Strange Tales #140: "The Pincers of Power!"

Strange Tales #140
 "The Pincers Of Power!"
 January, 1966

 Script: STAN LEE
 Lettering: SAM ROSEN
 (What More Can You Ask?)

 The Master of the Mystic Arts has battled Baron Mordo to a standstill! Upon the defeat of his catspaw, the Dread Dormammu intervenes, personally...

 The Dread One has seen enough! With a wave of his hand, he has sent Doctor Strange, the Ancient One, and Mordo to a neutral dimension! No longer will he stomach the witless incompetent Mordo battling on his behalf! Now, the Master of the Mystic Arts shall have to contend with Dormammu himself! A sleeping potion is created... and sent with blinding speed... to where the Mindless Ones battle among themselves beyond the protective barrier! The potion puts them to sleep... one which shall endure until Dormammu has accomplished what he must do! With no need to maintain the protective barrier, he allows it to fade into nothingness... and conserving his power! Dormammu sends mental messages to the rulers of neighboring dimensions! Each of them have reason to know his power... and to fear it! They will not dare ignore the Dread One's summons!

 The Master of the Mystic Arts, his aged mentor, and the Baron arrive in a lifeless dimension at the edge of infinity! The Ancient One knows that Mordo could never hope to defeat his disciple, a statement that the former disciple refuses to admit as fact! As Doctor Strange renders Mordo helpless with a gesture, the Ancient One urges him to conserve his own power! The deadly game is about to begin, but the method eludes them for the moment! They see others entering through doorways from other dimensions, and all have come in answer to Dormammu's summons! They are the lords of the netherworlds... the overseers of dimensions! The Ancient One is known to them... and these alien despots are known to him! Doctor Strange pledges his service and his own life to his master, just as Mordo identifies himself as servant to the Dread One himself!

 Dormammu demands the Baron remain silent! The Master of the Mystic Arts observes the Dread One arriving in person! As he strides down the golden path, Dormammu shoves his follower aside, and comments how the mere sight of Mordo serves to remind him how useless he has proven to be! The Dread One challenges Doctor Strange to meet him in mortal combat! To the victor goes the prize of prizes... total mastery of the Earth, and the supreme voice in the high council of the known dimensions! The Master of the Mystic Arts has no other choice but to accept the challenge!

 There are those who wish Dormammu to be the victor! There are others who realize that the Dread One may not be content with the Earth and seek out their realms next! Doctor Strange accepts the challenge! Their sole weapons shall be their mystic minds... and the enchanted pincers of power! Neither of them shall use any other spells or incantations! As the pincers are handed to him, the Master of the Mystic Arts agrees to the terms! He bequeaths his amulet and cloak of levitation to his honored master! No matter what happens, the Master of the Mystic Arts promises to not bring any dishonor to his master! The Ancient One hopes that the hoary hand of Hoggoth rests lightly upon his disciple's brow and the eternal eye of Agamotto not turn from him! His illness has sapped his strength and the Ancient One can only offer his blessing! This will suffice! The mortal turns to face his destiny!

 It is skill and not power that will determine the outcome! They are both evenly matched! Unbeknownst to the mortal magician, the girl from the Dark Dimension has been forced to watch the proceedings from her captivity! Mordo seethes with hatred for Doctor Strange and longs for his defeat to be long... and painful! The Dread One has more experience with the pincers... but Doctor Strange's arm is strong... and his eye is steady... and his own courage shall not falter! He does not battle only for himself, but for the fate of a world! CLAK! Dormammu's pincer locks upon his own! His hand will become paralyzed if he does not break free!

 The Master of the Mystic Arts employs an unexpected move to flip the Dread One over! Even while falling, Dormammu manages to kick his feet from under him! THOK! The Dread One manages to trap both of his pincers! It looks like Doctor Strange is surely beaten! As the Baron taunts his former mentor, the Ancient One's attention is upon his disciple! If Dormammu's pincer touches his head, his brain will become stupefied, and his will shall become the Dread One's! Doctor Strange whirls about, causing Dormammu's hands to strike each other...! The pain of the pincers causes the Dread One to lose his grip!

 Dormammu is no longer gloating, as he is thrown by the mortal magician! The Dread One regains his feet and is confident in his centuries of study in the art of combat! Doctor Strange reminds him how he has pledged his own life to be the Dread One's superior! Dormammu demands that the mortal yield! Doctor Strange smiles and assures his opponent that this will not be so, while there is still life remaining within him! In the Dark Dimension, the girl wonders when this nightmare will come to an end! The mortal magician's courage is admired by many, and Mordo calls out to Dormammu to end their common foe!

 The Dread One attacks with renewed vigor and keeps Doctor Strange's arms pinned back! His strength is such that no mere mortal could dream to match it! With both hands pinned, the Master of the Mystic Arts watches as Dormammu's other pincer comes closer! As the Dread One insists he beg for mercy, Doctor Strange hurls himself towards his opponent... and uses the element of surprise to seize the moment! The science of judo is used to turn the Dread One's own strength against him!

 Now, it is the Master of the Mystic Arts who has his opponent's hands pinned beneath him! The Ancient One's disciple has brought credit to his aged mentor! Mordo cannot believe his own eyes! Dormammu is being defeated by Doctor Strange! This must not be! Now, the Baron seizes his chance to redeem himself in the eyes of his dread master! He prepares an unseen spell...! Only the girl in the Dark Dimension sees his actions... and is powerless to halt the villainous Mordo...! The Ancient One senses his disciple's imminent danger... and tries to counteract Mordo's spell, only to have his recent illness weaken his once-formidable power... ZAPT! "UNHHH....! The mortal magician has been downed and his opponent stands over him!

 I first read this story when it was reprinted in Marvel's Greatest Super-Hero Battles.

 The Dread One knows how to reach out and touch someone.

 The sleeping potion manufactured by Dormammu resembles a green mace with a face.

 As the Mindless Ones enjoy their involuntary slumber, the protective barrier is gone for the duration, and one wonders if anyone would find the Dark Dimension to be the ideal vacation spot.

 It would be a few issues later when the girl from the Dark Dimension tells the Master of the Mystic Arts that her name is Clea.

 Both combatants talk a good fight, thanks to letterer Sam Rosen.

 Steve Chung
 "The Pincers Of Review!"