Defenders (1st series) #58

Issue Date: 
April 1978
Story Title: 
Xenogenesis: Day of the Demons Part 1: Agents of Fortune

David Kraft (writer), Ed Hannigan (penciler), Klaus Janson & Dan Green (inkers), Phil Rache (colorist), Joe Rosen (letterer), Archie Goodwin (editor)


Brief Description: 

Dr. Strange is fast asleep in his study despite the ill feelings that plague Wong. Sure enough disaster strikes when an unknown combatant slips through the mystic defenses of the Santorum, bests Strange in a fight and takes off with the Eye of Agamotto. Meanwhile, Val and Bruce visit Ledge in the hospital. While there Dollar Bill invites both of them to the Felix Club for some R&R. Unfortunately their dinner plans turn into a super-powered slugfest. Thanks to a misunderstanding Valkyrie attacks Devil-Slayer and is soon aided by the transformed Bruce Banner. When Valkyrie realizes her mistake it’s too late because Devil-Slayer is convinced they’re agents of the cult he once belonged to. He manages to transport both Defenders to the pocket dimension of his cloak where he intends to finish the battle. Meanwhile, Jack Norriss heads to Avengers mansion in the hopes of locating Nick Fury. Instead, he ends up detained by their security system. And in the jungles of Mexico two explorers are captured and brought to an arcane temple. There, they are placed on an altar for sacrifice to the demon gods. Also, the Agent of Fortune returns with the Eye of Agamotto, which the cult needs to bring about Xenogenesis, the rebirth of the demon race. Dr. Strange watches these dastardly events unfold from the Orb of Agamotto, feelings of anxiety and failure enveloping him.

Full Summary: 

Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Santorum:

Wong stands midway down the staircase staring intently at his slumbering master. Strange is fast asleep in his chair, a large tome resting on his lap. Wong is worried that things are too quiet this evening as he makes his way over to the good doctor. He removes the book from Strange’s lap, still wondering how his master could be sleeping when he has such a dire sense of foreboding. Wong returns the book to its shelf determined not to wake his master over what might be his overactive imagination.
His worries are warranted, however, as a colorful, masked figure, with a long red cape draws ever near. The mysterious stranger reaches a fire escape opposite the Santorum and gazes in through the opulent window.
Inside, Dr. Strange wakes suddenly, scaring his unsuspecting retainer. Strange grabs him by the shoulder and tells him to take cover at once for he senses spatial displacement vibrations. Strange sends out the Eye of Agamotto to discern what is causing a shift through the fabric of space.
It’s all for naught as the prowler has already slipped inside the townhouse. The cowled-figure drops from his place on high and delivers an acrobatic kick that connects solidly with Strange. He falls, completely taken by surprise for this villain has somehow bypassed the mystic spells of defense that surround his domicile.
Dr. Strange finds himself quickly wrapped up within the assailant’s cloak and surmises his opponent’s ability to manipulate it mentally. Strange tells the intruder he’s no neophyte and unleashes the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak upon him. They prove ineffective. His enemy explains his Shadow Cloak allows him to sidestep them just like the mystic defenses around the Santorum. As if on cue, the man disappears in a cloud of smoke. Dr. Strange barely has time to wonder what happened when he’s clocked across the face with a mace.
The attacker explains to the unconscious Strange that he’s an Agent of Fortune and that all dimensional doorways are his to traverse. He reaches toward Strange’s body and plucks the Eye of Agamotto from his chest. He holds the jewel in his hand and proclaims, “In the name of the cult I serve, I hereby harvest the most precious eye of all—the enchanted Eye of Agamotto!”
Avengers Mansion:

Jack Norriss pulls up to the Avenger’s Mansion in his battered, black Jag. His intention is to find Nick Fury and he hopes the Avengers will be able to help him. He turns the door handle and finds it unlocked. Jack enters and plans on warning the Avengers about their lax security.

