealing the Master of the Mystic Arts' movements! He senses another spirit hovering above! Once the evil wrath has departed, Doctor Strange makes his move, and boards his flight! The evil spirit enters the plane, under personal direction of Baron Mordo...! The moment of truth has arrived! The Master of the Mystic Arts assumes his astral form to battle Mordo's wrath! No matter what happens, the other passengers will remain unaware! "By the Omnipotent Oshtur!" "By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!" "In the name of the Eternal Vishanti!" He bids the wrath begone and return to the nothingness from whence it came!

 Mordo senses that he has been thwarted and is no longer able to sense his victim! He can only see through the eyes of others and they are too far away from his foe! The Baron bids his wraths to fly and prepare for the imminent death of Doctor Strange! The Master of the Mystic Arts witnesses their approach and has time for a new plan! The astral form of Doctor Strange garbs himself in the manner of Mordo's wraths! Now what happens next depends upon deception -- and the sheer witlessness of his spirit pursuers! In his astral form, he can fly as they do! He waves his arms to signal that their quarry has vanished! The wraths return to their master for further instructions and have no reason to suspect one of their own! Mordo figures that Strange must have created an illusion of himself to lure them to the airport while he remained hidden elsewhere! Had the Master of the Mystic Arts attempted to flee in his astral form, Mordo would have found him with a mere spell! It is not likely for the Baron to search this airplane for a second time! This is no victory, but a brief respite! Doctor Strange must learn the secret of Mordo's newfound power -- and unless he does, his own life will be forfeit! By the Crimson Bands of Cytorak, the creative team promises their mortal readers a mystic enchantment unseen in the next issue, and for the Vishanti to speak their names softly!

 The eyes of Mordo may be everywhere, but the brains of his followers leave much to be desired.

 The fugitive Master of the Mystic Arts is clad in a blue suit, yellow shirt, and brown hat.

 Dormammu's fiery visage is greenish in hue rather than crimson.

 The uniform worn by Mordo's disciple resembles Hank Pym's Ant-Man attire.

 The denizens of the smuggler's den learn the important lesson of never arguing with a floating head.

 Doctor Strange talks a good fight between punches and spells.

 The Master of the Mystic Arts has made it from a harsh battleground to the friendly skies by the end of this story.

 Steve Chung
 "The Reviewer And The Reviewed!"