Comics : Untold Tales: Strange Encounters

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This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

A nice reminder that Marvel was open to new things once. With Toy Biz trying to buy the company, it may be a long time before any of us see something like this again. According to rumor, only titles making money or merchandisable (is that a word?) will continue if the former Marvel owned company does gain control. Oh, well...

In Detail...

Untold Tales: Strange Encounters
Year 1998 : SMURF 016.650 : SM Title
Editor:  Tom Brevoort
Plot:  Kurt Busiek
Writer:  Roger Stern
Pencils:  Neil Vokes
Inker:  Jay Geldhof
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Articles: Watson, Anna, Aunt May Parker, Betty Brant, Doctor Strange, Flash Thompson, Green Goblin I (Norman Osborn) (Cameo), Jameson, J. Jonah, Elizabeth (Allan) Osborn, Mary Jane Watson-Parker

Essentially, Spidey teams up with Dr. Stephen Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts, to foil the mage's malevolent magician adversary's, Baron Modo, diabolical designs for world domination.

Now, that's just the plot. Maybe not the most original, but you have to start somewhere.

No, the real treat lies in the charm of the story itself; between the initial meeting of Spider-man and Strange, the interaction of Parker and his co-stars and the overall feel of the book itself.

Beginning with two of Mordo's felonious flunkies who purloin a priceless, ancient artifact resembling an old lantern (called the Lantern of Lantarr), our swinging tale is in full force. The theft of the jazzy antique alerts the vigilant practicianer of the Vishanti who consults the Ancient One. Strange learns that two who stole the artifact are controlled by one shrouded in mystery.

Enter the Web Head.

Cracking wise with classmates and doting over Aunt May, Peter Parker enters into his Spring Break vacation determined to earn some dough by snapping pix for Jolly Jonah. The extra cash is earmarked for his merry matriarch in the form of some gift.

While combing New York city for a little action, Spidey stumbles across a malicious mugging. It just so happens the decadent deed is performed by the same felonious fellows who filched the lantern. Saving the victim, the Webbed Wonder is zapped only to see the delinquent duo disappear courtesy of the curio.

A befuddled web spinner ponders the events, but is happy enough the following day when Jolly J.J.J. purchases his photos from the previous evening.

That same night Spidey, on the trail of transgressors, once more meets the Mystic Master himself, Dr. Strange. Giving our hero some background on the lantern, Strange finds that residual energy still lingers on Spidey. This should, he deducts, enable the two to find the Lantern of Lantarr. But, all is not as easy as planned and both retire after a long search.

The next day, as Peter Parker, our book's namesake is confronted by his peers and publisher of the Daily Bugle. While the meeting takes place a force draws Peter away for a confrontation with the vile villains. But, he is followed by the group of Jonah, Flash Thompson, Liz Allen, Betty Brant, et al.

Unable to change to his alter ego, Peter and the group are sent to a different dimension with a beam from the lantern. There he able to slip away and become Spider-Man. With help from the corporal form of Dr. Strange, the daring duo defeat the thugs and send Mordo racing to his benefactor, Dormammu.

Displeased with the delinquency of Mordo's delivery of the lantern, Dormammu banishes Mordo to the nether regions. The kidnaped are sent home, but with malevolent memories of the ordeal. Spider-Man asks Strange to work some hoo-doo to allow them to forget the evil episode, but to do so will also banish the memories of the heroic deeds of Spidey. Even from the warped psyche of Jameson.

In the end, all is forgotten by the unwilling participants and Strange waxes poetic about his new-found ally, Spider-Man.

In General...

Can you buy a comic for under two bucks anymore? I don't think so, so the hefty $6 price tag on this little gem doesn't seem so bad.

Busiek does a wonderful job bringing back the bittersweet memories of what was. The short-lived Untold Tales title was axed in the prime of it's life so this one-shot rips a scab off a wound that was just healing, but does so with care.

Vokes does a superb job with the penciling chores. He brings a, kind of, Batman/Superman animated style to the book using simple lines that aid the story. Simplicity is usually best; a lesson Vokes understands.

The characters stay true to form so any who remember, or have been picking up the Essential Spider-Man books, aren't disappointed.

Overall Rating...

Overall, this is well worth a read by any who collected the Untold run or any Spidey neophite. If it's a choice between this or any of the other titles out this month, put your money down here.

A big thank you to the gang who brought this book together for us all to enjoy.