Comics : Spider-Man Newspaper Strip 22 February 2016 -17 July 2016

Staff Only
Edit Review
Edit Title

This review was first published on: 26 May 2016.

Background...

Yes, I am going to try this again. Yes, I am crazy.

We left off on panel #6 of February 21, 2016 with Peter and Mary Jane in Washington Square Park. Autograph seekers surround MJ as Peter looks on. But Xandu the Unspeakable lurks in the shadows and he is seeking the Wand of Watoomb (because Xandu is always seeking the Wand of Watoomb). He somehow thinks MJ is "precisely the person" who can help him get the Wand. And our (no doubt, interminable) story begins!

In Detail...

"Dr. Strange!"
Spider-Man Newspaper Strip 22 February 2016 -17 July 2016
Feb 2016 : SM Title
Writer:  Stan Lee
Pencils:  Alex Saviuk (Sunday Strip), Larry Leiber (Daily Strips)
Inker:  Joe Sinnott
Staff Only
Issue
Review

February 22, 2016

Why did I bother with the recap from Sunday? This opening strip just repeats it, beginning with this caption from Stan: “In a Greenwich Village park, MJ is recognized by fans…” And we have three autograph seekers surrounding MJ, though they don’t quite look like the same ones from Sunday. (One looks like Queen Elizabeth II.) Peter stands in the background looking on and smiling. “I loved you in your Broadway play, Ms. Parker!” says one. “When’s the next Marvella movie out?” asks another. Panel #2 shows MJ signing an autograph in the background. Now there is but one autograph hound in the scene; a different person than the other three. Peter is there, his back to us now, as we focus in on the goateed, monocled man standing beside a tree. (His monocle in his left eye when it was in his right eye on Sunday.) “…But not only by fans,” says a particularly wordy Stan in a follow-up caption. And Xandu (the guy with the monocle) looks at MJ and thinks, “She’s the one I need to help me obtain the Wand of Watoomb!”

Now, those of us familiar with Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2, 1965 and Marvel Team-Up #21, May 1974 know all about Xandu and the Wand of Watoomb but this may all be new to the people of the Newspaper Strip universe. There was a story back in the early ‘90s that guest-starred Dr. Strange (Spider-Man Newspaper Strip: 20 April 1992 - 20 Oct 1992) but it did not have Xandu in it. (Not that many strip readers are going to remember back 24 years anyway.) So, even though you may be tired of Xandu and his Wand shtick, let’s try to look at this with fresh eyes and say, “Who is this mysterious guy next to the tree and what’s all this about a Wand of Watoomb?”

February 23, 2016

Leaving two happy autograph hounds behind, MJ and Peter walk away. I presume they are still in Washington Square Park but Larry couldn’t be bothered to draw a background today. MJ leans in and whispers to Pete, “One day, Tiger, I’m gonna startle some autograph seekers – by telling them my husband is really Spider-Man!” Panel #2 moves to a close-up of the couple as Pete whispers back, “Even if you did, honey, they wouldn’t believe you!” MJ smiles broadly at this. Panel #3 actually has a generic building in the background. The camera is now behind MJ and Pete as they walk down the street and because the camera is now behind them, we can see that the man with the hat and monocle is following them. (No sign of Pete’s spider-sense warning him of any danger, though.) That man thinks, “Can’t hear what they’re whispering…but what possible interest could their prattle be to Xandu?” I don’t know. Let’s ask Xandu when we see him. Oh, wait! You mean you’re Xandu! Anyone who thinks in the third person has got to be a villain but I’m wondering if those who didn’t already know this was Xandu get that he’s referring to himself. Maybe they think this guy is reporting to Xandu. Well, there I go again. Overthinking things. When I should really be focusing on Stan cleverly having Xandu think that the Parkers’ “prattle” is not interesting when the Parkers are revealing that Peter is Spider-Man. Good bit, Stan.

February 24, 2016

MJ and Peter stroll through the neighborhood. There are five other pedestrians, a car way in the background, a building, and a tree. MJ says, “Greenwich Village sure has changed. Years ago, it was full of bohemians, beatniks and hippies.” (Why is MJ waxing nostalgic about this? You have to remember that MJ was probably 18 when she first showed her face in Amazing Spider-Man #42 which was in 1966. That makes her about 68 years old now!) Peter (also 68 years old) says, “Nowadays, starving poets couldn’t afford a closet here on Bleecker Street.” And if they’re on Bleecker Street, they must be very near the large and ornate house of Dr. Strange. Sure enough, in panel #2, they approach the house on their right. MJ points at it and says, “I’ll bet the guy who lives there isn’t starving.” “Oh yeah,” says Pete, “Stephen Strange…M.D. and Sorcerer Supreme!” (As I mentioned in the February 22nd recap, Spidey and Doc have met before in the Strip-Verse.)

February 25, 2016

Peter and MJ stare up at Doc’s Bleecker Street home. “Didn’t you tell me you know the so-called ‘Dr. Strange’?” MJ whispers to Pete. “Not ‘so-called,’ MJ. That’s his real name,” Pete whispers back. Panel #2 shows only Pete and MJ’s heads, squeezed down low to accommodate the big word balloon in which Pete whispers, “And, yeah, our paths have crossed once or twice. Only, the next morning, I always wake up and figure I dreamed the whole thing.” The camera pulls back in panel #3 to show Pete and MJ from behind in the background. Xandu is in the foreground, peeking around the corner of a building and thinking, “Now I wish I could overhear what those two are saying!” Yeah, Xandu! It’s not prattle now!

February 26, 2016

Standing in front of Doc’s mansion, MJ whispers, “Can we drop in on your old buddy?” Pete whispers back, “Dr. Strange and I aren’t ‘buddies.’ We just joined forces once or twice. The first time, it was to stop a crazy sorcerer named Xandu.” In panel #2, Xandu continues to peek around the corner of a building. The pedestrian behind him seems oblivious to this obvious spying. (It is the Village, after all!) Xandu, who must be one heck of a lip reader thinks, “Eh? Did that one just whisper my name? Impossible! It must be the wind.”

So, now we have come to a bit of a continuity snag. It is true that the first time Spidey teamed up with Dr. Strange, they battled Xandu…in the comics. In the Strip-Verse, the first time Spidey teamed with Strange, Xandu was nowhere to be seen. And we know it was the first time they met because Doc is performing on stage as a magician and Peter thinks he is a phony. So what can we make of this strange merging of the two continuities? Some aftereffect of Secret Wars? Or maybe it’s that it’s the newspaper strip and we’re not going to worry about continuity, are we?

February 27, 2016

More whispering in front of Dr. Strange’s house. MJ puts her hand on Pete’s shoulder and whispers, “I’ll bet Dr. Strange would be glad to see you.” Peter raises his hand as he whispers back, “As Spider-Man – maybe. But he doesn’t know Peter Parker from Adam.” In panel #2, Larry gives up drawing Doc’s house and gives us a blank background as the whispering continues. “And it wouldn’t be a good idea for the wall-crawler to show up with MJ Parker on his arm,” whispers Pete. MJ, cupping her chin in her hand, whispers back, “I see what you mean.”

February 28, 2016

“On Bleecker Street, in New York’s Greenwich Village..” reads the caption and, yes, Pete and MJ are still standing on the sidewalk gawking at Dr. Strange’s house. (There are two bystanders in the background who walk right by the house without looking at it.) “So, that’s where he lives!” says MJ. Panel #2 is a close-up of Peter and MJ. She says, “Did I ever tell you I had a crush on a teenage ‘magician’ in Junior High?” He says, “Yes – and how you used to read ‘Mandrake the Magician’ in the funny pages.” (More proof that MJ is 68 years old.) In panel #3, the camera pulls back to show the couple on a street corner. MJ grabs Peter’s arm and starts tugging him across the street as she says, “So, it’s only natural I’d want to meet Dr. Strange! Can’t we just go over and ask to borrow a cup of sugar or something?” In panel #4, Peter takes the lead, “Definitely not, honey!” he says, “C’mon, let’s go get some coffee.” Behind them are an anonymous bystander and Xandu. (I think Peter and MJ were across the street from Doc’s house the whole time, though it wasn’t clear. When MJ tugs on Peter, she is trying to cross the street to “borrow a cup of sugar.” Since Xandu is still on the same side of the street as they are, I assume that Peter stopped the street-crossing. Why I worry about such things, I don’t know.) Panel #5 is a close-up of Xandu complete with hat, monocle, gray Salvador Dali mustache and gray goatee. He’s got this green-checked hoodie that is part of his super-villain costume. It is partly concealed by his hat and his trenchcoat lapel. “They’re starting to leave,” he says, “I can’t allow that to happen…” “…Xandu must act!” he says in panel #6, as the camera moves behind him showing only his hat and trenchcoat. MJ and Peter are walking ahead of him, oblivious to the threat. (Spider-sense, Pete! Spider-sense!) There are two other pedestrians in the deep background but no birds. That’s two Sundays in a row taking place outside with no birds. I’m starting to wonder if Alex was secretly replaced!

The “Next” caption reads, “A Touch of Sorcery!” Last week’s read, “A Strange Interlude Begins – As In Dr. Strange!” Well, no Dr. Strange so far but I suppose you can have a strange interlude beginning without Dr. Strange.

February 29, 2016

Peter and MJ start to walk away from Doc’s house but MJ still can’t let it go. “Why can’t we just go see if Dr. Strange is home?” she asks. “I’m sure he’s busy, MJ,” says Peter, “Let’s go find a Starbucks…” (Product placement!) Xandu is behind them and he is coming up fast for, in panel #2, he bumps into MJ. “Excuse me, Miss…” he says. “Oh…” MJ says. Panel #3 is also a shot of Xandu and MJ from the same angle as panel #2. Now Xandu says, “I most sincerely beg your pardon” and takes her hand. We know this does something to MJ because she gets a whole bunch of wavy lines all around her body and a surprised look on her face. (Though maybe she’s just creeped out that the guy with the goatee and monocle has taken her by the hand.)

March 1, 2016

Xandu moves on by. MJ stops and looks at her right hand, which she holds in her left hand, as if it has no strength of its own. “That was…strange,” she says. “What, honey?” says Peter. Panel #2 moves the camera from behind Peter and MJ to in front of Xandu. “Are you talking about Doc Strange again?” asks Peter. MJ looks at Xandu as she says, “No. That man bumped into me…and when he touched me…” Panel #3 moves in on MJ and Peter and the hand with the wavy lines around it. “I felt an odd…tingling,” MJ finishes. And Pete says, “!” which, I guess, means, “Tingling!”

March 2, 2016

MJ holds out her hand and Peter looks down at it. “You felt tingling when that stranger touched your hand?” he asks. “Yes,” MJ replies, “like you do when your spider sense acts up.” Speaking of the spider-sense…where the hell has it been through all this? Well, in panel #2, Peter goes all half-Spidey face and the spider-sense bolts come flying off that side of his head. “Matter of fact, it’s tingling right now,” he says, “not that I’ve got a clue why.” Maybe something to do with a stranger touching MJ’s hand, do you think? “Maybe Dr. Strange can tell us,” MJ says in panel #3 as she walks right into the street toward Doc’s house. Peter, his profile and hand emerging from the panel’s edge yells out “Honey –wait!” but MJ walks right into the path of a taxi. The cabbie behind the wheel is a rather sketchy drawing but there’s enough of him to see that he’s really surprised!

March 3, 2016

That whole “walking-in-front-of-a-taxi” thing turned out to be a red herring because this strip starts with MJ already at Doc’s front door. The camera is behind both she and Peter, who comes up behind her. A strange panel that mostly shows us their backs. “You can’t just barge in on Dr. Strange!” says Peter. “I won’t, silly,” replies MJ. In panel #2, the camera catches up to MJ and views her from the side. “My mother taught me to always knock,” she says. And, sure, enough, with her fist up at the door, we get the sound effect of “Nok Nok Nok.” In panel #3, the camera finally gets in front of our couple, and moves in for a close-up, as MJ says, “It’s so odd! All of a sudden, I feel I just have to see Dr. Strange face to face.”

March 4, 2016

Peter tries to pull MJ away. “He must not be home, honey,” he says, “Let’s…” But MJ interrupts him, saying “Wait! The door’s starting to…” Panel #2 is a close-up of just the door! It opens with a “KREEEEEEK.” (Of course it does.) And, in panel #3, Dr. Strange appears, complete with Eye of Agamotto on his chest and those high collars that magicians seem to prefer. “Hello, I’m Stephen Strange,” he says, “What can I do for you?” MJ stares at him intently but Peter looks back at us, as if saying, “Yeah, it’s corny. What can I do about it?”

March 5, 2016

The camera moves behind Dr. Strange as he stands in the doorway talking to MJ and Pete. “You’re really…Dr. Strange!?” asks MJ and Doc replies, “I was once a physician, yes. But I retired from practice years ago.” So, Doc interprets MJ’s comment to mean, “You’re really a doctor?” when it could as easily mean, “Your name is really Dr. Strange?” or even, “Are you really the famous Dr. Strange?”

In panel #2, Doc gets playful. The camera moves outside again as Doc seems to look at it. “If you’ve come to ask about a heart murmur – or a hangnail,” he says, a wry smile on his face, “I’m afraid I must direct you to the local hospital.” Doc points off into the distance. MJ keeps her gaze right on Doc. Peter, I’m sorry to report, looks off in the direction that Doc is pointing, as if not getting that it’s a joke.

March 6, 2016

Alex starts us off with a clever panel. The camera is inside the house, up high, right behind Dr. Strange. Doc is all in shadow except for the white streaks in his hair. If you look at it long enough, it starts to look like someone in a black mask with the white streaks as eyes. Peter and MJ are on the other side of the threshold facing Doc and the camera. Stan starts with the caption, “On a sudden impulse, MJ has knocked on Dr. Strange’s door…” which is a little deceptive since he doesn’t explain that the “sudden impulse” came about because of Xandu’s spell when he touched MJ’s hand. (If you’re only reading Sunday, you missed out on that whole plot point.) MJ says, “I’m sorry to have disturbed you, Doctor.” Panel #2 moves the camera outside up high but behind Peter and MJ. The blacks and inks are very pronounced in this whole sequence. Here, there is an odd shadow on the wall. I’m not sure if Doc is casting it or one of the Parkers is casting it. “I don’t know what got into me!” says MJ. “No harm done,” says Doc. Panel #3 is a close-up of Doc with lots of great inky shadows forming the contours of his face. “I was simply…conjuring up a little something to eat,” he says. Panel #4 moves the camera way up high, like a crane shot. The Parkers start to turn from Doc’s door. Their combined shadow forms a blob at their feet. “C’mon, honey!” says Peter, “Let’s let the man get back to his lunch.” “Of course,” says MJ, “Again, my apologies, Doctor.” But in panel #5 (a close-up of Pete and MJ with the camera behind them), an off-panel Doc yells out, “Wait!” MJ and Pete, turning into the camera, look back and both say, “?” which means, I guess, “You talking to us?” And, in panel #6, we are perched right behind Doc’s right shoulder as he says, “Aren’t you Mary Jane Parker – the star of ‘Picture Perfect’ on Broadway?” MJ looks wide-eyed and shocked at this but Peter puts his hand to his head and seems to be thinking, “Good ol’ MJ. Everybody knows her!”

Our “Next” caption is “Come Into My Parlor!” which is probably where we’re heading only…isn’t it supposed to be the spider’s parlor? Last week’s was “A Touch of Sorcery!” which you can take figuratively or literally and they’d both be right! Pretty clever, Stan!

March 7, 2016

Today’s strip begins with a slight redo of yesterday’s panels #5 and #6. Instead of having Peter and MJ walk away, they are still at Doc’s door. MJ says, “I’m sorry I disturbed you, Dr. Strange…” as Peter looks on, bemused. But Doc says, “Wait. Aren’t you Mary Jane Parker – the star of ‘Picture Perfect’?” Just what he said yesterday, except he skips the “on Broadway” part. Panel #2 aces Peter out entirely as MJ and Doc chat. (If you can count MJ saying, “Well…yes…” as chatting.) Doc says, “Please Mrs. Parker…do come in…” Then, in panel #3, he turns to Peter and says, “And that goes for your husband as well, of course.”

March 8, 2016

Now, the Parkers are inside Doc’s home but we still hiccup back a bit as MJ asks, “You actually saw me on Broadway, Doctor?” (Yes, yes, he said it on Sunday and he said it again on Monday. He saw you on Broadway, MJ!) “I’m hardly the man-about-town I was when I was in medical practice…” Doc says, then (in panel #2) he kisses MJ’s hand as he continues with, “But I made a point to see your play. And I found it…and you…delightful.”

March 9, 2016

Doc ushers the Parkers out of the hallway (although it all still looks like a hallway) saying, “May I offer you a bit of the repast I was conjuring up?” (“Conjuring up.” What a kidder that Doc is!) “Thank you,” says MJ, heading for the next room. But, in panel #2, Peter tries to put the kibosh on that, saying, “MJ, we really should be going…” Doc replies, “Surely you can spare a moment for an old acquaintance…” and finishing in panel #3 with “…can’t you, Spider-Man?” This stops Pete and MJ in their tracks. (Well, actually it stops MJ in her tracks. She was heading for the other room for the repast. Peter hasn’t budged since he entered the house.) Peter says, “Don’t call me Shirley.” No, actually, he and MJ say the same thing, which is “!?” which means something like “WTF?”

