Doctor Strange (2nd series) #29

Issue Date: 
June 1978
Story Title: 
He Who Stalks!

Roger Stern (writer), Tom Sutton (penciler), Ernie Chan (inker), Petra Goldberg (colorist), Annette Kawecki (letterer), Archie Goodwin (editor)

Brief Description: 

A romantic evening between Dr. Strange and his lady-love Clea is ruined, first by a phone call from the Avengers and then a late night visit from Nighthawk. The latter informs Strange of some recent thefts and a mysterious death at a research lab. Strange agrees to help and the two do some investigating. After obtaining some information from one of the workers they stake out the place. When the mystery villain makes his move the pair swing into action. Both Nighthawk and Dr. Strange initially take a beating from the thief, who turns out to be Death-Stalker. However, through a little trickery from Dr. Strange, coupled with the Eye of Agamotto, Death-Stalker is seemingly destroyed, the threat to the research lab and its employees ended.

Full Summary: 

Sanctum Santorum

Dr. Strange and Clea, dressed in their evening wear, are enjoying some alone time. With one hand caressing Clea’s shoulder and the other cupping a goblet of wine Dr. Strange looks more than ready for some romance. Unfortunately for them both, an urgent phone call comes in. Wong traipses into the room and finds them in a passionate lip-lock.
A thousand pardons, Wong begs, and informs Strange the people he was trying to contact from earlier have returned his call. Strange takes the phone from Wong, telling Clea it should only be a minute.
Strange greets the voice on the other end of the line, resident Avenger Yellowjacket, who has a mystery that needs solving. Pym tells Strange that the Black Knight’s statue recently attacked the Avengers, the same statue that was supposedly being housed at Strange’s residence.
Avenger’s Mansion

Near Yellowjacket, on a metal examining table, lies what remains of the stone figure. Iron Man is running through some tests on the remnants, but informs Hank he’s not picking up any readings.
Sanctum Santorum

Strange is confounded by this alarming news and orders Wong to check the storerooms at once. Moments later Wong returns. He clasps his hands together and bows in front of Dr. Strange, reporting the bad news that the statue is indeed missing. Stephen in turn tells Hank, saying he’ll be over at his earliest convenience.
Strange has one more thing for Yellowjacket before he goes, the reason he tried contacting them earlier. He’s heard news of the menace called Thanos and wants to know what is going on. Before Yellowjacket can fill him in, the bounding Beast leaps in and snatches the phone away. Since he has first-hand knowledge Beast feels he should be the one to pass it on. Hanging upside from a metal pipe strung along the middle of the room, Beast assures the good doctor that things with Thanos have already been settled. Dr. Strange, who received his information from the In-Betweener, suggests his source was more in error than he thought. He then tells Beast to give everyone his best and hangs up.
Wrapping his arm around his lady love Dr. Strange voices his hopes for an evening of peace and quiet. Clea agrees that would be lovely, but doesn’t believe it will happen. Irony strikes and a shadowy figure appears at their window. Strange startles, but quickly recognizes the silhouette, that of his Defender friend, Nighthawk.
After Strange opens the windows, Nighthawk leaps onto the ledge. He greets them with the hopes he’s not interrupting anything. Strange and Clea play it off like nothing was going on and invite him in. Nighthawk apologizes for coming so late, but he knew they kept odd hours. Dr. Strange tells him not to worry and asks what’s on his mind.
Kyle removes his mask before discussing the problem, or mystery as he refers to it. He tells Strange of some thefts that have been occurring at a New Jersey research lab, a lab in which Richmond Enterprises has controlling interest. So Kyle went in to investigate, as himself, and met with the man in charge of the star drive prototype, Dr. Thatcher. When questioned Thatcher got all crazy-like and began telling Kyle about a group of demons who didn’t like the project and had been stealing things and personally threatening him.
Kyle thought Thatcher might be off his rocker and went to meet with his assistant, Howard Bradley. When he began to ask questions about Thatcher’s mental health the man in question suddenly started yelling in the room where Kyle had just left him. Kyle and Howard tried getting back in, but the door was bolted. When they finally knocked the door off the hinges they found Dr. Bradley lying on the floor, dead.
Kyle’s story comes to an end as he tells Strange the medical doctors ruled Thatcher’s cause of death a heart attack. However, Kyle doubts that, especially after their recent run-in with the Agent of Fortune. He asks Stephen’s opinion on the matter. The good doctor offers his help, as it wouldn’t hurt to check things out. Kyle’s glad and soon Strange is putting on his mystic Cloak of Levitation.

Clea walks into the room to find her sweetheart about to embark. Already in costume Clea asks to accompany them. Strange tells her not to bother, that it’s no big deal and he’ll be back shortly. Clea watches as they fly out through the opulent window of the Sanctum Santorum. She curses Stephen because even though she’s his lover, she’s also his disciple and her place should be at his side. As she walks down the long hallway to her room she wonders how such a wise man could be so blind. She doesn’t believe their lives can continue like this much longer.
It’s just past nine as the two brightly-clad superheroes swoop down toward the Jersey research center. They touch down on the grounds and Nighthawk suggests switching to civies so as not to attract attention.
Research Lab, New Jersey

And so, Dr. Strange in a long, billowy, black trenchcoat and Kyle Richmond in a plain business suit make their way to the location of the suspected murder. Everyone is surprised, and maybe a bit nervous, to see Kyle Richmond back again. He tells them not to worry and explains he brought a consultant with him for a little inspection.
They soon enter the room where Dr. Thatcher died. Dr. Strange looks around and admits the room, full of machinery, isn’t an ideal location for demons. Nevertheless he takes off in his astral form. Strange then moves about exploring every area. He doesn’t sense anything mystic going on, but does detect some sort of malevolent disorder that occurred recently.
Then Dr. Strange encounters an aura unfamiliar to him. In order to get a better understanding he sends out the Eye of Agamotto. A knock at the door causes Strange to retrieve the Eye. In walks Thatcher’s assistant, Harold. Kyle introduces Dr. Strange to Mr. Bradley. Harold asks Strange what his doctorate is in. Strange admits he deals with the more outré sciences.
Harold stutters a bit, surprised that this man deals in psychic research. Strange explains Kyle wanted him to look into the circumstances of Dr. Thatcher’s death. