Cover Price: $.20
Value: $85 (Near Mint-)
"Enter: Dr. Strange!" - 21 Pages
What is Peter Parker to do - save his friend
or reveal his secret identity? Last issue, Flash Thompson was kidnapped by the
Monks of the Hidden Temple, who incorrectly blame Flash for the death of their
spiritual leader, the Holy One, back in Vietnam. What the monks don't realize is
that Flash actually had befriended the Holy One and his daughter Sha Shan and
was trying to warn them of danger, not bring an attack to their doorstep. But as
Peter is about to leave and change into his Spider-Man costume to rescue Flash,
Gwen Stacy begs him to stay with her. She says others have called him a coward
and while she doesn't want to believe it, she has noticed that he runs away at
the first sign of trouble (not realizing he is leaving so he can become
Spider-Man). To make matters worse, Gwen blames Spider-Man for the death of her
father, so it's not like Peter can very well explain that he's actually the
Web-Slinger. All of this is recapped in a beautiful splash page courtesy of John
Romita, by the way. Peter goes to the men's room and puts on his thinking cap.
He creates a dummy out of his webbing and stuffs it into his street clothes.
After faking a struggle, he bolts through the men's room window, with the web
dummy under his arm. Gwen sees it and thinks Spider-Man has kidnapped her
boyfriend. "It--it's my fault! If I hadn't insisted that Peter stay here--if I
had let him go!" the tearful Miss Stacy says.
Anyway, Spider-Man now has the chance to track down Flash. In Amazing Spider-Man #108, he was able to plant a spider-tracer on the Giant One, the seven-foot-tall enforcer of the Monks of the Hidden Temple. But his spider-sense begins tingling in Greenwich Village, even though there's no danger in sight. "Do not be alarmed! I was forced to resort to so extreme an expedient in order to contact you!" a voice says. Although Spider-Man cannot see him, the astral form of Doctor Strange has contacted him and is leading him to his nearby home. The Master of the Mystic Arts knows that Spider-Man is looking for Flash Thompson and he knows where to find him - a nearby temple. In the temple, the monks force Flash to kneel at what appears to be an idol. But it isn't a statue - it is the Holy One himself, sitting in a death-like trance. "You have captured his spirit by your murderous act!" one of the monks tells Flash. "Only your death can release it!" Sha Shan, the girl Flash befriended in Vietnam, steps into the room. Flash asks her for help and tell the monks the truth, but she says, "It is not for me to dispute the words of those who serve my father!" Looks like Flash is doomed. The monks order him back to his cell until the holy hour arrives. Then, they will sacrifice him to bring life back to the Holy One. As he awaits his fate, Flash has some heavy-duty thoughts about America's role in the Vietnam War. Pretty powerful stuff: "Maybe it's only right that I give up my life," he thinks. "Maybe someone has to die to make up for all we've done to them! We didn't mean it! We never mean it! But what good does that do when--". At that point, Sha Shan comes into his cell and tells him she is on his side. She knows that he only tried to warn her and her father of an attack, but they wouldn't listen. What happened to her father isn't Flash's fault, she says. But before she can cut Flash free, the monks enter the room.
Thankfully, the cavalry - in the form of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange - arrives before the monks can do Flash any harm. Spider-Man cleans house on the Giant One in some hand-to-hand combat, while Doctor Strange casts a spell (calling upon the legendary Crimson Bands of Cytorok and the Eternal Eye of Vishanti, no less!) His spell breaks the Holy One's trance and brings and end to the fighting. "For now all is well, and my heart exalts -- for not a life was lost!" the kindly Holy One says.
This issue wasn't as powerful as the previous one, which took a surprisingly frank look at the Vietnam War, which still was being fought when this issue was published. However, this issue did a fine job of wrapping up the two-part story, plus it's always fun to see Stan Lee write Doctor Strange. We also get a classic scene with Gwen and Aunt May. They are both upset that Peter has been "kidnapped" by Spider-Man and Aunt May, as usual, begins to fret about her poor, fragile boy. "He's not a boy! He's a man!" Gwen snaps. "When will you let him go?" Aunt May realizes that she's been overly protective of Peter and this storyline will play out in rather interesting fashion over the next few issues.
On the flip side, the story closes with a scene of Peter jealously worrying that he will lose Gwen to Flash. Of course, as the scene with Aunt May proves, Gwen is completely devoted to Peter. The normally reserved young lady can become downright fierce when her man is threatened. But, of course, Peter doesn't see this; he just thinks he's about to blow it with Gwen. It's part of the dynamic that makes Spider-Man so wonderful - he never truly can be happy and secure, no matter how good things seem to be going. And we wouldn't have him any other way!
Sha Shan will resurface in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #3 and will be a central figure in the great Brother Power/Sister Sun storyline that takes place in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #12-15 (check out our reviews of that classic storyline). Eventually, she and Flash become lovers and, at least for a time, Sha Shan becomes a recurring supporting character in the Spider-Man universe. However, she hasn't been seen in some time, as with the passing of time, it no longer makes sense for Flash to be a Vietnam veteran.
Next issue: It's the introduction of one of Spider-Man's most bizarre foes, as Spidey tackles the Gibbon! Oh, and one of the Web-Slinger's oldest and deadliest villains returns, too!
Reviewed by Bruce Buchanan.
Marvel Tales #88
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