March 10, 2016

Panel #1 is a two-shot of Peter and Doc. Peter looks slightly nauseous while Doc looks very proud of himself. “Wh-why’d you call me ‘Spider-Man’?” asks Pete. “Surely, Peter, you didn’t think you could keep your secret from a mystic master.” Panel #2 shows Peter all alone, his hand up on the back of his head as he says, “Don’t call me Shirley Peter.” No, actually, he says, “Actually, Doc, I’m starting to realize secret identities aren’t all they used to be.” (A reference to the movies, maybe? Who knows?) Panel #3 switches us outside of Doc’s home. In case you didn’t notice this, Stan helps with a caption that reads, “While outside…” Xandu is still hanging around out there and he has a glow all over his body. “I can see all that MJ Parker sees,” he says, “If only my spell enabled me to hear all as well.” That’s great, Xandu, maybe you should work on that. And maybe you should work on a spell that works long distance so you don’t have to be loitering outside of Doc’s house this whole time.

March 11, 2016

The repast begins. MJ and Peter sit side-by-side at a wooden table next to a refrigerator. Doc pours water from what looks like a watering can into mason jars. “Some time ago, Mrs. Parker,” he says, “Your husband and I joined forces to recover the Wand of Watoomb.” Doc is looking across dimensions again since this happened in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2 and not in the strip-verse at all. “Please,” says MJ, “call me MJ,” which is as good a response to being told your husband recovered the Wand of Watoomb as any. And panel #2 moves outside as Stan tells us “Across the street…” where Xandu is loitering in a close-up shot of his profile that makes it hard to tell that he is across the street. “My unwitting agent is within my foe’s redoubt,” he says, “It’s time to act!” “Repast.” “Redoubt.” What is with these magicians and their words? And I don’t even think “redoubt” fits the situation. Shape up, Xandu!

March 12, 2016

All right, so it was coffee Doc was pouring from a coffee pot. MJ and Peter sit side-by-side drinking their coffee. We can tell it’s coffee because MJ’s cup has steam rising from it. Doc has joined them, sitting in a chair and he magically summons the coffee pot so that it floats through the air with little motion lines behind it. Peter says, “Since Bruce Banner and Steve Rogers hung ‘em up…I guess secret identities are becoming an endangered species.” And now I’m pretty sure he is referring to the movies, though, admittedly, I’m not up on the Hulk’s and Captain America’s status in the strip-verse. Doc says, “I’ve always found leading one life complicated enough.” In panel #2, he watches as his pot pours coffee into another cup, which, now that I look at it, doesn’t look like a mason jar but instead looks like an Easter egg. None of these mugs have handles so everyone is holding their hot beverage gingerly. “That’s why I’ve always remained simply…Stephen Strange,” he finishes. From off-panel, someone (Peter presumably) says, “AKA Dr. Strange – Sorcerer Supreme!”

March 13, 2016

Ah, Sunday! When things change! The table looks smaller, the refrigerator door opens in the other direction (and, now that I think about it, I’m not sure you can open the refrigerator on any of the days without banging into the table), the coffee pot is on a counter way on the other side of the room, and the cups are now plain white with handles. Panel #1 begins with a Stan caption, reading, “Within Dr. Strange’s mansion…” and MJ says, “You make a mean cup of coffee, Doctor.” Panel #2 shows Doc in close-up with an odd demonic-looking little statue on a counter behind him. He drinks his coffee and says, “Call me Stephen, please. I had the beans flown in from Colombia just this morning.” In panel #3, MJ looks captivated and Peter looks tickled as he says, “I didn’t know you had your own private jet.” Doc “gestures hypnotically” to use an old Mandrake expression toward the off-panel coffee pot and says, “Just because I said the coffee beans were flown in…” and panel #4 turns the camera around to show the coffee pot glowing and floating in the air while pouring a fresh cup for MJ. “…Does not mean they came by commercial carrier,” Doc finishes, while Peter and MJ both look stunned and say “!” Panel #5 requires another Stan caption. “While just across Bleecker Street…” Xandu is still hanging out across the street. There are three other people in the panel as well. “My puppet is inside the stronghold of my enemy,” Xandu says. “It’s time I put her to good use!” he declares in panel #6 and he does something magical so that his coat and hat go flying off of him with bright glowing lines surrounding him and them. Two of the bystanders recoil in shock…and who can blame them?

The next caption reads, “MJ Parker – Marionette?” Last week’s was “Come Into My Parlor” which happened, I guess, except it was a kitchen.

March 14, 2016

And we’re back in the kitchen. Also back to the Easter egg mugs without handles. MJ and Pete are still sitting while Doc has gotten up. “This java’s awesome, Stephen,” says MJ, “but I’d love a grand tour of your house.” “I’m afraid the upper stories are off-limits even to guests, MJ,” Doc replies. In panel #2, Doc gestures toward some lit candles and a bookshelf and says, “But I’m sure we can find something to amuse you on this floor.” Peter puts his hand up to his mouth in the universal “aside” gesture and says, “You think maybe Doc’s gonna tell our fortune, honey?” MJ is not in the panel, for good reason. Panel #3 shows a surprised Peter alone with wiggle lines around his head. “MJ --!?” he says, which seems to imply that MJ is gone.

March 15, 2016

Doc is oblivious. He is looking down at a Persian carpet, hands on hips, his back to us. “This very rug beneath your feet was once a flying carpet…” he says but Peter, off-panel, yells, “Doc -!” Panel #2 shows Peter running up to Doc (so that rug was not beneath his feet, after all). “MJ’s disappeared!” he says, “She must’ve gone upstairs.” In panel #3, Doc hurries to the staircase (there are four ornate window above) with Peter just behind. “Then she – and all of us – are in great danger!” he says, “Come!”

March 16, 2016

It’s an all-MJ episode. In panel #1, she walks down a hallway with four ornate doors. She is smack in the middle of the panel, in profile. “Don’t know why,” she says, “I felt such a compulsion…to come upstairs…but somehow…I know I must enter…” And, in panel #2 she stops at a door. She is again in the middle of the panel but her back is to us. (So, all Larry had to draw was her hair.) “…This chamber!” she says.

March 17, 2016

Still only MJ. In panel #1, she grabs the doorknob of “this chamber.” “I must gain entrance to this room!” she says, “Only the door’s locked.” Panel #2 is a close-up of the doorknob and her hand as electricity seems to surround it. “What’s this light,” she says, “flowing from my hand?” And panel #3 is…um, I’m not sure what. The camera looks at MJ head on. The electric glow surrounds her. There is a sound effect of “THWAMMM” and MJ looks very startled. Did the door just blow up? I guess we’ll have to tune in tomorrow to find out.

March 18, 2016

MJ enters the room. It is filled with artifacts. A crystal ball. A Necromonicon-looking book with a lock on it, sitting on a stand (the book, not the lock). Some sort of glass container with either the Infinity Gauntlet or a small octopus inside. And candelabras with lit candles! Doc leaves candles lit in a locked room? Smart thinking, Doc!

MJ stands in the middle of the room, looking dull-eyed. “There are…so many artifacts in this chamber,” she says, “Somehow I know that the one I want…” and on to panel #2, showing a closeup of the Wand of Watoomb and MJ’s hand. “…Is this one!” MJ says, finishing her sentence…unless it is the Wand talking. After all, it has a little sour-looking face on it and the tail of the word balloon is pointing right at it…unless it’s pointing off-panel for MJ. In panel #3, we return to Doc and Peter, racing up the stairs. “Hurry Peter!” says Strange, “We may already be too late!”

March 19, 2016

The camera moves in front of Doc and Peter as they rush up the stairs. “While we’re racing to catch up with MJ,” says Doc, “Peter, you might want to change into…” but he is interrupted in panel #2 when Peter, already dressed as Spidey, leaps over him and says, “You were saying, Doc?”

Okay, it’s a cute bit but seriously…Peter changed to Spidey in a split-second? What happened to his regular clothes? I can buy that Doc is an MJ fan. I can buy that Doc flies his coffee beans in with magic. I can even buy that Doc has a flying carpet. But I’m not sure I can buy that Spidey is a member of Quickchange.

March 20, 2016

So, Spidey and Doctor Strange are on the stairs, which now look like they are in an old New York walk-up. “We must find MJ at once,” Doc says. Panel #2 is at the top of the stairs, I presume. The camera is in front of Spidey who is on the left and ahead of Doc who is on the right. “That may be easier said than done, Doc,” says Spidey, “Did anybody ever tell you…” He finishes in panel #3 with, “…that your house is a lot bigger inside than it looks from the outside?” Like the TARDIS! What prompts Spidey to say this? The camera swings around behind the two men and shows a long corridor but, really, with only five doors. In panel #4, shown from down the hall back at our heroes, it looks like there are seven doors on one side alone. The one at the end is broken open. (So it was pretty easy to find MJ after all.) “Down there,” says Doc, “That door’s been splintered!” Panel #5 takes us back into the room with MJ. There are now other artifacts on the podium along with the book. (Is MJ moving things around?) There are no lit candles in evidence. MJ recoils as a voice speaks to her (We know the voice is spooky and other-worldly because it is contained in cloud-shaped word balloons rimmed with green. “Yes…that is the one, woman,” says the voice, “Take it! Grasp in your hand…” Panel #6 finishes the voice’s sentence with, “…the Wand of Watoomb!” and moves into a closeup of the Wand as MJ’s hand grabs it. Yellow lines streak off of it, like the light of the sun, so we know it is heavy-duty powerful.

The “Next” caption reads, “Wand – As In “Magic Wand,” Right?" So I guess we’ll see the Wand at work this week. Last week’s was “MJ Parker – Marionette?” with the question mark to give it some leeway. Fair enough. I give that a passing grade.

March 21, 2016

The mysterious voice continues to speak. (I guess I can stop being coy. We know the voice belongs to Xandu.) “Take it, woman! Grasp in your hand – the Wand of Watoomb!” he says, which is almost exactly what he said yesterday…but only “almost.” Spidey and Doc rush toward the shattered door. Only, they are coming up on it from the wrong side from where they were before. So, either they outran it and had to come back or the door is now on the right side of the hall when before it was on the left. (Well, it is a magical house, right?) “Hurray!” says Strange, “We’ve got to stop Mary Jane from…” but panel #2, inside the room, shows that our heroes are, as Doc says, “Too late!” They crowd the doorway as MJ grasps the Wand with two hands, a glow coming off of it. “I couldn’t have expressed it more succinctly myself, Stephen Strange!” says the voice that is Xandu. And Xandu is right, because he has proven himself to be a gasbag who is incapable of being succinct.

March 22, 2016

Now the glow completely surrounds MJ. She stands, in a daze, holding the Wand with both hands. The Wand has gotten longer so that there’s plenty of room for both hands with room to spare. (I don’t know if this is really happening or if Larry lost track of the Wand’s dimensions.) A large amoeba-like glow surrounds her. Spidey reaches toward MJ but Doc pulls back. “What’s that weird glow around MJ?” says Spidey. “Don’t touch her!” orders Doc. “You should know by now, sorcerer,” says Xandu, and finishes in panel #2 with, “There’s nothing so little heeded as good advice!” The glow repels Spidey with a “Tzzap” and the web-slinger flies across the room, yelling, “Arrrg.” Doc watches him fly by. Thanks for the assist, Doc!

March 23, 2016

Spidey smacks into a wall so hard that a big yellow crackle covers him and THUDD! appears over his head. In panel #2, he starts to rise to his feet with a big black cloud behind him. “The burst from that wand thingy knocked me clear out into the hall!” he helpfully thinks, “Clearly my spider-sense isn’t so hot at detecting magic spells!” (I’m trying to think if this has been true in the past but, of course, we are talking about Strip-Verse Spidey here.) In panel #3, he moves back into the room. Doctor Strange has, apparently, been doing nothing but staring at MJ and MJ is still surrounded by a big amoeba as she holds the Wand in two hands. Spidey thinks, “It wasn’t really MJ who zapped me – but whoever’s mentally controlling her. I’ve got to free her – before she gets hurt!” Or before you get hurt, Spidey!

March 24, 2016

Finally, Doc makes his move, with Spidey standing behind him. He sticks out his left hand with his forefinger pointing up while the other fingers point down. “Let me handle this, Spider-Man!” he says. Then, he speaks in a creepy casting-a-spell voice. (I’m assuming it’s creepy because the word balloon is all squiggly.) “By the Vapors of Valtorr,” he says, “By the vapors that bind…” Panel #2 is an unappealing little thing with a close-up of Doc’s left hand and the “face” part of the Wand of Watoomb. Little bolts of lightning fly off of Doc’s hand. Part of MJ’s right hand (also part of MJ) is in the panel, as is a piece of the aura surrounding her. It’s all sort of messy and not very clear. Doc’s spell continues with “May the light of Great Oshtur free Mary Jane’s mind!” But Xandu’s voice intrudes. “A day late and a Euro short, Strange,” says Xandu. (“Euro” to show he’s European, I guess.) In panel #3, Xandu finishes by saying, “For I am in command now!” Doc is flung back so hard, he says, “Oooph” and Spidey catches him in mid-air.

March 25, 2016

Spidey and Doctor Strange stand together while some black ben-day dots start crowding in on them. “Your spell didn’t work against that wand, Doc,” says Spidey. “It would have prevailed when Mary Jane was wielding it, “ says Doc, “but now it’s in the hands of…” On to panel #2 and an off-panel pronouncement by Doc…”Xandu!” And, sure enough, Xandu now stands there, holding the Wand. He is the only person in the panel and he has either gotten really big or the Wand has shrunk or MJ is tiny because only one of his hands fits on the Wand’s rod when MJ used two hands to hold it. “And the feckless female I made my pawn,” says Xandu. On to panel #3 and the end of Xandu’s sentence in a caption that reads, “…is back on Bleecker Street, wondering how she got there!” And, sure enough, MJ now stands out on the street with curved and straight lines emanating out of her. She looks very startled indeed, as does the one bystander who apparently watched her materialize out of thin air.

March 26, 2016

The curved lines continue to surround MJ’s head as she puts a hand to her forehead and says, “Wh-where am I?” Where she is is on the left side of the panel with a brick building with two windows in it behind her. That bystander is on the right side of the panel and he, wide-eyed, holds his hands out in front of him in a supplicating gesture and says, “How’d you do that, lady? One second, a guy in a raincoat’s standin’ there and now…” And then the poor guy doesn’t even get to finish his thought on panel. Panel #2 only shows MJ in profile on the left and the front of Dr. Strange’s house on the right. “Well, whoever you are – you sure ain’t him!” the bystander finishes. MJ says, “He must’ve traded places with me – by magic!”

March 27, 2016

Ah, the beauty of the daily to Sunday transition! In this strip, the bystander now wears a New York Yankees ball cap and looks about twenty years older. In panel #1, MJ is still looking like she just materialized but the bystander says, “Did you say the guy that was standin’ here traded places with you – by magic?” Which seems to prove that he is the same guy and that this strip takes place right after Saturday’s. “That must be how I suddenly wound up out here!” says MJ. Panel #2 is almost entirely filled up with MJ’s head but the bystander is there on the right and another bystander with a dog is across the street on the left. “So which one was he?” asks the bystander. “Pardon me?” says MJ. Panel #3 is a crane shot showing the roof and upper stories of Doc’s home on the left and the street and sidewalks on the right. There seem to be one or two bystanders way downstage center and two vehicles; a van and, I think, a cab but it is mostly covered up with a word balloon. MJ seems to be off the curb into the crosswalk and there are lines radiating from her head. The bystander is up on the sidewalk next to her. From this angle we can see that Doc’s house is on a corner. I don’t know which of the two is Bleecker Street. Following up on his “which one was he” question, the bystander says, “Was he Siegfried or Roy? I seen pictures of David Copperfield an’ this joe had him a beard.”

In panel #4, MJ bolts for the house, her scarf trailing behind her in the wind created by her run. (Actually that scarf was streaming behind her in panel #1 too so maybe it’s just really windy outside.) “Excuse me! I’ve got to go!” she says. “I’d say you was the Scarlet Witch,” says the bystander behind her, “But she ain’t no redhead.” And that’s it for our friendly bystander! Let’s all give him a round of applause!

Panel #5’s camera is behind MJ as she runs toward Doc’s front door. “While I’m out here, Peter and Dr. Strange are still in there,” she thinks. She finishes the thought in a caption in panel #6. “And they may well be fighting for their lives!” That panel shows Xandu on the left, holding up the Wand. On the left, Dr. Strange seems to be casting a spell while Spidey seems to hide behind him. “Neither of you can long withstand the power of Watoomb,” says Xandu and the “Next” caption says, “Xandu proves he’s very good at spelling!” Cute, Stan. Last week’s said, “Wand – As In “Magic Wand,” Right?” and you can’t argue with that.

March 28, 2016

Panel #1 is essentially yesterday’s panel #6 all over again but closer and with new dialogue. Xandu holds the Wand, which gives off a whole lot of ben-day dots. Doc gestures hypnotically and his spell projects off his hands. Spidey is still behind. “No one can stop me,” says Xandu, “now that I possess the Wand of Watoomb!” Doc says, “Xandu’s added its mystic power to his own!” and Spidey says, “If he’s hurt MJ -!” Panel #2 changes the camera angle so only Doc and Spidey are seen. Doc still has the glow around his hands but he looks agitated, with wiggle lines around his head. Off-panel, Xandu says, “Worry about your own safety, fools!” So, Xandu is not only throwing spells at them, he is getting verbally abusive. “He’s got a point,” says Doc, “I’m not sure even my seraphimic shield can long resist his assault!”

March 29, 2016

Now, Doc pushes his spell so it extends off his whole body, knocking back some of the ben-day dots. On the left, Spidey, ever the observer, says, “How’d Xandu get in here past all your spells, Doc?” Um, couldn’t you wait for a better time to ask this, Spidey? Like maybe when Doc isn’t fighting for your lives? But Doc answers. “My spells are a shield against wizards,” he says. (Like John Wall?) “I’ve adapted them not to harm a normal person.” Panel #2 is a very cool drawing. The Wand, now being held by both of Xandu’s hands, is so low in the panel, running all the way across, that it almost looks like the ground with Xandu’s head behind, looming up and the mystic crackle behind him looking almost like a skyline so it resembles one of those scenes where some giant head looms over a cityscape like Frank Zappa on the cover of 200 Motels. “I took control of the girl,” Xandu says, “who then gained entry as my Trojan Horse. Once she touched the Wand, I could switch places with her!” “Trojan Horse.” I like that. You’ve got to hand it to Xandu. He does have a way with words!

March 30, 2016

Now, Spidey makes his move. He leaps over Doc, who is still involved with a glow around him and those ben-day dots everywhere. “If your magic can’t beat him,” says Spidey, “maybe my spider-powers can!” “No!” replies Doc, “Stay behind my mystic shield! You mustn’t touch him!” But it’s too late. In panel #2, Spidey grabs Xandu and the contact creates a ZZAPT as wiggly lines surround them both. (And it is now official that Xandu must use two hands to hold the Wand. What? Did he shrink?) “You should have listened to him,” says Xandu and, in panel #3, Spidey finds himself trapped with those wiggly lines and that ben-day. “Wh-what’s happening to me?” he says. “ Xandu, all Easter Island profile, replies, “You’ll soon find out!” And so will we! I hope.

March 31, 2016

Spidey puts his hands to his head. The wiggly lines continue to surround him. “I feel so weird since I grabbed you!” he says, “Hard to think -!” Panel #2 is a close-up of Xandu’s head. “That’s because my mind is taking control of you,” he says, “Just as I did earlier with the female!” And in panel #3, Spidey stands stock-still on the left as Xandu faces him and wields the Wand with one hand. The Wand gives off a bunch of squiggly lines that attack Doc who is standing on the right behind Xandu. So either Doc snuck up behind Xandu or Xandu is so confident that he turned his back on Strange. “Ah, the process is complete,” Xandu says, “Spider-Man is now – my puppet!”

April 1, 2016

Xandu fires a mystic bolt at Dr. Strange using the Wand of Watoomb. Doc falls back with a bunch of squiggly lines around him. Spidey stands up straight and still. “You are totally under my sway, web-spinner!” says Xandu, “Attack Dr. Strange!” Spidey, who can’t move on his own but can still talk, says, “I – can’t resist -!” In panel #2, he leaps at Doc. The camera moves all the way over to the other side so that he leaps at Doc from left to right, even though he was on the right side of Doc in panel #1. He leaps over Doc’s ineffectual mystic blast. “All my magic – is taken up fending off Xandu’s spell,” says Doc, “I don’t have any to spare against…” Yeah, sure, Doc, that’s what they all say. And panel #3 doesn’t even let him finish his sentence. Spidey socks him in the jaw with a WAKK and Doc says, “Unnnh.”

April 2, 2016

Doc lies unconscious with a mystic glow still around him. Xandu, holding the glowing Wand, stands over him and gloats. “I did it! I’ve defeated Dr. Strange,” he says. Panel #2 gives us a close-up profile of Xandu as he looks at Spidey who is back to standing still. Behind them is a flaming brazier. Does Doc just let this stuff burn all day long? “And the instrument of my triumph – was Spider-Man!” says Xandu. “What a nightmare!” thinks Spidey, “I can’t move a muscle – except to do Xandu’s bidding!”

April 3, 2106

It’s Sunday and that means an entirely new angle. Panel #1 is down on unconsciousness level, as Dr. Strange, stretched out on the floor, gets the prime position. Xandu stands over him, waving the Wand. Spidey’s leg is on the left. There is a flaming brazier that appears to be different than the one shown yesterday. “For years I’ve dreamed of this moment,” says Xandu, “when my old enemy Dr. Strange lies helpless at my feet!” In panel #2, the camera moves up to a crane shot of Xandu, Spidey, Doc, another flaming brazier and a steaming cauldron. (How many burning things does Doc have in this room, anyway?) “The fact that I conquered him by wielding control over Spider-Man makes my victory all the sweeter,” he says. Panel #3 moves in on a smirking Xandu, the glowing Wand and Spidey’s profile. “I’d love- to wipe that smile - off your arrogant face,” says the wall-crawler, “but - I can’t move a muscle.” Panel #4 shows Xandu from the shoulders up as he lifts the crackling Wand over his head, looking like the Touchdown Jesus that was struck by lightning and burned to the ground outside of Cincinnati, Ohio back in 2010. Spidey stands behind him. “I may find use later for your spider-powered muscles, wall-crawler, “ says Xandu, “For the moment, however…” and, in panel #5, he turns and fires a yellow-orange crackling spell over Spidey as Doc lies unconscious on the floor encased in a squiggly pinkish spell. “This spell will keep you both in stasis!” Xandu says. “While outside…” Stan tells us in a caption for panel #6, Mary Jane (remember Mary Jane?) pounds on Doc’s front door. “It’s no use!” she says, “There’s no way I can force my way into Dr. Strange’s mansion!”

The “Next” caption reads, “Xandu in Charge!” which is already true. Last week’s said, “Xandu proves he’s very good at spelling!” and we sure have seen a bunch of them!

By the way, the last time we saw MJ was panel #5 of last week’s Sunday strip as she was running toward Doc’s front door. It took her a full week to get there. Maybe Stan got his panel 6s mixed up?

April 4, 2016

Back to Xandu, Doc, and Spidey. The good guys are still surrounded by a spell. There is still a flaming brazier behind them. Xandu still holds the Wand up like he’s doing bicep curls. “Spider-Man my spellbound slave – and Dr. Strange my captive!” he says, “I must immortalize this victory…” and, yes, in panel #2, Xandu pulls out his smartphone and poses. “…With a selfie!” he says. (I kid you not.) Spidey, standing behind and in Xandu’s photo, thinks, “Well, at least I’m getting in a good photobomb.” No, actually, he thinks, “And I’m powerless to lift a finger against him!”

April 5, 2016

We begin with an odd panel. Dr. Strange is in the foreground, lying on the floor, filling up the bottom side. Spidey’s legs are to his right, filling up the right side. Both of them are surrounded by a magic spell that looks like a giant amoeba. Xandu is in the background, to the left, surrounded by ben-day dots. The Wand of Watoomb looks bigger than ever but Xandu holds it in one hand. “Outside, none realize they have just acquired a new master,” Xandu says, “Xandu, wielder of the Wand of Watoomb!” All of which is a pretty strange thing to say considering he is talking to himself. In panel #2, he exits through the doorway, his back to us, the Wand now in his left hand. “It is time I enlightened them!” he says. And panel #3 takes us outside. MJ is knocking on the front of Doc’s door with a “THOK, THOK, THOK.” “Peter! Dr. Strange! Are you okay in there?” she says.

April 6, 2016

The “THOK THOK THOK” continues as MJ knocks on the door. But this panel has me completely flummoxed. The door’s stained glass window is still there but where is the door? And that looks like a wall behind MJ. Has the door become invisible? Is MJ inside now knocking on the door to get out? Better not to think about it. Stan apparently found the panel confusing enough to give us a caption reading, “Dr. Strange’s Greenwich Village domicile…” MJ calls out, “Please – you’ve got to open the door! It’s Mary Jane Parker! I’ve got to…” She stops because, in panel #2, the door opens with a “KREEEEEEEK.” Actually, we see MJ’s face in the center with darkness on either side. Easier than bothering to draw a door. From off-panel, Xandu says, “Ah, yes…I knew that lovely face looked familiar.” (“Knew?” Did he see her through the door?) And panel #3 gives us MJ in profile on the left and Xandu, full face, on the right. He holds the Wand in his left hand and says, “Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Xandu…with an X.”

April 7, 2016

Are they inside? Are they outside? Who can say? But Xandu talks to MJ. He is facing us, she is facing away, only her hair and a bit of scarf and shoulder visible. Xandu says, “I saw your hit play twice, Ms. Parker. Forgive me for not recognizing you earlier.” (Okay, that explains his “knew” comment from yesterday. Mea culpa.) MJ replies, “You’re forgiven. Now let me by…” Panel #2 is the same angle as #1 but the camera has zoomed in a bit so now we only see the top half of MJ’s hair and Xandu is partially hidden by her. We do see the Wand in his left hand, however. He says, “Actually, you arrive at a propitious moment. I am about to become ruler of the world…” and in panel #3 he grabs MJ by the wrist and says, “And what good is a king…without a queen?” MJ says, “?” which, in this case, probably means, “For God’s sake, didn’t I just go through this with the Sub-Mariner???”

Okay, a couple of things. Either Xandu is seriously double-jointed or else he dumped the Wand because it sure looks like he’s grabbing MJ’s wrist with the hand that was holding the Wand. Also, why is he so sure he’s about to become ruler of the world? Because he has the Wand? Is it really that big of a deal? And finally…Stan! Didn’t we just go through this with the Sub-Mariner?!

April 8, 2016

So, Larry has re-drawn yesterday’s panel #3 from another angle and now we can see that Xandu is grabbing MJ with his right hand. It sure looks reasonable now but it definitely didn’t yesterday. “Let me go!” MJ says, “My husband’s in there…” Xandu, not catching on that MJ is blowing Spidey’s secret identity, replies, “Oh? I wasn’t aware Dr. Strange had wed since our last encounter…” (This is the guy who is going to be ruler of the world. Pffft!) Panel #2 is a nice big close-up of Xandu’s face. He says, “Having defeated both him and the far less impressive Spider-Man – it is only fitting that I inherit his lady!” Panel #3 is a nice big close-up of MJ’s face as she looks shocked and says, “First Namor – now you!? What am I – some kind of door prize?” See? I told you that’s what her “?” meant yesterday!

April 9, 2016

We move back into the house as Spidey stands there, looking like he’s squeezed tight; the amoeba and the ben-day dots all around him. “Xandu’s spell-manacles seem to be made of light,” he says, “but they’re stronger than chrome steel!” Off-panel, Doc comes to with an “Ohhh…” (His word balloon is way down in the lower right corner of the panel because he is lying on the floor…which I think is kind of cool.) In panel #2, we get Spidey on the left and Doc on the right but is he still on the floor? It looks like he’s levitating, although I suspect this is more of Larry’s crazy perspective. “Doc’s waking up,” Spidey says, “Now maybe we can get out of these things!”

April 10, 2016

Now it’s Alex’s turn. He gives us Dr. Strange filling up the bottom of panel #1 but he has flipped the angle so that Doc’s head is on the left side. Spidey is behind him. Either one of these two heroes have moved or Alex isn’t paying attention to Larry’s perspectives. The Wand spell no longer looks like an amoeba but like coiled smoke binding them. Stan gives us the unnecessary caption, “Inside Dr. Strange’s sanctum…” and Doc, waking up, says, “Uhhhh…” instead of the “Ohhh” he said yesterday. “Doc! I thought you’d never wake up!” says Spidey. Panel #2 is a camera shot from the ceiling. We see Doc stretched out on the floor with Spidey standing close to him. Behind Spidey is one of those flaming braziers that has got to be scorching his backside. “Hurry!” Spidey says, “Cast another of your spells in the name of Valtorr or Hogwart or whoever – and get us outta these hoodoo handcuffs!” Panel #3 is a close-up of Doc, the smoke curling around his head. “Xandu created them - with the power of the Wand of Watoomb,” he says, “Without an equally potent artifact…” And in panel #4, Doc turns his head away in shame as he says, “I can do nothing!” Spidey, positioned on the right side of the panel, says, “!” which probably means, “Come on!” Panel #5 takes us back to MJ and Xandu (“While on the mansion’s doorstep…” the caption says) where it is clear that she is still standing outside on the threshold. Now Xandu IS holding her with his left hand and holding the Wand in his right. MJ tries to pull back. “Xandu – if you’ve hurt my husband!” says MJ. Xandu replies, “Dr. Strange is fine, Ms. Parker – or rather Mrs. Strange…” and panel #6 moves in close as Xandu pulls MJ close and says, “Or perhaps, since I’m about to make you queen of my new realm…I may be permitted to call you Mary Jane!?” Going to be king and can’t figure out that MJ is married to Spidey. He’s off to a great start.

The “Next” caption reads, “MJ gets carried away!” which I’m afraid is going to be literal. Last week’s read, “Xandu in Charge!” which, as I said last week, was already true.

April 11, 2016

Back to Larry’s version of Spidey and Doc with Doc’s head on the right and Spidey on Doc’s left side (when Alex had him on the right side) and the Wand spell looking like ben-day and amoebae. “You can’t free us from these weirdo clamps?” asks Spidey. “I need a powerful talisman to overcome Xandu’s spell,” says Doc. Panel #2 shows Doc from the opposite side, his head now on the left, as he looks at a book on a stand. “Yet…we are in my Sanctum Sanctorum…!” he says. “Now you’re talkin’!” says Spidey, off-panel. “While outside…” in panel #3, Xandu is back to holding MJ with his right hand with the Wand nowhere in sight. “What have you done with my husband?” asks MJ, still blowing Spidey’s secret identity. “Only incapacitated him…for the time being,” says Xandu, still not catching on.

Let’s look at that for a moment. Xandu initially enchanted MJ when she was standing out on the street corner with Peter. He has to know that she isn’t married to Dr. Strange. Not if she’s loitering on the corner with someone else. His spell prompted her to knock on Doc’s door, after all. And both she and Peter went in. Now, there’s only Doc and Spidey inside with no Peter in sight. It shouldn’t take much for Xandu to figure this out. So, why doesn’t he?!

April 12, 2016

MJ and Xandu stand on the threshold. Xandu holds MJ with his right hand. His left hand holds the Wand, extending it out toward us in a 3D effect. MJ’s scarf seems to be flying in a strong breeze. Or perhaps it’s the result of her trying to pull away. “You wish to be certain your husband is unharmed, Mary Jane?” says Xandu, “I’ll conjure up an image of him.” Panel #2 is a patchwork affair with the Wand on the right, shooting out some magical waves that produce an image of Doc and part of Spidey. (His leg? His chest? Can’t tell.) MJ is on the bottom center, peering up as if she’s trying to make sure she stays in panel. “There he is, bound,” says Xandu, off-panel, “right next to that Wall-Crawler!” “At least he’s safe!” says MJ, as she thinks, “I can’t tell this madman it’s Spider-Man I’m married to!” Not that you didn’t try, MJ! Fortunately, Xandu is as thick as a brick.

April 13, 2016

The Wand-induced image persists, floating above Xandu and MJ as he continues to grab her wrist. Doc is looking wide-eyed but comatose, even though, the last time we saw him, he was awake. So maybe Xandu’s image has a time-delay? Here we can see that the part of Spidey shown is his legs. “You’re beloved Dr. Strange is unhurt,” says Xandu, “but he and Spider-Man are still a danger to me. Perhaps I should…” What?! Kill them? Take them out dancing? We’ll never know. Because MJ thinks, “Got to distract him!” and in panel #2, a close-up of the two in profile, she strokes Xandu’s chin and says, “Didn’t you say something about showing your new queen this kingdom of yours?” “Why – I believe I did!” says Xandu with a lecherous smile. “Men!” thinks MJ, “It works every time!”

April 14, 2016

Often, in this strip, people stand around and talk about the same thing for a week, then something happens very fast. In this case, after being on the doorstep since April 6, Xandu and MJ are suddenly flying. We don’t see them take off; we see them already in the air. Xandu must be stronger than he looks because he is still only holding MJ with one hand, although now he is grabbing her forearm. (The Wand is in his other hand.) They had to have done some maneuvering to make this work. Maybe that’s why we don’t see the start of it. We’d ask too many questions. “Come, my queen!” says Xandu, “We are borne aloft by the winds of Watoomb!” (Watoomb has winds too?) Panel #2 has a lot of text so MJ and Xandu are squeezed down into the lower right. “Of course, you’ve levitated before with Dr. Strange,” says Xandu (that thick, thick man). “Not…really,” says a stunned-looking MJ, as she thinks, “Peter’s taken me web-swinging but it usually makes me airsick!” Panel #3 gives us a caption that says, “While…” (Because we sure needed it!) as we move back to the house. Spidey looks down on Doc and says, “Hurry! Use one of your magic tokens to free us! I’ve got to make sure MJ’s okay!”