Valkyrie sits at the bedside of her bandaged friend, Ledge, as Bruce, in a snazzy purple suit, looks on. Val tells Ledge he doesn’t have to talk if it hurts too badly, but she heard the good news that he’ll be back on his feet soon.
Dollar Bill enters the room and asks how the “stickoid” is doing. He asks her who the other guy is and Val introduces Dr. Banner. Dollar Bill invites the two of them to the Felix Club. Val is hesitant at first, but Dollar Bill ups the ante and says he’s footing the bill. Bruce smiles and says that will be great. Dollar Bill leans over Ledge and places a reassuring hand on his shoulder. Ledge speaks painfully, “Val... sword and cape... super-wo...” Bill cuts him off, telling him that would make a lovely idea. He expresses his regrets that Ledge can’t come along, and jokes with his friend that if they ever make a remake of the Mummy he’s going to demand he star in it. The trio leaves, but not before Dollar Bill gives him some last second advice, “...don’t take any battered bedpans!”
Felix Club:

Dollar Bill, Val and Bruce arrive at the fashionable club on the upper east side. At a nearby table, a woman in a red dress, with long, dark hair warns her dinner guest he’s only one man and won’t last much longer against them. The man agrees that might be true, but tells the woman, Vera, there must be some reason she invited him to dinner and he wants her to get to the point.
Val spots the couple and tells Banner that for a second she thought she saw the man garbed in strange clothing. She also feels an aura emanating from him. Banner tells her to relax, that she’s too on edge. Val supposes he may be right, but isn’t convinced. They’re soon seated at the best table in the house, according to the concierge who would do nothing less for M’sieur Bill.
While close by, Vera tells Payne, the man she’s with, he has potential. He stops her right there. He has no intention of calling a truce and going back with them. Vera tells him to stop acting so self-righteous. They were the ones who trained and equipped him, that was until he turned against them. Payne claims they used him and he doesn’t like being used. He maintains he now uses his abilities for good and won’t stop until her whole organization is destroyed. Vera tells him to cut the verbal posturing and explains they’re stronger than ever and are prepared to give him all of North America to rule over. “And there’s one more thing you should know, Eric...” she says.
At the Defenders’ table, Val voices her guilt over their lavish surroundings while Ledge is hurt in the hospital. Both Dollar Bill and Banner agree they deserve to get some R&R and that Ledge will be just fine.
“...we now have possession of the almighty Eye of Agamotto!” Vera finishes. Eric stands up from his chair in shocked outrage. He grabs Vera by the arm, dropping his illusion of mild-mannered dinner guest and revealing the true form of Devil-Slayer.
Val sees the commotion and pulls Dragonfang from its scabbard revealing her true appearance as well. Devil-Slayer sees the woman charging at him and accuses Vera of setting him up. Valkyrie slices their table in half and demands Devil-Slayer release the woman.
Vera breaks free from his grip and tries to run off. Devil-Slayer grabs her with his cloak and hoists her into the air. He remarks at her increased skills to bring in an agent without his knowing it. Devil-Slayer uses his powers of levitation to keep Vera aloft and tells her she can watch as he defeats her emissary.
Val tells Vera to hang in there as Devil-Slayer whips out a dual ended axe from his cloak. He swings swiftly and catches Valkyrie off-guard. The other patrons flee the carnage as Devil-Slayer knocks Valkyrie crashing through a table, his axe nearly cleaving her at the neck. Dollar Bill, watching the action from the sidelines, wishes he had his camera.
Valkyrie delivers a devastating kick to Devil-Slayer’s abdomen, sending him off in another direction. As Devil-Slayer reorients himself, the restaurateur calls the police who don’t seem as eager to join the fracas.
Val and the Slayer’s weapons meet once more, and again and again. She finally manages to slice his weapon in two, knocking Devil-Slayer to the ground. Valkyrie believes she has the upper hand, but with a mere mental command Devil-Slayer wraps her head in his Shadow Cloak. Valkyrie seems doomed, but Vera Gemini uses what powers she has to make a nearby chair lift into the air and smash into Devil-Slayer’s back. He’s hit hard and loses his grip on Val.
Nearby, the waitress from earlier, Marilyn, checks on Banner who doesn’t look so good. Bruce complains that it’s too much excitement and he can’t control himself. Marilyn contemplates calling a doctor, but when she sees the man in front of her change pigment and begin growing in mass she decides maybe she’s not cut out for the city life and makes a run for it.
Meanwhile, Vera opens a teleportation portal and skedaddles, but not before thanking Valkyrie for her help in diverting Devil-Slayer’s attention. Val wonders if she might have made a mistake, but has no time to ponder it as the Hulk grabs Cape-Man and prepares to smash him for hurting Sword-Girl.
Devil-Slayer, suspended above the raging, jade behemoth, can’t believe Vera was also able to slip a disguised demon past him without triggering his sixth sense. Hulk tells him he’s no demon, just Hulk. Valkyrie tries telling Hulk they might have made a mistake, but as always he’s not listening. He throws Cape-Man crashing through a wall, where he lands not far from the bathroom.
Valkyrie finally manages to convince Hulk to stop fighting. Hulk tries waking Cape-Man to talk to Sword-Girl. However, Devil-Slayer’s not really unconscious and he lifts Hulk into the air, wrapping him within the cloak. And just like that the Hulk disappears.
The police finally arrive, guns drawn. The owner complains they took too long. One of the officers tells him he’s not the only call they’ve received that night. Another of the men jokes he might take a safer job with the bomb squad. The boys in blue then charge in, much to Devil-Slayer’s dismay. To avoid any further complications he teleports Valkyrie and himself into another dimension. Dollar Bill is all that remains behind and he implores the police not to shoot him.
Pocket Universe of the Shadow Cloak:

Devil-Slayer advances upon the disoriented Valkyrie for he is in control in this dimension.
Avengers Mansion:

The alarm blares and a quartet of Avengers arrive to determine what’s happening. They find somebody huddled on the floor, wrapped in bionic tentacles. Captain America orders Wanda to turn off the traps. The manacles release their victim, Jack Norriss. He asks rather sheepishly if Nick Fury is around.
Jungles of Mexico:

Sharon and Marc make their way through the rough foliage, Sharon complaining to Marc about taking this job. She argues a grad student should be doing it and that E.S.U. is using him again. Marc retorts that it’s hard to find work unless you produce results. Sharon tells him that’s bull and that he needs to realize how good he really is. Marc starts to reply, but then spots a very unusual looking temple off into the distance. He can barely believe his luck.
An odd glow suddenly envelops them. Sharon starts screaming that it burns and then they both disappear. A lone figure inside the temple watches the events unfold and stands waiting, probing for any others that might be out there.
The cloaked figure marches through the corridors of the temple. The Agent of Fortune stops him on the way to the ceremony. The cult member is pleased to see him and asks if he returned with the prize. The Agent tells him if he didn’t have it he wouldn’t have returned. The Agent of Fortune claims he could have killed Dr. Strange too, but the cultist reminds him his rank is Fortune—not Death and if that had been his intention Dr. Strange would have foreseen it and prevented his escape with the Eye. Before Fortune can reply the cultist suggests they head to the ceremony and witness the end of an era. As for his promotion, that would depend on the success of his next mission, to kill Eric Simon Payne.
The two enter the Chamber of Rebirth and hear the discordant chanting from the other members. They do not join the ranks of the cultists standing before the hellspawned pyre, but watch and listen from the shadows.
The chief priest stands before the altar, the naked bodies of the two explorers laid out before him. The priest gives the incantation and raises the curved dagger above his head, ready to plunge. The cultists begin chanting as the blade is driven downward.
Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Santorum:

Dr. Strange can watch no longer through the Orb of Agamotto. He has seen enough and knows now the dangers that are coming. The cult that worshipped the demons who once ruled the world now has the instrument that the Ancient One used to banish them centuries ago, the Eye of Agamotto. Dr. Strange feels he has failed and doomed Earth to suffer Xenogenesis, the rebirth of the demon race.

Characters Involved: 

Dr. Strange, Hulk, Valkyrie (all Defenders)

Devil-Slayer, Jack Norriss, Wong (all Defenders associates)

Beast, Captain America, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch (all Avengers)
Dollar Bill, Ledge
Vera Gemini

Agent of Fortune
Marilyn (waitress at Felix’s)

Sharon & Marc (E.S.U. appointed explorers)

Story Notes: 

Xenogenesis is the rebirth of the demon race on Earth.

The book Dr. Strange was reading before he fell asleep was titled, “Workshop of the Telescopes.” The music group Blue Oyster Cult, known for using comic references in their lyrics, titled their 1995 album release by the same name.
Jack Norriss was offered a job with S.H.I.E.L.D. from Nick Fury in Defenders (1st series) #51.
Ledge received a good beating from campus-crazy Lunatik in Defenders (1st series) #56. He also saw Valkyrie drop her human guise and become the warrior-woman, which he tries to tell Dollar Bill in the hospital scene of this ish.
The NYPD was also called out in Ms. Marvel #10 to bust an A.I.M. headquarters, Daredevil #144 to thwart a prison break and in Spider-Man #175 to deal with the Green Turtleneck and his captive J.Jonah Jameson on Liberty Island.
E.S.U. stands for Empire State University, the fictional NYC College.

Issue Information: 
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