The Book of the Vishanti
Co-Creators: Denny O’Neil, Frank Miller
Inker: Tom Palmer
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Colorist: Ben Sean
Originally published: 1980
Despite the title on the cover (and, subsequently, this post), this actually is an Annual for Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1. I’m not sure why they left out “the amazing” on the cover. It just seems weird.
This book features Dr. Strange and Dr. Doom, neither of whom I’ve read about in awhile. We open in Latveria, at Doom’s castle, where Doom’s assistant Dilby has finally, after 10 years of research, built a magic-science interface. He created a device that either is called or creates or gives him access to something called “the Bend Sinister”. That, my friends, is a cool name. This device transports a person to the dimension of the Dread Dormammu, and Doom sends Dilby on a little trip to said dimension to test the Bend Sinister out. Once there, Dilby is basically existing inside a nightmare. He meets Dormammu.
Later, Doom is hanging out in his castle watching Nazi movies, “to learn from them”. Ok. Dormammu interrupts him with news that Dilby has some new powers and is building magic robots with them, or something like that. I’m not exactly sure why, but Doom and Dormammu seem to have some sort of plan.
Some time passes I guess and we check in on New York City, where Dr. Strange is chilling out with a book. His studies are interrupted by the delivery of a mysterious, huge, glowing crate. Inside is one of those magic robots that Dilby was building, and Doc Strange accidentally activates it using his Eye of Agamotto. It turns out it’s a killer magic robot. The robot beats the snot out of Wong and Strange.
With little hope of defeating the killer magic robot, Strange ditches his body and takes his astral form out to look for help. This seems like a really good plan, except that there’s a whole bunch of astral demons outside his house, and they proceed to beat up his astral body! Dude can’t catch a break. Strange can’t ditch this and leave in an astral astral body (I assume), so his only recourse is to send out what he calls “a psychic flare”.
Now, this being a Spider-Man comic, the flare is naturally observed, though rather circuitously, by Peter Parker. Pete finds a reason to ditch the first-year chem class he’s teaching and heads out to Doc Strange’s rescue. He finds just enough time to break a date with Deb Whitman, though, because that’s how Peter rolls. Pete eventually arrives at Strange’s Sanctum, fights off a couple gargoyles, and shoots webbing right into the face of one of Dr. Strange’s neighbours (what a dick), and finally he also fights off some weird yellow demons. This bit had some decent action. Spidey finally makes his way inside. He finds Wong, who tells him that Dr. Strange has been abducted.
Meanwhile, Doc Strange is tussled up under the command of Dilby. It turns out creating the Bend Sinister requires a human sacrifice; that sacrifice is to be Strange.
This is where things get stupid. For some reason (lame gimmick writing) Dilby is holding Strange a CBGB, the punk club. When Pete arrives there, Dilby somehow manages to brainwash everybody, including the band Shrapnel, into marching around and chanting “Bend Sinister”. I guess that’s part of the ritual to create the Bend Sinister? The parade of people grows as they pass through different parts of Manhattan, until the whole crew ends up in Central Park. Then there’s a lot of business about the moon and a huge crystal and eldritch this and darkling that.
Spidey goes in for the attack, fights killer magic robot, and ends up smashing the robot into the giant evil crystal. That pretty much saves the day!
There are some totally sweet panels in this. I don’t totally understand the credits on the issue, but I assume it was penciled by Frank Miller. A lot of it looks awesome. The issue had good pacing and had me interested up until the last act or so. Overall it was still good, I just wish the ending had been tighter.