April 15, 2016

It’s a close-up of Doc and Spidey, still surrounded by the amoeba. “Which of these gadgets can get us out of these clamps, Doc?” asks Spidey. Dr. Strange, looking off to his left (away from Spidey) replies, “They’re mystic talismans, not gadgets.” (Picky, picky.) “Let me see…” he continues, “The Crystal of Kadavus? No, I’ve other uses for it…” Panel #2 moves away from our heroes and shows us a book on a stand (but mostly it shows us the rug in the room). An off-panel voice says, “The Book of the Vishanti?” and a second off-panel-pointing word balloon says, “No, I already know most of its spells…” I suspect that both of these word balloons belong to Dr. Strange, as he ruminates. I doubt Spidey is asking about the Book of the Vishanti. (By the way, there is an illustration visible on the page of the Book but I sure can’t tell what it is. I think it’s just a squiggle.) Panel #3 is a close-up on Doc as he looks down at his chest at the Eye of Agamotto and says, “Then there’s the Amulet of Agamotto…hanging around my neck!” Sure took him a long time to think of that.

April 16, 2016

Okay, so it’s still Spidey and Dr. Strange trapped in the amoeba-spell. Spidey says, “A whole room full of ‘mystic talismans’ – and the one you plan to use was hanging around your neck the whole time?” Doc replies, “I was dazed by Xandu’s attack…needed to gather my will power!” (Plus, we had to kill a week or two.) “And now – I have!” says Doc as he fills the foreground of panel #2 with Spidey standing behind. Doc’s Amulet of Agamotto begins to glow.

April 17, 2016

Back to Alex on Sunday, and Spidey is again right next to Doc on Doc’s left when he was far away and to Doc’s right yesterday. In fact, both Spidey and Doc are sort of wedged between two tables that are covered with mystic items. And, as before, the amoeba-spell looks instead like smoke or electric bolts encircling our heroes. We begin with a caption reading, “In Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum…” Then, Spidey says (for the benefit of those only reading Sundays), “You think you can get us out of these mystic clamps with that – What did you call it again?” Panel #2 is a close-up of Doc as he looks down at his chest and replies, “The Amulet of Agamotto! But it’s not the Amulet itself that will set us free…” Panel #3 moves the camera so that Spidey’s head pokes into the frame on the right side as Doc finishes with, “…Rather that which is within it!” The Amulet begins to open, revealing the Eye of Agamotto. Spidey, taking this in, says, “?” Which means, “Is that a freaking eye?!” The caption in panel #4 reads, “Meanwhile, above Greenwich Village…” as Xandu and MJ fly through the air up above while a loving couple and a guy carrying a Time magazine are walking below. (And, because it’s Alex, I think there’s even a bird flying.) The guy’s arm covers the Time cover subject except for a shock of hair. Is this a guest appearance by Donald Trump? The guy seems to be glancing back at the couple with disdain…unless he’s glancing up at MJ and Xandu with disdain. Xandu says, “What do you think of the aerial view, my queen?” Panel #5 is a close-up of MJ’s frightened face, with Xandu behind her, and birds behind him. “It’s…breathtaking!” says MJ. “Then why does your face have an almost greenish pallor?” says Xandu, ruining the moment. This is what is known as unnecessary dialogue. Alex has given MJ a facial expression that reveals all. We don’t need Xandu explaining it to us. But now that Xandu has spoken, MJ must respond. In panel #6, she puts her hand to her mouth and looks even more frightened. “That’s – just one of my own magic stunts!” she says. (See how Xandu’s bad line of dialogue creates MJ’s bad line of dialogue? Better to have scrubbed this altogether.) To make matters worse, MJ also has a thought balloon in which she tells us that, “I’m getting airsick – just like when Peter takes me web-swinging!” (I think this airsickness is something with which only the Strip-Verse MJ is afflicted.) Xandu looks on, apparently enjoying MJ’s discomfort, while behind him is, yes, a bird.

The “Next” caption reads, “Flying the Friendly Skies?” Something that is already happening. Last week’s was “MJ Gets Carried Away!” which, as I feared, turned out to be literal.

April 18, 2016

Let’s start with a Monday morning caption: “Xandu is giving MJ an aerial tour…” They have gotten even higher up than yesterday. Xandu is holding the Wand in his left hand. His right hand looks like it is now placed on MJ’s back…so I’m not sure what is holding MJ up. “Why so pale as you survey your new queendom, my dear Mary Jane?” asks Xandu. Panel #2 is a close-up of MJ’s face. As opposed to Alex’s expressive MJ yesterday, Larry’s MJ looks completely calm, so she is compelled to explain to Xandu, “I – never got a chance to mention – sometimes I get airsick!” when yesterday’s expression would have said it all. And it’s a two-caption day as panel #3 gives us, “While in Dr. Strange’s mansion…” Spidey is back on Doc’s right and the spell is amoeba-like again. The Eye of Agamotto is completely open as Doc intones, “From nether regions’ darksome sky – Come, Agamotto’s watchful Eye…”

April 19, 2016

Doc seems to be floating, like a big Macy’s balloon, as he, diagonally, fills up half the panel. Spidey stands behind, looking over at him. The amoeba-spell covers them both. The Eye of Agamotto is wide open as Doc chants, “Let this orb’s ever-baleful stare turn our mystic bonds to…” “Air!” he says in panel #2 as he stands to Spidey’s left (our right) and the amoeba turns into little squiggly lines. “You did it, Doc!” says Spidey, “Remind me to book you for my Aunt May’s next birthday party!” Along with the clown making the balloon animals, I presume.

April 20, 2016

The room now has a bunch of floating orbs (or so it appears). The flaming braziers are nowhere in sight. Spidey leans to the left, which means he is anxious to leave. Doc leans to the right, which means he is in no hurry. “Now we’ve got to rescue MJ from Xandu,” says Spidey. Before you can ask, Dr. Strange does it for you. “What makes you so certain he’s captured her?” he says. Spidey answers in panel #2, which is a close-up of his head. “She always wears a spider-tracer, just in case,” he says, “So, unless she sprouted wings while we were hogtied…” On to panel #3, with Spidey’s comment finishing in a caption, “He’s gotta be flying her high above Manhattan!” The panel shows Xandu and MJ flying over Washington Square Park. (We see the arch.) And Xandu says, “You’re not really going to be sick, are you?”

So, Spidey knows MJ is with Xandu because she wears a spider-tracer. But how does he know she’s flying in the air? Couldn’t she be in a high-rise? And why assume, just because she may be flying in the air, that Xandu has her? Why even assume that Xandu can fly? Maybe the Human Torch is giving her a lift. Plus, how far a range do those spider-tracers have? I always thought Spidey had to be fairly close to them to sense them. But he’s sensing this one from blocks away. And does this mean Spidey is stalking MJ, constantly aware of exactly where she is? That seems inappropriate. I could go on and on.

April 21, 2016

MJ and Xandu land in Washington Square Park. (We again see the arch.) There is one bystander in the background who doesn’t seem too concerned that two people just flew down from above. (Though it does look like he’s eyeballing them.) MJ holds her stomach and leans over, as if preparing to be sick. “I’m feeling better – now that we’re on the ground,” she says. “Good!” says Xandu, “It would not be fitting for a queen to…” In panel #2, MJ cuts him off. “Stop calling me your queen!” she says, “I’m your captive – at least till Spider-Man and Dr. Strange find us!” Xandu smiles and says, “Then we must go where they cannot follow!”

By the way, we are two months into this storyline. Here’s what has happened…Xandu has stolen the Wand of Watoomb and Mary Jane. That. Is. It.

April 22, 2016

Panel #1 features Xandu’s head in the center. Half of MJ’s head is on the right, in the foreground. There is a spray of water coming from the credits box on the left. This is, apparently, the fountain in Washington Square Park. Xandu says, “Why wait here for my foes to locate us?” MJ thinks, “Xandu doesn’t know I’m married to Spider-Man…” Not that you haven’t tried to tell him, MJ!

Panel #2 closes in on MJ’s left wrist as she uses her right hand to slide the left sleeve up to reveal the spider-tracer, which she wears like a watch. It has little spider-sense emanations coming off of it. MJ continues thinking, “So he can’t suspect I’m wearing a spider-tracer!” Unless he sees it when you slide your sleeve up, MJ! Couldn’t you wear it somewhere less conspicuous? Someplace that doesn’t require you wear long sleeves all the time? She continues thinking, “Peter’ll find me, no matter where we…” But Xandu cuts into her thoughts in panel #3 as he holds out the Wand in a 3D effect. (The panel runs from left to right, foreground to background. Wand. Xandu. MJ.) “The Wand of Watoomb can take us to – another dimension!” he says. (Is it just me or is there a whole lot of phallic imagery and sexual innuendo going on here?) “Uh-oh!” thinks MJ, “I probably should’ve seen that coming!” (You mean the sexual innuendo, MJ? Me too!)

I do love the frequent use of thought balloons here, though. Nobody thinks in comic books anymore…if you know what I mean.

April 23, 2016

In case you were wondering why the always-busy Washington Square Park is empty…why here’s a bystander right here! Panel #1 shows, from left to right, MJ, Xandu holding the Wand in his left hand and pushing a guy with his right hand, and the guy Xandu pushes…and he even gets a line! “Stand aside!” yells Xandu, “I need room to wield the Wand…” The guy says, “Hey! Who’re you shovin’, weirdo?” But it doesn’t look good for the guy. He has two curved lines around his right shoulder where Xandu pushes him. This translates into panel #2 where the Wand (in panel) pushes the guy right into the center of the fountain. “As a matter of fact – you!” answers Xandu (off-panel). “Yike!” yells the guy, as three people (one with his feet in the fountain) look on. Yup. That’s it. Three people. In Washington Square Park.

April 24, 2016

So, what happens to the poor guy in the fountain? Well, he’s completely forgotten, that what. Panel #1 shows us Dr. Strange levitating, while holding Spidey in his right arm. (They seem to have left Doc’s house sometime in the last few days.) And because it is Sunday and Alex, there are birds flying behind them. “Your Cloak of Levitation’s almost as handy as my weblines, Doc,” says Spidey. (But why doesn’t he use his weblines?) In panel #2, the camera moves behind Doc and Spidey and we see what they see…which is Washington Square Park complete with arch and fountain (though the fountain now seems to be turned off) and dozens of dots that are all the people that we haven’t seen in the daily strips. “We’re approaching Washington Square Park!” says Doc, in case you missed the arch and the fountain and the people. “Are you sure that…” Spidey cuts him off in panel #3 (a close-up profile of Webhead and Doc with birds behind). “Oh ye of little faith!” says Spidey, “There they are!”

Panel #4 takes us to ground-level (top three panels air-borne, bottom three panels ground-level…a nice touch) where MJ and Xandu look up to see Spidey and Doc hovering over the arch (and birds). Xandu starts to raise the Wand (as we can see by the motion lines) and says, “How did those two find us so quickly?” (Notice that he doesn’t ask, “How are those two still alive?” or even “How did those two escape?” but “How did those two find us so quickly?” So, was he expecting to be found…but not so quickly?) MJ, covering up the fact that she is wearing a spider-tracer says, “Uh – maybe that Wand you stole gives off a heat signal…?” In panel #5, shot from the waist up, Xandu grabs MJ as the Wand starts powering up. And look! Two bystanders behind them! “No matter!” says Xandu, With its power, I could stand even against Dr. Strange! Still, I prefer that you and I merely…” “Vanish!” he says in panel #6 as a flash of light envelopes MJ and Xandu. There is a sound of “POOPH!” Yes, that is the real sound effect. Five bystanders look on in wonder as MJ and Xandu fade away.

The “Next” caption is “Into the Dimension of Dreams!” Featuring, perhaps, an appearance by Nightmare? Last week’s was “Flying the Friendly Skies?” With a question mark because, I suppose, MJ’s flight was not so friendly.

April 25, 2016

It starts with a caption: “Xandu and MJ vanish just as Spidey and Dr. Strange swoop in…” And there’s that sound effect again…POOPH…seriously, as MJ and Xandu disappear. They are drawn like outlines to show that they are disappearing but Dr. Strange is drawn that way in both panels, too. Is this a screw-up or foreshadowing of some sort? Spidey “swoops in” and says, “Huh? Where’d they go?” “Using the Wand, he could have transported them anywhere!” says the fading Dr. Strange. Panel #2 shows Spidey with the Washington Square Arch over his right shoulder and ghostly Dr. Strange over his left shoulder. “MJ’s spider-tracer – it’s stopped sending a signal!” says Spidey, “It’s like he spirited her off – to another world!” Did you get that? “Spirited her?” Very clever, that Spidey.

April 26, 2016

Okay, so it looks like it was foreshadowing rather than a screw-up. Panel #1 shows Spidey looking at the arch and six bystanders. “Okay, Doc,” he says, “tell me you know a way to track down MJ and Xandu!” In panel #2, Spidey looks behind. We see Dr. Strange’s outline but Spidey doesn’t. “Doc? Where’d you get to?” he says, “You were just…” Doc interrupts him in panel #3, saying, “I’m still beside you – but you can no longer see me. With a crowd gathering, I thought it best to become invisible.” But it’s okay for Spidey to be seen hanging around the park talking to nobody! We “see” Doc from behind this time, looking a bit like Mysterio, and Spidey, with swivel lines around his head, looking back at Doc but apparently seeing nothing and two bystanders with mouths agape looking on, as if they can see Doc but I suppose they’re actually surprised that Spidey is hanging around the park talking to nobody.

April 27, 2016

Spidey and the invisible Doc continue their conversation with five shadowy bystanders looking on. “Why’d you turn invisible, when I’m still…” begins Spidey, asking the obvious question. Doc cuts him off with, “Spider-Man is far-famed…but few know Dr. Strange as anything but a harmless local eccentric.” Panel #2 shows Spidey looking off-panel-left to talk to Doc while two bystanders look on. One is filming with his phone. The other actually gets a line! First Spidey says, “Yeah, I guess you’ve got your own secret identity to protect.” Then the bystander says, “Who’re ya talkin’ to, web-slinger?” In panel #3, Doc, looking like one of those mazes in the shape of a face that show up in puzzle books, tells Spidey, “Oh, I forgot to tell you…they can’t hear me either.” In surprise, Spidey’s head wobbles with motion lines. Two other bystanders look on, looking just as surprised but not for the same reason.

April 28, 2016

Spidey continues to talk to invisible puzzle-maze Dr. Strange with five silhouette bystanders in the background. “That’s just great!” says Spidey, “Nobody can see or hear you – so I look like a nut standin’ here yakkin’ to myself!” “Then perhaps you should maintain a discreet silence,” says Doc. Panel #2 swings the camera around so that we see Spidey and two bystanders behind him. As Spidey points at an off-panel Doc and says, “Not till you tell me where Xandu might’ve taken MJ!” The woman behind him whispers to the man behind him, “Poor Spider-Man – talking to himself!” The man replies, “Guess a guy’s who’s always getting’ zapped by super-villains had to snap sooner or later.” “Guess a guy’s who’s…?” You flubbed your line, pal. We’ll bring in a different bystander next time!

April 29, 2016

The invisible puzzle-maze Dr. Strange lifts Spidey and flies away with him. Four stunned bystanders look on. “Perhaps it’s time you and I sought a bit of privacy,” says Doc. “Good idea!” says Spidey. “Meanwhile…” says the caption in panel #2 where MJ and Xandu are backlit by a starlit sky (or so it looks). “Xandu…wh-where are we?” asks MJ. “We are…somewhere else,” replies the always-helpful Xandu.

April 30, 2016

Back to Spidey and Doc who alight on a Manhattan rooftop. Doc has become visible again. “On this rooftop, we should be safe from prying eyes,” Doc tells Spidey. “Now tell me, Doc – and tell me fast – where did Xandu go with my wife?” says Spidey. Panel #2 gives us close-ups of Doc and Spidey with some nice shading on their faces. (Okay. On their face and mask.) “I’m afraid that, at this precise moment….your guess is as good as mine!” says Doc. Spidey says, “!” which means, “You turned invisible and made me look like a fool in front of a bystander who blew his line and you don’t even know where MJ is? Jeez!”

May 1, 2016

So, Spidey and Doc hang out on the rooftop, having a chat. (And, because it is Sunday, there are birds in the sky behind them.) “So, you’ve got no idea where Xandu carried MJ off to?” says Spidey. And Doc says, “Don’t end a sentence with a preposition.” No, actually, he says, “Not at this instant! But I feel confident my all-seeing crystal can locate him.” (Because, if it can’t, then it wouldn’t be “all-seeing,” would it?) The camera pulls back in panel #2 to show us the whole roof. From this distance, we can see that only Spidey is on the roof. Doc is levitating a couple of feet above it. (And check out his cool shadow!) “Ant that gizmo’s back at your place, right?” says Spidey. “Yes,” replies Doc, “my cloak of levitation will soon…” But Spidey cuts him off in panel #3. “The heck with that!” he says. “I don’t intend to go floating through the air again like some hot-air balloon!” And to prove his point, he fires some webbing with a FWIPP. So, in panel #4, the duo leaves the roof. Spidey is web-swinging. Doc is levitating. Birds are flying behind them. “My web-lines are built for speed!” says Spidey but Doc thinks, “Despite his bravado, I sense Peter is filled with fear over his wife’s well-being…” Panel #5 is a close-up of a thoughtful-looking Doc. And he is thoughtful because he is still thinking. “And with Mary Jane Parker in the hands of Xandu,” he thinks, “he well should be!” “Elsewhere (to put it mildly)…” says the caption in panel #6. MJ is still freaked out by her current location. Xandu is still grabbing her wrist with his right hand as he holds the Wand of Watoomb in his left hand. “Wh-where have you brought me?” asks MJ.

Bet you thought we’d actually find out where Xandu has brought MJ by now, didn’t you? But you didn’t account for an entire Sunday strip where pretty much nothing happens. But you should have accounted for that because it happens all the time.

The “Next” caption gets right to the point. “Nightmare!” it reads. What was last week’s caption? Oh yeah. “Into the Dimension of Dreams!” So maybe we do know where MJ and Xandu are, after all. In spite of all those strips where pretty much nothing happens.

May 2, 2016

So, “Xandu has transported MJ to another dimension…” as the caption says. In a close-up shot of their two heads and the Wand of Watoomb, Xandu tells MJ, “Behold, my queen – your new domain!” And panel #2 reveals that they are standing on a blobby ribbon floating in the air while other blobby and ribbony things float around them…like they’re standing inside a living cell. (It’s not as good as a Ditko dimension but it will do the job.) Gee, thanks for the blobby domain, Xandu! Or as MJ puts it, “If it’s all the same to you – I’d prefer we catch a taxi back to Manhattan!”

May 3, 2016

Back to Spidey and Doc as Spidey webswings while Doc holds onto him. (First Doc carries Spidey using the Cloak of Levitation, then Spidey carries Doc as they webswing. I don’t understand why they don’t each travel in their own way without anyone carrying anyone.) As they head towards Doc’s house, Spidey says, “See, Doc? I told you my web-line’d get us to your place faster than your flying carpet!” “If you mean my Cloak of Levitation…” begins Doc. “It’s capable of velocity you’ve only guessed at!” he finishes in panel #2. “Leggo my Eggo!” says Spidey. Okay, what he actually says is, “Leggo – before we crash right into your picture window!” And the camera is inside the house looking out of the picture window (a nice perspective) and Spidey and Doc are heading right for us!

May 4, 2016

Happy Star Wars Day everyone! Not that that has anything to do with anything here.

Now the camera moves outside and to the right of Spidey and Doc as they head towards the window. Doc does not “leggo” and Spidey says, “What’re you doin’? You’re gonna smash us right into…” But Doc cuts him off, saying, Not ‘into’…” “Through!” he says in panel #2. And we’re back to the shot from inside the window as Spidey and Doc phase right through it, heading towards us. “Hey – that tickled!” Spidey says.

May 5, 2016

Back in the Sanctum Sanctorum where the braziers are still on fire. Doc gestures at a crystal ball that looks like it is filled with yarn and says, “This is my all-seeing crystal.” Spidey, looking on, says, “The Eye of Agamotto – an ‘all-seeing’ crystal – compared to you, the NSA’s a bunch of pikers!” (That’s the “National Security Agency,” of course.) In panel #2, the camera shifts so we are looking straight on at Doc as he gestures over the crystal. Spidey looks over Doc’s shoulder and says, “Now use that thing to find MJ and Xandu – wherever they are!”

May 6, 2016

Doc leans over to his left (our right), looking like he’s about to fall over. He gestures over the crystal, which now looks like it has clipped hair curls floating in it. There are two smaller globes hovering over the crystal and one of those now has the yarn in it. The other looks like it has ribosomes floating in it. Spidey looks on from Doc’s right (our left) and asks, “Has your crystal ball located MJ yet?” “You must be patient,” replies Doc, “It has a multiverse of dimensions to search.” (Excuses, excuses.) Panel #2 takes us, with a “While…” caption, to Xandu and MJ in the other dimension. Xandu gestures at a giant set of jaws with fangs and says, “Welcome, my lady – to the nefarious realm of Nightmare!” “I don’t have to ask how it got its name,” MJ says.

May 7, 2016

So, MJ and Xandu stand on a blobby floating walkway that leads right into the giant jaws. Xandu seems to lean forward a bit. MJ leans back away from the jaws. Xandu explains, “When people sleep, they may waft to worlds of sweet dreams…or here, where Nightmare holds sway!” “Not to be picky,” says MJ, “but shouldn’t ‘nightmare’ be plural?” (As in, “where nightmares hold sway.”) Panel #2 shows us MJ and Xandu, facing forward, but neither is looking at us. Xandu seems to be looking above us, while a stunned MJ is looking at Xandu as he says, “Not really. Not here.”

May 8, 2016

It’s Sunday and “In the Sanctum Sanctorum of Dr. Strange…” the camera has moved up to a crane shot looking down at Spidey standing directly behind Doc who is gesturing hypnotically. Now there are two large globes, both floating in the air. One has the yarn in it, the other has an amoeba and crackle. (Which one is the “all-seeing crystal?” Are they both the “all-seeing crystal?”) Spidey says, “Can’t you goose that crystal ball?” (Not in a family-friendly newspaper, Spidey!) The camera moves behind Spidey’s head in panel #2, as he points at the amoeba crystal. It’s a strange angle with shadows draped over Spidey’s mask. Doc is turned completely away from us so we only see his cape and his right arm. The amoeba crystal is crackling like crazy now. “Every second we’re searching, MJ may be in danger!” says Spidey. “I believe it’s finally zeroing in…” says Doc.

On to panel #3; a close-up of Doc’s face with his hands on either side. (A bookcase is behind.) “Yes!” says Doc, “It’s found both her and Xandu!” Down to panel #4 where Doc says, “But – I almost wish it hadn’t!” Spidey says “?” but that’s because he doesn’t see what Doc sees. The globe now hovers in front of Doc and within it, like the Wicked Witch in the crystal in the Wizard of Oz, is an image of a pale man with spiky 1980s Sting hair and a blue-checked outfit with a big collar. The man rides a gray horse with blank eyes and a big unicorn horn.

“While elsewhere…” in panel #5 and the Nightmare dimension, MJ and Xandu are still standing on that blobby floating walkway with lots of blobs and tentacles and things all around them. “This place is pretty creepy,” says MJ, “but it’s hardly gonna give me nightmares.” “That’s because he hasn’t arrived yet…” says Xandu and we move on to panel #6 where Xandu grips the Wand of Watoomb and looks off to his right. “But he is coming – now!” says Xandu. MJ looks sickened, hugging herself. And the “Next” caption reads, “Deathly Horse, Pale Rider…!” Last week’s caption was “Nightmare!” which describes the dimension that Xandu and MJ are in and the pale guy we just met today.

May 9, 2016

Now Doc’s crystal looks like a jigsaw puzzle. Or maybe it’s showing the weird geometry of the Nightmare dimension. Doc is back to gesturing around the crystal and Spidey, still keeping his distance (but now to Doc’s left) looks on. “The crystal’s located Mary Jane and Xandu,” says Doc, “in the most dangerous dimension of all!” “Where? Where are they, Doc?” asks Spidey. Panel #2 takes us to that dimension where the pale guy on his horse rides up next to MJ and Xandu and says, “Welcome wayfarers – to the darksome domain of Nightmare!”

May 10, 2016

Panel #1 shows us MJ, sort of stuck in the bottom left corner, and Xandu, occupying more space than MJ but also stuck down low. Most of the panel is filled with the pale man on his horse; only they face away from us, which seems to defeat the purpose of giving him most of the panel. “Xandu – who is this guy on the spooky horse?” asks MJ. “I am Nightmare!” says Nightmare, “I and my realm of dark dreams are one!” (One what?) Panel #2 moves the camera over Nightmare’s right shoulder, as he says, “I recognize you, Xandu – a sorcerer of modest talents. Neither of you will ever return to the waking world.” MJ, standing behind Xandu, thinks, “I don’t like the sound of that!” Who would, MJ?

May 11, 2016

Nightmare finally gets shown from the front and we see MJ from the front too as she turns to Xandu, cocks her thumb at Nightmare and says, “This Nightmare guy’s weird, Xandu. Can we go now?” (Really. I can’t imagine anyone saying that in this situation, even the wife of Spider-Man. “This Nightmare guy’s weird?” Really?) Xandu who is shown from behind so that he looks like a watermelon on a stand, says nothing. But Nightmare says, “No one leaves my world without permission, woman.” (I thought it was a dimension. Is it a world or a dimension?) Panel #2 shows Xandu from the front and Nightmare in Easter Island profile. “You were a fool to come, Xandu,” says Nightmare, “Never before have you dared enter my dominion of dark dreams.” “That’s because never before did I possess…” says Xandu and it’s on to a small panel #3 in which Xandu finishes his sentence with “…the Wand of Watoomb!” He smiles and holds the Wand up in the air.

May 12, 2016

Nightmare’s horse rears up at the sight of the Wand (there are little motion lines below the horse’s chin and behind Nightmare’s head). Xandu is stuffed down in the lower right corner and MJ is practically squeezed out in the very rim of the corner itself. “You have gained control of the Wand of Watoomb?” says the startled Nightmare, “But it resides in the domicile of Dr. Strange!” “No longer!” replies Xandu. In panel #2, Xandu is consigned to the lower left corner as he fires jagged bolts from the Wand at Nightmare and his horse, surrounding them with a glow. “And it’s the one thing that can defeat you, Nightmare!” says Xandu. Panel #3 squeezes Xandu and MJ out entirely. Only Nightmare and his horse appear, both surrounded by a sheath of ice. “Xandu,” says MJ off-panel, “Y-you froze him solid!?” (Is she exclaiming or asking?) “Why,” says Xandu off-panel, “I did, didn’t I?”

May 13, 2016

So, Nightmare and his horse stand frozen as Xandu gloats from the lower right corner. “The Wand gave me the power to turn Nightmare into a statue,” he says, “And so he’ll remain through all eternity!” Panel #2 shows us MJ and Xandu as Mary Jane points off-panel at Nightmare and says, “You really intend to rule this place with that staring at you forever?” (MJ seems completely unconcerned that Xandu has frozen Nightmare and possibly killed him.) “Oh, I never intended to stay here, my lovely,” says Xandu. In panel #3, he gestures up toward the jigsaw heavens of this dimension, as if looking up through Dr. Strange’s crystal (both Xandu and MJ are shown from behind) and proclaims, “I plan to relocate part of this bad-dream world – to Earth!”

May 14, 2016

And back to Spidey and Doc, who are still standing around the crystal, which shows Nightmare’s dimension. It is like a reversal of yesterday’s panel #3. Then, Xandu looked up. Now, Doc looks down. Spidey, still standing behind Doc rather than next to him, says, “We know MJ and Xandu are in Nightmare’s dimension – so why aren’t we goin’ after them? What’re we waiting for?” And panel #2 shows close-ups of Spidey and Doc with a bookcase behind as Doc says, “For the two of them to return to our world. Which they will, very soon – with a vengeance!” So, Doc’s got it all figured out, I guess.

May 15, 2016

“In a dimension that exists alongside our own…” Nightmare and his horse are so frozen, they have icicles hanging from their feet. The horse’s tail is ice-encased and ice dangles from his chin. MJ and Xandu look on. (Xandu’s back is to us and he now holds the Wand in his right hand.) “Okay, so you’ve turned that guy Nightmare into a statue!” says MJ, “I guess that makes you king of this nutty place, Xandu…” In panel #2, a close-up of MJ and Xandu, Mary Jane asks, “But who’d want to lord it over nothing but the stuff of bad dreams?” And Xandu replies, “You asked me this on Thursday, MJ, and I answered!” No, actually, Xandu answers again with, “It’s still your world – and mine – that I intend to conquer, Mary Jane Parker.” In panel #3, Xandu holds up the Wand of Watoomb and it crackles for him. MJ looks up at it, like a dog mesmerized by a bone. “I will turn the Earth into a new Nightmare dimension,” says Xandu, “by employing the wondrous Wand of Watoomb!”

On to panel #4. (This week, the top tier is in the Nightmare dimension and the bottom tier is in Doc’s Sanctum.) The caption reads, “While, back in what is – at least for the present – the ‘real world’.” And Doc is still gesturing over the globe, which now looks like it has an amoeba in it again. Spidey remains behind. Doc says, “Xandu is coming!” Panel #5 shows us Doc from a low nostril shot. Spidey is to the right and the globe to the right of him. “I sense it,” says Doc, “through the Orb of Agamotto.” (Now, was that the Orb of Agamotto just now or was that the all-seeing crystal?) “He’d better bring MJ back safe with him,” says Spidey. And then he smacks his right fist into his left palm in panel #6 with spider-sense lines emanating off his head and says, “Or else he’ll wish he had!”

The “Next” caption is, “When Worlds Collide!” which is also, of course, a 1951 George Pal movie. Last week’s was “Deathly Horse, Pale Rider…!” both of whom did show up except that they were frozen for most of the week so they didn’t pose much of a threat. (Granted, the caption didn’t say they would pose a threat.)

And I cannot end without pointing out that the entire six panels today told us nothing that we didn’t already know.

May 16, 2016

“Xandu returns with MJ from another world…” is the caption but they haven’t left yet. The Ditkoesque spikes and blobs are still around them as they fly off, encased in a comet-like spell. MJ gets us all up to speed by thinking, “He plans to remake the Earth in the image of Nightmare’s dimension. I hope that doesn’t mean – what it sounds like!” But, of course, it does. “While…” in panel #2, Doc has again encased Spidey in a spell so that he can tow him along as he flies over the Village. (Even though Spidey complained that, “I don’t intend to go floating through the air again like some hot-air balloon!” back on May 1.) “I fear we may be too late to intercept Xandu!” says the always-upbeat Doc.

May 17, 2016

Now we see Spidey and Doc from behind as they fly along. The arch and the trees of Washington Square Park are below them. “We’re heading back to the park?” asks Spidey. (In other words, “we wasted over two weeks of hanging around on rooftops and going to your Sanctum Sanctorum when we could have stayed right where we were?”) “Where the Orb of Agamotto predicts Xandu and Mary Jane will re-emerge,” says Doc, as if only the Orb could have figured that out. In panel #2, Doc takes on his invisible puzzle form again as he and Spidey alight. Three bystanders look on from the background. “Turning invisible again, huh, Doc?” says Spidey who, politely, does not add, “You coward.” “At least we beat ‘em here,” says the web-slinger. But in panel #3, the three bystanders now assume the foreground as they pass out. Spidey’s big head watches from the lower left hand corner and he says, “Huh? Everyone’s dropping like flies - !” but he doesn’t lift a finger to protect them from their falls.

May 18, 2016

So, Spidey and the invisible Dr. Strange (both of whom are protected by a cloud around them) look at the three bystanders, now lying unconscious on the ground. “Why’d everybody suddenly pass out?” asks the webhead. “They were put to sleep..,” says Doc in panel #1 and continues in panel #2 with, “…as we would’ve been if not for the Shield of the Seraphim,” which is the cloud thing covering them. (But if everyone is asleep, why is Doc still bothering to stay invisible?) Spidey puts his hands up to his forehead as puzzle-maze Doc looks on from behind. “I’ve gotta stay awake – and rescue MJ,” says Spidey. (Hey, Spidey! Doc just told you that you’re safe because of the Shield of the Seraphim! You’re not going to fall asleep anyway, are you?…Unless you missed your nap or something.) “Then watch this space!” says an off-panel Doc in panel #3. Only his hand appears, pointing up in the sky at a big black hole. Spidey looks up and says “?” Meaning, “Watch this space? Is this guy making jokes? What is his deal?!”

May 19, 2016

The hole has gotten so big that it looks like it is right next to Spidey and Doc. “That hole in midair,” says Spidey, “it’s growing – and something’s coming through!” “Correction, Spider-Man,” says a voice, presumably from the hole. That voice turns out to be Xandu who announces, in panel #2, “We’re here!” It appears that he has emerged from the hole and brought the Nightmare dimension with him. He holds the Wand of Watoomb in one hand and MJ in the other arm. There are six bystanders unconscious on the snaky, blobby pathways that float in the dimension while 14 black, blobby octopus/spider/starfish-like things float along behind him.

May 20, 2016

Check it out! A single panel strip! With two bystanders draped over the blobby paths and 21 of the blobby creatures floating behind, Doc, Xandu, MJ, and Spidey appear from left to right. Xandu is getting quite chummy with MJ, with his arm around her. MJ looks at Spidey but doesn’t seem distressed. It is a look that says, “Yeah, I know.” Doc, very stoic and Easter Island Head-like says, “You’ve turned the park into a replica of the Nightmare dimension!” Xandu says, “I’m pleased you recognize my accomplishment, Strange.” MJ doesn’t get to say anything. Spidey says, “And mine is gonna be to rearrange your face, Xandu – unless you set Mary Jane Parker free now!”

May 21, 2016

For my birthday strip (yes, it’s my birthday), Xandu and Spidey face of with MJ stuck in the middle. She still doesn’t get to say anything but now her expression says, “Oh, please, not with me here.” (There are six blob creatures behind them, if you are keeping track.) Xandu says, “You’d dare pit your puny spider-strength – against Xandu, who wields the Wand of Watoomb?” (Talking about himself in the 3rd person again.) And Spidey replies, in panel #2, “Let’s see how much you like that cattle prod – after I’ve wrapped it around your neck!” He holds his hands out like claws. Xandu stares at him. MJ does not appear in this panel, even though I assume Xandu is still holding her. But there are 12 blob creatures behind them!

(We are now three months into this story, by the way.)

May 22, 2016

For the Sunday page, Alex draws all six panel boundaries with wavy lines. To accentuate the alienness of the Nightmare dimension on Earth, I suppose. Panel #1 shows Doc and Spidey now fully within the dimension. They are both much farther away from Xandu and MJ than Spidey was yesterday. Doc floats but Spidey runs along one of the blobby pathways. There are six blobby creatures in the panel and 7 unconscious bystanders. Xandu is back to holding MJ by the right wrist. The Wand of Watoomb crackles with energy. Spidey says, “Let Mary Jane Parker go – or I’ll use that magic wand on you like a baseball bat!” Panel #2 moves a bit closer as Spidey approaches Xandu. MJ looks suitably distressed this time. “Threats. Always empty threats,” says Xandu with one and a half blob creatures behind him. “Empty? Huh?” says Spidey, “C’mon, Doc. Let’s…” And panel #3 switches the camera angle as Spidey looks back at Doc who is gesturing hypnotically, with little swirls of energy around his hand. But apparently he is doing this just for show because when Spidey asks, “Doc? Aren’t you with me?” he replies, “You don’t fully comprehend what has occurred, Spider-Man!”

Down and back to panel #4 in which Doc gestures at four blobby creatures, a blobby path and that big floating set of fanged jaws and says, “With the Wand, Xandu transformed this park into an extension of Nightmare’s realm…a world now totally his to command!” In panel #5, Spidey now confronts Doc (as he confronted Xandu in the panel above, though not from the same angle) and says, “You’re saying – we’re now on his turf?” “Yes,” says Doc, “Thus, far from being able to defeat Xandu…” And on to our big finish in panel #6 where Doc now looks like he’s standing on a cloud and Xandu has magically arranged to be holding MJ by the left wrist. (MJ looks scared this time. Spidey has lost his combative stance.) “We’ll be lucky to survive the next magical onslaught!” says Doc. “You always were quick to size up a situation, Strange,” says Xandu, snidely.

The “Next” caption reads, “That Old Black Magic!” which is nicely vague and covers pretty much everything that has gone before. Last week’s was “When Worlds Collide!” With Xandu bringing the Nightmare dimension to Washington Square Park, I’d say that qualifies as an accurate “Next.”

May 23, 2016

So, in spite of everything Doc said yesterday, Spidey still rushes at Xandu, with fists cocked. Xandu is back to holding MJ by her right wrist and a sheath of magic surrounds him. (There are 13 blob creatures behind and Doc is in the lower right corner, just barely in view.) “You and Dr. Strange are in my domain now,” says Xandu, “Here, my power is at its apex – while yours is weakened.” “We’ll just see about…” says Spidey. And in panel #2, he throws a punch that hits the magic sheath with a SLAMM. He doesn’t fare so well. His head wobbles with wiggle lines and he yells out “YEEOWW.” (Not just “YEEOW,” mind you, but “YEEOWW.”)

May 24, 2016

Doc puts his arm around Spidey and consoles him. “Are you all right?” he asks. Spidey, looking at his sore hand, replies, “I gave it my best shot – but all I did was hurt my fist!” (So, with all the amazing things he can do, throwing a punch is his “best shot.”) Panel #2 shows Xandu and MJ. Xandu still holds MJ by the wrist but he is in the background as MJ’s head fills up the right half of the panel. Xandu says, “Against the power this wand funnels from the Nightmare world – you’re like a bug striking the windshield of a speeding car!” And MJ thinks, “If he keeps trying to save me – Peter’ll get himself killed.” Considering the whining Spidey is doing about his sore fist, I don’t think he’s going to keep trying to save you, MJ!

May 25, 2016

And now it’s the foursome in one panel. Spidey, Doc, Xandu, and MJ, from left to right. “It’s a stand-off!” says Doc, “We can’t touch Xandu –even though my sorcery can fend off his spells.” (Boy, these guys give up quick.) “But that won’t help us free MJ!” says Spidey. The camera moves in to a close-up of MJ for panel #2 (we also see a tiny bit of Xandu’s hand as he holds her wrist). She says, “Who says I want to be rescued?” And a word balloon of “!?” points off-panel with two stems, meaning that both Spidey and Doc have said the same thing simultaneously. Of course, Doc’s probably means, “Wow! Really?” while Spidey’s probably means, “Didn’t you pull this same thing with the Sub-Mariner?”

May 26, 2016

So, even though Spidey got close enough to take a swing at Xandu, he and Dr. Strange are now on the outside looking in through some shimmering wormhole. Xandu and MJ are in the foreground, in their Nightmare dimension, which I thought had merged with Washington Square Park. Xandu, still holding onto MJ’s wrist, completely falls for MJ’s line from yesterday. He smiles at her and says, “Mary Jane Parker – have you decided you’ll willingly be my queen?” (As Bugs Bunny would say, “What a maroon!”) MJ looks at him and gives him a big smile. “What girl wouldn’t?” she says. Panel #2 is MJ only, a close-up of her, looking sultry. “You’ve got enough power to turn a city block into dreamworld,” she says. (And isn’t that what every woman wants?) “All I ask is that you let Spider-Man and Dr. Strange leave us in peace!” So, it’s a pretty transparent ploy. Now, let’s see if Xandu is thick enough to fall for it.

May 27, 2016

Xandu still has MJ by the wrist…only now it’s her left wrist. Panel #1 has a close-up of his head with MJ in profile to our right. Three of those spidery things are behind. “Dear Mary Jane, you’ve made me see the folly of my ways,” says Xandu. “So, you’ll quit fighting my would-be rescuers?” asks a smiling MJ. Panel #2 zooms even closer to Xandu. His head fills the panel as he says, “You said I had turned a city block into a piece of the nightmare world. But I’ve power to transform this entire metropolis!” Because who wouldn’t want to live in the nightmare world, right?

May 28, 2016

Now Xandu slides over in the panel so he can point at the Manhattan skyline with 17 spider-blobs and four unconscious bystanders in front of it. Xandu uses his right hand to point because his left hand is still clamped on MJ’s left wrist. “Behold those skyscrapers that lie beyond my current dreamscape!” says Xandu, “I must transform the entire city!” MJ, barely in the panel, gapes. Panel #2 switches to Spidey and Doc (with 8 spider-blobs behind). Spidey holds his hand up to his mouth so he can whisper an aside to Doc. (Why are they whispering? I have no idea.) “After he’s taken Manhattan, he’ll want to conquer the whole state – and then…” says Spidey. Doc, looking very calm about the whole thing, replies, “The curse of conquerors…is that they must forever go on conquering!”

May 29, 2016

It’s Sunday and that means we start with a caption. “Xandu plans to expand his nightmarish kingdom…” It also means that Xandu is no longer holding onto MJ. He has the Wand of Watoomb in his left hand instead of MJ’s wrist. And it also means that Spidey and Dr. Strange are in a bubble inside the Nightmare kingdom when they were on the outside looking in before. Around them are the blobby trails, four unconscious bystanders and three of those blobby spiders. “Right now, only this park constitutes my domain,” says Xandu to a troubled Mary Jane. Panel #2 shows us Xandu holding the Wand in both hands as energy crackles off of it. “But when the power of the Nightmare world flows through the Wand of Watoomb…” he says. And on to panel #3 where his word balloon fills the center of the panel with Xandu nowhere in sight. Instead the panel shows 6 spider-blobs and a whole bunch of blobby webs threatening to surround the Manhattan skyline. “…My realm is swiftly increased to twice that size!” says Xandu’s word balloon. Panel #4 gives us MJ pawing Xandu’s back as she pleads with him. Xandu has stuck the Wand up into a Nightmare realm cloud. Lines of light stream out of it. “Xandu – ‘my love’ – surely you can stop enlarging your realm now!” (MJ is laying it on a little too thick.) “Stop? Never!” says Xandu in the best mad Marvel villain tradition. In panel #5, the Wand disperses the cloud and sends 10 blobby spiders scattering. “Why should I not transform all this city – this nation –this planet?” (Um…because it’d be a crappy place to live? For Xandu too.) And in panel #6, Spidey and Doc are still whispering to each other. (With three spider-blobs behind them.) Doc does the “hook ‘em Horns” thing with his hand as he whispers, “I always knew Xandu’s lust for power would never be satisfied.” (You always knew, Doc? Then why didn’t you do something about it?) And Spidey whispers back, “He’s the kinda guy who’s gotta conquer the world – just to be sure he’ll have a parking space!”

The “Next” caption reads, “First Alexander – then Napoleon – And Now Xandu?” Last week’s was “That Old Black Magic!” which was nice and vague and told us nothing. Which was fine because nothing much happened all week.

May 30, 2016

A double-sized panel showing (from left to right) MJ looking on, Xandu flourishing the Wand of Watoomb (he’s got MJ’s wrist again…his right hand holding her left), three unconscious bystanders draped over blobby trails, and Spidey and Doc in their bubble. There are 8 spider-blobs and the Manhattan skyline behind. “One more wave of the Wand of Watoomb and…” says Xandu. Spidey says, “While we hide behind your magic shield, Doc, he’ll change the whole city into his nightmare realm.” (You can call it a shield if you want, Spidey, but it’s a bubble.) “But if I lower it,” says Doc, doing the “hook ‘em Horns” with both hands, “we both fall under his sway!” Was that what it was before? I thought they were just hiding from the power of the Wand. But I’m too worn out and too behind on these entries to check. Besides, things may be about to change. Panel #2 is a Spidey close-up. His spider-sense is jangling all over and he says, “Or not!” The off-panel Doc gives us a “?”

May 31, 2016

If you thought Spidey would explain his “Or not!” from yesterday, then you must be new to the Amazing Spider-Man newspaper strip. Instead we start with MJ pleading with Xandu, with five spider-blobs in the background. Xandu conveniently holds the Wand of Watoomb up so we can see its “face.” MJ says, “Please, Xandu – don’t transform any more of the city.” (”Please Hammer, don’t hurt ‘em!”) Xandu tells her, “I do it, dear Mary Jane, to make you queen of a great domain!” But an off-panel voice cries out, “If it’s a kingdom you’re after, Xandu…” And panel #2 reveals the speaker as Spidey who is now outside the mystic bubble, though Dr. Strange is still inside. With four spider-blobs behind him and Xandu looking on in surprise, Spidey finishes with “Just stand still for a second – and I’ll crown you!”

June 1, 2016

Now Xandu raises his right arm bringing MJ’s left arm along with it. Spidey runs towards them. (And there are about 12 spider-blobs behind them.) “You dare come out from behind Dr. Strange’s seraphimic shield - ?” (So, that’s what it’s called!) Spidey says, “I’d call myself Daredevil – but that name’s taken!” (A little plug for the second season.) In panel #2, Xandu goes from surprise to smiling maniacally. With five blobs behind him, he says, “Fool! You just delivered yourself into my power!” Rays of light shoot out of the Wand’s head towards Spidey.

June 2, 2016

The Wand’s rays strike Spidey full in the chest. A whole bunch of lines radiate off his body. (Xandu, the Wand, and MJ are all shoved down into the lower left corner.) “My Wand shall bend your will to mine, web-winger,” says Xandu, “making you my helpless slave!” But, in panel #2, Spidey runs right through the burst of light and fires webbing at Xandu with a “FWIPP.” “It’s ‘web-slinger,’ not ‘web-winger’,” he says. “What? You passed right through my spell?!” marvels Xandu. Then, in panel #3 he shrugs off all the webbing that Spidey shot at him, saying, “Still, your pitiful webbing won’t hold a sorcerer.” And just why is that? “Because he’s a sorcerer” is not a good enough reason, Stan. Also, note that Larry got tired of drawing the spider-blobs. None of them appear in this strip.

June 3, 2016

Making up for ignoring the spider-blobs last time, Larry draws 12 of them, along with two unconscious bystanders and the blobby trail. The camera sits behind Xandu and MJ. (It looks like Xandu has released MJ’s wrist.) Spidey, facing towards us, approaches Xandu and says, “Hit me with your best shot, Wizard-man!” (Pat Benatar would be proud.) “Even if you’ve somehow gained immunity to the spells,” says Xandu, “How will you fare against men controlled by the Wand?” Having finished that statement in panel #2, he fires the light rays from the Wand at two unconscious bystanders so that they glow. MJ, purveyor of the obvious, declares, “You’re activating the New Yorkers you’ve put to sleep!?” Spidey looks on from behind. There are seven spider-blobs behind him.

June 4, 2016

Xandu has switched the Wand of Watoomb to his right hand so he can, very dramatically, use it to point at Spidey as he instructs, “Go, my ‘zombies!’ Throttle the wall-crawler!” Four very nasty-looking blank-eyed guys approach Spidey who only just made it into this panel but still has a word balloon that reads, “You know I won’t hurt these poor people under your control!” Panel #2 switches to MJ who looks over at Dr. Strange, who looks comatose within his bubble (oh, I’m sorry, his “seraphimic shield”). “Why does Dr. Strange just stand there?” she thinks, “Can’t he do anything to help Peter?” Oh, and there are no spider-blobs this time.

June 5, 2016

But MJ and Doc are nowhere to be seen in this Sunday strip. Instead, it’s Xandu holding up the Wand of Watoomb and Spidey and about 8 zombie New Yorkers in panel #1. Manhattan is behind, looking like it is wrapped in cloud. No spider-blobs make the scene. “You boast of having the proportionate strength of a spider,” says Xandu. (You really need to stop doing that, Spidey.) Panel #2 moves in closer. Xandu and the Wand fill up the left side while Spidey is overwhelmed by four zombies on the right side. “Why don’t you toss them off you – as easily as a lion shakes water from its mane?” asks Xandu. Panel #3 now closes in on Spidey, with Xandu in the background, as he tries to hold off the four zombies. “You…unnhh…know why not!” he says.

Down to panel #4, a strange angle with Spidey, apparently on the ground, wrestling with five zombies while a sixth one approaches, brandishing an umbrella (love that). Xandu peeks in from the bottom left. “I can’t risk harming these people,” says Spidey, “who have no control over what they’re doing!” In panel #5, the angle only shows us Spidey’s right arm and left leg as two zombies attack him. From the background, Xandu says, “That’s too bad, wall-crawler. Because under the spell of the Wand of Watoomb…” And panel #6 is all Xandu’s as he finishes his sentence with, “…they have no compunction about harming you!” And just to prove that we have some cool Batman ’66 sound effects. SOK! and POW! and FTHOK!

The “Next” caption is, “Spidey’s Deadly Dilemma!” which, I think, is going on right now! Last week’s was “First Alexander – then Napoleon – And Now Xandu?” which implied conquest but hasn’t really happened. Oh, and Alex decided to not draw any spider-blobs this time.

June 6, 2016

Larry does draw spider-blobs. But only three this time. They hover over MJ’s head on the rightside as she pleads with Xandu. (Is this what MJ is reduced to? Cringing and pleading and pretending to love the villain?) On the left, five zombies pound on Spidey. (One of them looks like Mastermind.) “Stop, Xandu!” says MJ, “Those people under your magic spell – they’ll beat Spider-Man to death!” “Which is precisely what I want them to do,” says the smiling Xandu. So, MJ turns to Dr. Strange in panel #2. But Doc is still comatose behind his shield. “Dr. Strange! You’ve got to help him!” calls MJ but she thinks, “No use! It’s like he doesn’t even hear me!”

June 7, 2016

MJ, upset, looks at Spidey, who is pinned down by 5 zombies. Xandu looks at MJ with his arm around her. There are 6 spider-blobs behind them. “If they keep pummeling him like that – they’ll kill him,” says MJ. “It’s his own fault, dear Mary Jane,” says Xandu, “He somehow became immune to my Wand’s power.” (The Wand of Watoomb is not shown.) On to panel #2 where three fists pound on Spidey’s head. Two of the zombies are shown. One looks like he’s having a grand old time. From off-panel, Xandu says, “So I had to switch my efforts to controlling other people instead – and let them do my dirty work.” In other words, this entire strip is stuff we already know.

June 8, 2016

Now, Xandu and MJ face to the left with 9 spider-blobs behind them. Xandu looks at MJ but MJ stares off into space. “Come beloved,” says Xandu, “observing such violence will only disturb you.” (Xandu just keeps getting creepier, doesn’t he?) MJ thinks, “If he knew that the man his slaves are assaulting is my husband - !” (I don’t think he’d care, MJ.) But an off-panel voice says, “Begging your pardon, Xandu…” and panel #2 moves to Spidey who has webbed up about seven of the zombies. MJ stares at him and seven spider-blobs hover behind him. “…But do these belong to you?” asks Spidey. MJ says, “!” which means, I think, “Wow!”

June 9, 2016

And so, Xandu does the Easter Island head thing, filling up the left side of the panel as he stares at Spidey, the webbed-up mass of zombies and the 15 blobs behind. “You over-powered all those people without harming them?” asks Xandu. “All webbed up, they can’t hurt anybody,” says Spidey, “not even themselves, and now…” On to panel #2 as Xandu fires a stream of light from the Wand of Watoomb but the stream goes right through Spidey. “Why isn’t my Wand swatting you like a fly?” asks Xandu. “Maybe because I’m not a fly,” says Spidey. He finishes in panel #3, saying, “…but a spider!” And, so saying, he punches Xandu with a “WHAP!” that knocks the sorcerer back, causing him to drop the Wand.

Can we be near the end of this storyline after only three and a half months? Oh, please, please, please, let us be near the end of this storyline!

June 10, 2016

Xandu sits on the ground (okay…on the blobby path), holding his jaw as MJ and 9 spider-blobs look on. “How could you resist the spells of the Wand of Watoomb?” he asks. Spidey, hands on hips, decides to spill the beans. “I didn’t…not really,” he says. In panel #2, he points at Dr. Strange who walks up like the guest on a late night TV talk show (if a late night TV talk show had five spider-blobs floating in the air). Spidey says, “Dr. Strange put me under his control – so you were really fighting him the whole time!” Doc says, “It was all Spider-Man’s idea.”

So, we’ve gotten to the point where the heroes pat each other on the back. It is sure looking like this story is finally over. Then Stan spoils it with a caption that reads, “Watch it, guys! Xandu isn’t finished yet!” To which I can only add, “Aaaarrrggghhh!”

June 11, 2016

Xandu has gotten to his feet. He faces Dr. Strange and Spidey, pointing at them. (Eight spider-blobs behind.) “You mean – when the Wand tried to seize control of Spider-Man’s mind…” Doc finishes for him with “It couldn’t because my magic already controlled him. He showed courage, placing himself entirely in my power.” In panel #2, the pointing continues as Spidey points at Xandu (with about 9 blobs behind) and says, “And now you’re in ours!” Only Xandu replies, “That’s what you think!”

Note to Spidey and Doc: When you defeat your opponent, don’t let him stand up and get in a conversation with you. Instead of pointing, how about covering him in webbing? And do you think maybe someone could pick up the Wand of Watoomb so Xandu can’t get to it again?

June 12, 2016

Our Sunday strip begins with this caption: “Spider-Man and Dr. Strange seem to have turned the tables on Xandu…” Emphasis, I assume, on “seem.” In the panel, Dr. Strange, Spidey, MJ, and Xandu are left to right, with three blobs behind. “You’ve caused a lot trouble today,” says Doc to Xandu, “stealing the Wand of Watoomb…” He continues in panel #2 which shows Doc and Spidey and the Wand, which is just sitting there on the path with no one bothering to pick it up. “…and using it to transform part of the city into the Nightmare dimension.” (Which Doc has not bothered to change back.) Spidey adds, “Not to mention kidnapping Mary Jane Parker.” In panel #3, Doc finally makes a move toward picking up the Wand as MJ and Spidey still face Xandu who says, “I didn’t kidnap her! I was going to make her queen of a realm beyond compare…” In panel #4, Xandu finishes his sentence with “…and I still shall!” Doc finally grabs the Wand as Spidey looks on, but, as MJ puts it, “Look! Stephen just touched the fallen Wand – and suddenly it’s like he’s frozen!” So, my bad. Turns out picking up the Wand was not the thing to do. But Spidey still should have webbed up Xandu. In panel #5, the glow from the Wand covers Spidey and MJ. (Doc has a great horrified look on his face as he looks at the Wand.) “Worse than that!” says Spidey, “The Wand’s aura – it’s radiating outward –washing over us like a tidal wave!” And, in panel #6, Doc, Spidey, and MJ start to go transparent as Xandu looks on, leering. “We’re fading away!” says MJ, completing our exposition dialogue for today.

The “Next” caption is, “Welcome Back to My Nightmare!” (a little Alice Cooper.) homage there) which is about the last thing I wanted to hear. You mean, we’re going to go through it all over again? Last week’s was “Spidey’s Deadly Dilemma!” which turned out to be a bit of a cheat, seeing as Spidey never had to make any sort of decision at all, protected as he was by Dr. Strange’s spell.

June 13, 2016

…Is a recap of yesterday. It starts with a caption: “When Dr. Strange reaches out to retrieve the Wand of Watoomb…” and shows Doc bending down to grab the Wand as MJ and Spidey look on. MJ, her hand to her cheek, cries out, “Soon as he touched it, he went stiff as a statue!” (I am not touching that.) In panel #2, Spidey and MJ start to fade away with Xandu looking on. “The Wand’s aura – it’s growing – washing over us - !” says Spidey. “We’re fading away!” says MJ. “Just as I planned!” says Xandu.

I’m all for recaps on Monday for those who did not see the strip on Sunday. (Yes, there are still people who read it in the newspaper and still some people who only get the weekday paper.) If only Stan would do this consistently. But he doesn’t. He sometimes includes info only in the Sunday strip that the daily readers need. Worse yet, he often ends the story on Sunday. Check out Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon for the perfect appreciation of Sunday-only and daily-only readers. And let’s pay attention to see if Stan does Monday recaps from now on.

June 14, 2016

MJ and Spidey (and Doc way in the background) are still transparent. Nine non-transparent blobs are behind them. “Oh no! We’re all back in the Nightmare dimension!” says MJ. (“Oh no!” is my reaction too.) Spidey, looking at his hands and not at the Nightmare dimension says, “I noticed! I was here once before, too…” In panel #2, MJ, Spidey, and Doc have become solid again. They stand on a blobby path along with Xandu, who has joined them, for some reason. (About 10 blobs behind them.) Spidey says, “It doesn’t look any more inviting the second time around!” (Actually, since Xandu had let the Nightmare dimension into Manhattan, it doesn’t look any different from where they were before!) “Trust me, web-spinner,” says Xandu, “You’re about to like it even less!”

June 15, 2016

With 5 blobs behind, MJ points at Doc who is still stuck leaning down and touching the Wand. She turns to Spidey and says, “If we could un-freeze Dr. Strange, maybe he could counter Xandu’s spells!” (Isn’t this the problem we had back in April?) “I wouldn’t bet on it, MJ,” says Spidey. In panel #2 (with 12 blobs behind), Xandu cocks a fist at Spidey and says, “’MJ?’ You’re on a first-initials basis with my intended queen?” (Can this guy be any duller and more tiresome?) “The lady and I…have met once or twice before,” says Spidey. And MJ, standing next to Spidey, thinks, “Even in mortal danger, Peter instinctively shields his secret identity!” and I don’t know if she’s impressed or annoyed.

June 16, 2016

With seven blobs behind him, Spidey tells Xandu, “You’d be smart to exit this bad-dream world fast, Xandu. The owner and operator doesn’t take kindly to intruders.” “Oh, did Mrs. Parker forget to tell you?” replies Xandu. But wait a minute! “Mrs. Parker?” Didn’t Xandu think that MJ was married to Dr. Strange? That must be what MJ is thinking as she stands, open-mouthed, between Spidey and Xandu. In panel #2, Xandu points at the seven blobs. Okay, actually he’s pointing at Nightmare on his horse. Both are covered in an electric-looking spell. “I immobilized the grim Nightmare on our previous journey here,” he says.

June 17, 2016

So, Spidey and Xandu look at Nightmare and his horse who are not only covered with crackle but appear transparent. “You froze Nightmare just like you did Doc Strange?” says Spidey. “I cannot tell a lie,” replies Xandu, “I couldn’t have done either if I didn’t wield the wondrous Wand of Watoomb.” (Except he’s not wielding it now so what’s the deal?) In panel #2, Xandu attacks, running at Spidey and shooting a magic beam out of his hand. (That is, Xandu fires a blast from his hand. He’s not shooting a beam out of Spidey’s hand.) “You, on the other hand,” he says, “I can easily annihilate – with my own sorcerous blast!” Spidey leaps out of the way, saying “!” which could mean, “Wow! Xandu actually has a sorcerous blast!”

June 18, 2016

Xandu’s “sorcerous blasts” seem to have scared away the spider-blobs. Now, Xandu has switched hands, using his left for the blasts when he used his right yesterday. Spidey leaps over the blast. “You evaded my mystic blasts – for the moment,” says Xandu. While leaping, Spidey thinks, “He’s right about that ‘for the moment’ stuff.” And in panel #2, as he dodges some more, he thinks, “I won’t be able to dodge his spells for long!” Though I don’t know why. They look pretty easy to dodge, especially for a guy with spider-powers.

June 19, 2016

No opening caption this Sunday. Panel #1 shows us MJ in the lower left corner looking on in horror as Xandu fires a bolt at Spidey who has gotten far too close for comfort. Doc is in the background, still stuck to the Wand (except that he is not even touching it) and five blobs float behind. “I under-estimated you, wall-crawler, if only slightly!” says the chatty Xandu, “Your spider-like instinct enabled you to avoid my first spell-blast!” Now, in panel #2, Xandu uses both hands as Spidey leaps through, his left arm actually in between the blasts. MJ watches from behind. “I prefer to call it my “spider-sense,’ Xandu,” says Spidey. “What a perfectly nonsensical term!” replies Xandu. Panel #3 is a close-up of Xandu with MJ, her hand to her mouth in horror, watching from behind. “Haven’t you observed that, when an arachnid crosses a person’s path,” says Xandu.“It’s usually pretty easy to step on it!?” he finishes, off-panel, in panel #4, which shows Spidey dodging blasts, with spider-sense spikes coming off his head and five blobs behind. Panel #5 shows us a distraught MJ with six blobs behind her. “Peter just barely dodged that last magical blast!” she thinks. Like Xandu before her, MJ finishes off-panel in the next panel, thinking “If one of them hits him – he’s as good as dead!” (Who says, MJ? Do we have past evidence of the power of Xandu’s blasts?) Spidey continues to dodge as we move to the “Next” caption, which is, “Battle in the Nightmare Dimension!” Something that is already happening. Last week’s was “Welcome Back to My Nightmare!” and I’m wondering when this nightmare is going to end.

June 20, 2016

This Monday strip essentially reprises the Sunday strip…except that this has really been going on all week. In panel #1, Xandu fires a bolt from his left hand that Spidey evades. MJ and Doc are nowhere to be seen but there are six spider-blobs. A caption says, “A spider-chase in the Nightmare dimension…” Xandu says, “You only postpone the inevitable! The first spell that strikes you – there’ll be nothing left but cobwebs!” (So, if Xandu can fire bolts that reduce you to “cobwebs” why hasn’t he snuck up on Doc Strange in the past and just blasted him?) Spidey says, “Gotta admit – they’re getting closer!” In panel #2, he leaps at a floating boulder that is struck by one of Xandu’s bolts. “It’d help if there was something in this world I could hang a web-line onto!” Spidey says. Uh, Spidey. How about that floating boulder!

June 21, 2016

Xandu has a pathetically bad aim. His latest mystical blast misses Spidey by a couple of feet. (He’s not close to the 12 spider-blobs either.) It does look like one blast ricocheted off a floating boulder and hit Spidey but that is actually just speed lines showing the path that Spidey has leaped. MJ looks on as Xandu says, “It won’t be long before one of my mystic blasts destroys Spider-Man.” (I think it depends on your definition of “long.”) He continues, “I’m glad, my dear, that you don’t seem too worried about your old friend.” Panel #2 is an MJ close-up. She looks smug as she says, “You’ve promised to make me queen of two dimensions.” (Does that mean she will be ruling Flatland?) She continues, “That’s more than either my husband or Spider-Man could ever do!”

June 22, 2016

A completely different angle but the same old thing. Xandu is firing blasts that miss as he promises that Spidey can’t dodge forever. This time Spidey bounces off Nightmare and his steed. Xandu’s blast hits Nightmare instead of Spidey. Three spider-blobs hover in the background. “You’re getting winded evading my bursts, wall-crawler,” says Xandu, “This is the second time you’ve landed on the immobilized Nightmare.” While leaping away, Spidey replies, “Hey, I don’t know if you’ve noticed – I can’t fly…” And in panel #2, Spidey alights with 3 blobs behind him. Xandu’s face fills the left side of the panel. “And around here, I can’t exactly come down to earth!” says the web-slinger. “Too true!” says the giant Xandu head, “So it is high time I disposed of you – forever!”

All right, I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that the blasts hitting Nightmare revive Nightmare…but we’ll see.

June 23, 2016

It continues. With 10 spider-blobs behind, Spidey ducks behind Nightmare and his steed so that Xandu’s mystic blast hits Nightmare once again. MJ looks on in the bottom left hand corner. She says, “You missed Spider-Man again!” “Only by a whisker, beloved,” says Xandu. (It depends on your definition of “whisker.”) “Because he ducked behind the frozen Nightmare,” he continues. Panel #2 has four spider-blobs and a “KKKRRKK” sound effect. MJ looks left as Xandu looks right. “Now, precisely where did he go?” asks Xandu. “If I’m not mistaken, Xandu,” says MJ, “that’s about to become the least of your worries!”

June 24, 2016

And, yes, the “KKRR” in panel #1 is coming from Nightmare and his horse. (Five spider-blobs hover around them.) From the left side of the panel, Xandu looks on, horrified, while MJ looks on, smugly. “No!” yells Xandu, “The magical shell that the Wand wove around Nightmare – it –it’s beginning to…” And, with a “RRAKKKK” filling up the top of panel #2, the shell around Nightmare and his horse shatters.

June 25, 2016

The “KKRRAKK” lingers in the air along with seven blobs. The camera has moved around Nightmare’s other side so we now have his and his horse’s left profile, though they still seem to be frozen. Behind and to Nightmare’s right, Xandu shudders so much that we see motion lines around his head. “Wh-what have I done?” he says. MJ stands upright to the right of Xandu, her arms crossed. “You tried to blast Spider-Man…” she says. Panel #2 shows a close-up of Xandu and MJ with four blobs behind them. Xandu looks very shaken. He has also lost his monocle. “And all you managed to do was demolish your own dreams of empire!” chides MJ.

June 26, 2016

And, we’re back to the “KKKRRRRRRRAAKKKKKKK” which spans three panels, as we back up a bit for the benefit of the Sunday-only readers. Xandu has his monocle back but he looks to the right, toward panel #2, as he cries out, “The mystic shell around the entity called Nightmare…” (MJ looks on, smiling.) And in panel #2, he finishes off-panel with, “It surely won’t hold him –more than a few more seconds!” Even as he is saying this, we see what he sees, which is Nightmare and his horse breaking free, though Nightmare now looks like Jacko. With mystic-shell debris in the air, MJ confronts Xandu, as Dr. Strange remains frozen in place on the left side of the panel. “That’s my estimation,” says MJ. (Wait a minute…was it MJ speaking off-panel in panel #2 or Xandu finishing his thought?) “’Course I’m just a layperson,” she continues, “not a hotshot sorcerer like you are.” (Now that things seems to be unraveling for Xandu, MJ drops the “teen crush” and lays into him. Hurts, don’t it, Xandu?)

In panel #4, Xandu pushes MJ aside. She looks shocked. He looks desperate. Ten spider-blobs look like ten spider-blobs. “I must reinforce my spell – with the Wand of Watoomb,” he says. But, in panel #5, Xandu is shocked to discover (with little shock lines emanating from his forehead) that the Wand is gone. Dr. Strange, still surrounded by a mystic shield is still reaching but now reaching for nothing. “But – what’s happened to it?” asks Xandu, “It was right…” An off-panel voice yelling “Hey, Xandy…” interrupts him and leads us into panel #6 in which Spidey hangs upside-down from some webbing stuck to something we can’t see. He holds the Wand in his hand. “Is this what you’re looking for?” he says. Xandu looks up at him. Doc remains frozen in place. And what happened to Nightmare? Didn’t he just bust out of his shell?

The “Next” panel reads, “All Shell Breaks Loose!” Very cute. Last week’s was “Battle in the Nightmare Dimension!” It wasn’t really a battle. More like Spidey dodging Xandu’s blasts. But I’ll accept that.

So, Spidey has the Wand in hand. Does that mean the story is almost over? We can only hope!

June 27, 2016

So, Sunday recapped Saturday and Monday recaps Sunday. We’re back again to the “KKKKKRRAKK” over two panels this time. The shell is cracking around Nightmare and his horse. Nine blobs float around. And Xandu looks back at an off-panel person speaking an off-panel line. But first Xandu says, “Nightmare is cracking the spell I hardened around him. My only hope is the Wand of Watoomb – but where?” The off-panel voice says, “I’m no expert on wands, Xandu…” And, of course, that voice is revealed as Spidey in panel #2 as he hangs upside-down holding the Wand just as in yesterday’s panel #6. Seven blobs hover around him. Xandu’s head swivels, courtesy of some motion lines so that he faces away from us. Clearly, Spidey is the star of this panel and, perhaps, finally, of this storyline. “But could this possibly be what you’re looking for?” asks Spidey, holding out the Wand of Watoomb.

June 28, 2016

So, Spidey hangs upside-down holding the Wand of Watoomb with seven spider-blobs floating around him. The “KKRRAKKK” begins with “KK” in this panel, continuing in the next. Xandu reaches toward Spidey and proclaims, “Give me that Wand!” Spidey says, “Sure, Xandu. Here you go!” No, actually Spidey says, “You’ve caused enough trouble with it!” (What did Xandu expect? Then again, why not hypnotize Spidey again and have him turn over the Wand?) Panel #2 shows, left to right, Spidey leaping into the panel holding the Wand, MJ looking at Spidey with her back to us, Xandu looking and pointing at Nightmare with his back to us, and Nightmare on his steed with shards of magic “KKRRAKKKing” off of them. “Fool!” says Xandu, “with it, I can stop Nightmare! You can’t work magic with it – and he’ll escape!” “You know,” says MJ, “he might just have a point!” Spidey says, “!” which probably means, “You’re still defending this guy?!”

June 29, 2016

Look! A caption in the daily strip! It reads, “Decision time – as Nightmare strains to break free!” Five spider-blobs float behind Xandu (who now reaches toward Spidey), Spidey (his back to us, holding the Wand) and MJ (also looking at Spidey). “Give me the Wand, Spider-Man – or Nightmare will destroy us all!” says Xandu. “I wouldn’t trust you any further than MJ could throw you!” says Spidey. “Then what’re you going to do?” says MJ. “This!” says Spidey in panel #2 (with 10 blobs behind him). He leaps over to put the Wand near the frozen Dr. Strange.

June 30, 2016

Now, it’s MJ, Spidey, Nightmare and his steed, and 8 blobs. MJ asks, “Why’d you strike Dr. Strange with the Wand?” (So, that’s what he did!) Spidey replies, “Last time he touched it – it froze him solid! I – had a hunch a second contact might undo the spell!” (Illogical…but okay.) An off-panel voice asks, “Was it a hunch?” leading us to panel #2 where Doc stands, his arms in the air in triumph. (Five blobs behind him.) “Or was it your justly celebrated spider-sense?” asks Doc. “Hey! Wadda you know!” says Spidey while looking at Doc, “It worked!”

July 1, 2016

So, Doc keeps pumping his fists in the air but he has wiggle lines all around him that imply that he is leaning in toward Spidey who stands there facing him with his arms folded. It’s an odd sight but MJ likes it. She smiles as she looks at them. Xandu doesn’t care for it. He’s more concerned with something he sees and points at off-panel. (The three blobs don’t seem to care one way or the other.) “You’re a dolt, wall-crawler!” says Xandu, “While you wasted time thawing out Strange…” And on to panel #2 where Nightmare and his steed has finally broken free with a “THRAKKK.” In case we couldn’t figure this out on our own, an off-panel Xandu says, “Nightmare has burst free of his spell! We’re all doomed!”

July 2, 2016

“Watch out for the magical spell-shards!” warns Doc. At least one shard has changed into a wiggly trail of electricity. Spidey grabs MJ and moves her out of the way. (The eight blobs have to fend for themselves.) “Dodged that one,” says Spidey, “but what would they do to us?” No people in panel #2. Just five blobs and a floating rock struck by the spell-shard that shatters with a “FRRZZAT.” “That!” says the off-panel Doc. “Point taken,” says the off-panel Spidey.

July 3, 2016

It’s Sunday and time for the opening caption. “The entity known as Nightmare has broken free of Xandu’s mystic spell…” The spell-shards now look like stealth fighters made out of clouds with cloudy jet trails behind them. Doc dodges, Spidey protects MJ, and Xandu looks on. “Those spell-shards are everywhere!” says the wall-crawler. One shard buzzes (in panel #2) over Doc’s head and strikes something that looks like ventilation ductwork with a “FRRZZZAT.” “Whatever you do – don’t let them touch you!” says Doc. But panel #3 shows Xandu about to be struck by three shards. “H-help!” he whimpers. Down we go to panel #4, a silent panel except for the “FRRZZZAT” of impact, but not on Xandu because Spidey leaps and carries Xandu away just in time. He follows up in panel #5 by shooting his web at a cloud (or so it looks) while still carrying Xandu who says, “You risked your life to save mine – without thinking twice!” “If I’d thought twice, I probably wouldn’t have done it!” says Spidey. But then, in panel #6, Nightmare and his steed join Spidey and Xandu. His webbing holding onto something, Spidey sees Nightmare coming and says, “Oh, and don’t look now – but here comes your buddy Nightmare!”

The “Next” box says, “He’s like a bad dream!” Cause he’s Nightmare! Get it? Last week’s was “All Shell Breaks Loose!” which is a cool bad pun and true too.

I cannot move on without mentioning how much I enjoyed the panel without dialogue. After all the chatter and unnecessary exposition and telling us things that the art already shows, it was a breath of fresh air. It would be nice to have more of these.

July 4, 2016

What better way to celebrate Independence Day than to have Spidey, Doc, and Xandu all looking out at you? (Actually, they are looking at Nightmare with 8 blobs behind them.) “If I’d freed you sooner, Doc, you might’ve kept Nightmare imprisoned,” says Spidey. “No, this is his realm. He’d soon have got loose,” says Doc. “Bah! I immobilized him with the Wand,” says Xandu. Panel #2 shows us Nightmare and his steed (and 4 blobs) riding to the left which, I presume, is where our threesome is. “Only by catching me off-guard,” says Nightmare to Xandu, “But now – I shall take vengeance on all of you!”

July 5, 2016

So, Nightmare, riding his steed and with three blobs behind him, attacks our heroes by shooting smoke out of his left hand. “You four invaded my domain!” he says, “You shall dwell here forever – plagued by living nightmares!” But in panel #2, Doc stands firm. “Not while I wield the Wand of Watoomb!” he says, wielding the Wand of Watoomb. Spidey, with two blobs behind him, thinks, “Hope you can do more with it than I could, Doc!”

Wait a minute. Doc is wielding the Wand of Watoomb? Spidey was wielding it yesterday. And who was wielding it back when Doc was shaking his fists in victory and Spidey had his arms folded on July 1? Looks like nobody. The Wand sure has been forgotten alot lately, considering it’s the reason behind all this nonsense to begin with.

July 6, 2016

Doc uses the Wand to shoot out a spell that collides with Nightmare’s smoke spell. Nightmare doesn’t even appear in the panel…only his smoke. Spidey, Xandu, and MJ appear behind Doc, so small that the three spider-blobs look bigger. An off-panel Nightmare feels compelled to state the obvious. “You and the Wand – have neutralized my spell?” he says. “You forget,” says Doc, “it’s now in the hands of the Sorcerer Supreme!” Confused? Panel #2 will only make things worse. The smoke remains and Doc’s spell seems to be gone but there is a bunch of glass fragments…or something…amidst the 2 blobs. So…Nightmare’s smoke remains and Doc’s spell is gone but Doc’s spell was the winner? “And the spill-off from our little fracas isn’t doing your dimension any good!” says Doc. So…the glass fragments are pieces of Nightmare’s dimension? “Then I will expend my full power at you!” says Nightmare in panel #3. And to prove it, he shoots smoke from his right hand!

July 7, 2016

And back to Doc firing light rays from the Wand with Spidey, MJ, Xandu, and three blobs behind him. “Even with the Wand – I’m not sure I can fend off Nightmare for long!” says Doc. WTF, man! You just said you were Sorcerer Supreme! Xandu completely froze Nightmare with the Wand and you can’t stop him? “Just wish there was something I could do,” says Spidey. In panel #2, Doc turns to look back at Spidey whose mask and hands fill the right side of the panel. (Larry squeezes in 2 blobs in the left side of the panel.) “Maybe there is!” says Doc, “Grab my shoulders and think hard!” “Okay, but…” says Spidey but Doc cuts him off in panel #3. “Yes!” says Doc, “Now the Wand funnels both the power of Dr. Strange – and of Spider-Man!” And, yes, Doc actually fires rays out of the Wand with Spidey holding onto his shoulders (and four blobs behind), which sounds like nonsense to me. Admit it, Doc! You only asked for Spidey’s help because it’s his comic strip and he really should look like he actually is doing something constructive.

July 8, 2016

Nightmare keeps shooting out smoke (now from his left hand again). More glass fragments appear. “Enough!” says Nightmare, “Our struggle is decimating my domain!” Panel #2 shows Doc firing the Wand, with Spidey right behind and two blobs behind him. “Vow to let us all depart,” says Doc, “and this fight can end with your realm still mostly intact!” And so, with four blobs behind him, Nightmare stops firing smoke from his hands. “Then,” he says, “this battle is over!”

July 9, 2016

In panel #1, Xandu, Doc, and Spidey all look to the right; no expressions on their faces (or masks). Only MJ shows emotion as she turns to look at the others. (It’s like a Nightmare dimension version of the cover of The Joshua Tree.) (There are 10 spider-blobs floating around, as well.) “We’ve won!” says Doc, “Nightmare has stopped attacking!” “But,” says MJ, ever the pessimist, “can we trust him, even if he says it’s over?” Now, in panel #2, the spider-blobs really become the stars! There are 15 of them! Oh, and there’s also Nightmare on his horse. He says, “Lies and untruth may be the stock in trade of your world…but Nightmare’s word is an unbreakable bond!” So there, MJ!

July 10, 2016

And so, “The mystic combat between Nightmare and the trespassers in his realm is ended…” And maybe, after almost five months, this furshlugginer storyline too! Nightmare rides his horse, towering over Doc, Xandu, Spidey, and MJ. “You may all depart in peace,” he says. “…All but Xandu!” he finishes in panel #2, pointing at Xandu, who cringes in terror. “Please – I don’t – you can’t,” Xandu eloquently says. But Doc steps in between. From left to right, in panel #3, it’s Nightmare, his horse, Doc, Xandu, Spidey, and MJ. “No, dream-lord!” says Doc. (I think Doc has gotten Nightmare confused with DC’s Sandman.) “The fight is over! And you swore we could all depart safely.” (He did but I think Doc tripped him up with that on July 8.) Panel #4 features only Nightmare and his steed as he admits, “And my promises bind me like unbreakable chains.” In panel #5, he points at some melting windows covered in spider webs (that’s what they look like anyway). Only his arm is shown as he speaks off-panel. “Take the would-be usurper and go!” he says. In panel #6, the melting windows now reveal Washington Square Park. MJ, Spidey, Xandu, and Doc all look up at it. Off-panel, Nightmare says, “I would have my realm rid of you all!”

The Next caption reads, “Safe passage to Earth!” which I hope won’t take all week! Last week’s was “He’s like a Bad Dream!” which pretty much told us nothing. Which is pretty much what we got.

July 11, 2016

Now the windows have merged into one window, still showing Washington Square Park. We get Nightmare’s hand. We get Doc, MJ, and Spidey. But we don’t get Xandu. “Dr. Strange!” says the hand, “Take your mortal cohorts – including the scheming Xandu – and leave my realm – forever!” (Do you get the feeling that Nightmare’s big finish is going to consist of his hand and word balloons pointing off-panel?) MJ looks at him, her hands up in mock alarm. “Please – don’t throw us in the briar patch!” (MJ’s making Brer Rabbit jokes? This proves that she is actually about 70 years old.) In panel #2, Spidey leans back, hold his hand up to his face and whispers to MJ’s hair, “Shhh, honey! Don’t make Nightmare angry again!” Yeah, MJ has been the worrywart through this whole final sequence and now she’s razzing Nightmare? What’s up with that?

July 12, 2016

And, sure enough, Nightmare’s big finish was a fizzle because his part in the story is ended. Instead, we see Doc, Xandu, MJ, and Spidey dropping down from the sky into Washington Square Park where we also see three bystanders recovering from whatever it was they were subjected to way back when. “Glad to be out of Nightmare’s world and back in ours, now that’s it’s returned to normal?” asks Doc to the other three. “I presume that’s a rhetorical question, Doc,” says Spidey. But in panel #2, Strange cups his chin in his hand and looks at Xandu. “Yes,” he says, “the real question is…what do we do with Xandu?” And Xandu says, “?” Meaning, “Who, me?”

July 13, 2016

Today’s episode begins with the caption, “Out of sight of prying eyes…” I have no idea what that’s all about. Out of sight of the half-conscious, recovering bystanders? Why bother? Doc confronts Xandu as MJ and Spidey watch from behind. “Xandu, you’ve tried to steal this Wand as often as the Yankees have played in the World Series,” says Doc, “though, thankfully, with far less success.” (That the best you’ve got, Doc?) And in panel #2 he says, “So, you’ve left me little choice!” and he releases a spell from his hand that envelopes Xandu. From behind, watching with MJ, Spidey yells out, “Doc – no!”

July 14, 2016

Xandu stands stock still with three smoke rings encircling him from shoulder to waist. “What’s your spell doing to him” asks MJ. “Precisely what I want it to,” says Doc, his back to us. (Sure seems like we get alot of these scenes with people’s backs to us. Must be easier to draw.) “Look, Doc,” says Spidey, the back of his head to us, “We all know Xandu’s a dangerous creep – but you still can’t…” And in panel #2, Xandu, staring straight ahead, says, “Xandu? Who’s Xandu?” (To which Spidey should say, “I wasn’t talking to you!”)

July 15, 2016

Xandu keeps staring straight ahead. Spidey turns to Doc and says, “Your spell – took away Xandu’s memory?” Looks like it did more than that, Spidey! I’d say Xandu is pretty much a vegetable! “I’ll restore it after I’ve deprived him of his sorcerous powers,” says Doc, his arms folded. (In the meantime, we can use him as a flowerpot!) In panel #2, MJ puts her hand up to her chin and says, “Why not just turn him over to the cops?” (And I don’t know why anyone would listen to anything MJ says after that brier patch line.) Doc says, “And accusing him of stealing the Wand of Watoomb?” (By the way, where is the Wand now? Neither Doc nor Spidey are carrying it.) “I’d prefer the police not turn my mansion into a crime scene.” Meanwhile, Spidey looks as wooden as Xandu. Do you think the spell is contagious?

July 16, 2016

Ack! More people with their backs turned. Xandu and Doc are both showing us their backsides. Doc says, “Well, I suppose we’ll have to finish our brunch another day.” “Guess so,” says Spidey who, like MJ, is actually facing us. “Let’s go, hon – I mean, Mrs. Parker.” (Ah yes, that famed secret identity that he guards so well!) Panel #2 moves the camera around to show Doc and Xandu’s fronts. “Oh, you needn’t worry about Xandu learning your identity,” says Doc. And poor Xandu says, “Xandu? Who’s Xandu?” Do you get the feeling that Doc is never going to take that spell away no matter what he said?

July 17, 2016

For the first time in months we are in neither the Nightmare Realm nor Washington Square Park. Doc has departed with Xandu. Spidey has changed back to his Peter Parker duds. He and MJ walk the Manhattan streets with a smiling bystander couple walking towards them. In case you got lost in transition, the Sunday opening caption tells us, “Peter and MJ take their leave of Dr. Strange and Xandu…” MJ says, “Your friend Stephen is very nice.” In panel #2, a close-up of MJ and Peter, Peter says, “I doubt if Baron Mordo or the dread Dormammu would agree with you, honey.” (The story is over and suddenly Peter is dropping Doc Strange villains? What? Are these guys going to appear in the Dr. Strange movie?) “The dread Dor – who?” asks MJ. Panel #3 is still MJ and Peter, only with a thought balloon image of Dormammu. “Trust me,” says Pete…and he continues in panel #4, which features a thought balloon image of Doc fighting Dormammu. “You don’t want to know,” finishes Peter. (Two thought images of Dormammu. He must be in the movie!) In panel #5, MJ clings to Peter’s arm as they both smile (there are about 6 silhouetted bystanders behind them). “So, do you want to continue our day in Greenwich Village?” asks Pete. “No,” says MJ, “I’m ready to go home…” Her sentence is finished in a caption in panel #6. “I think we’ve had enough excitement for one day…” (That was one day?) The panel itself shows J. Jonah Jameson in his Daily Bugle office smoking a cigar and looking at a piece of paper. “No!” he proclaims, “It can’t be!”

The “Next” caption reads, “Change comes to the Daily Bugle!” and let’s hope it’s interesting change. Meanwhile, last week’s caption of “Safe Passage to Earth!” was exactly that!

In General...

Wait a minute. What just happened here? What…hold it…did the story just end? Five days shy of five months, did it actually…? By God, I think it did! So, now what? How can I possibly assess this sprawling mess that did mostly nothing? Well, that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? It was a sprawling mess that did mostly nothing. Xandu manages to take Doc and Spidey easily off-guard. The web-slinger bungles his secret identity and Xandu is too dumb or (later) too catatonic to take advantage of it. (First he assumes that MJ is married to Doc rather than Spidey, then he forgets about that altogether.) The old “opponent falls for MJ and wants her to rule by his side” saw is pulled out for the second story in a row! Nightmare is inserted into the story, immediately frozen and then barely used when he breaks free (leaving him with a sorry “hand and off-panel voice” departure from the story). The Wand, which is the cause of all the troubles, is totally forgotten at the end so that no one seems to have it. I wouldn’t have believed it but the Sub-Mariner story was better.

Overall Rating...

What a mess this story was. Why am I still subjecting myself to this strip? So…what’s next?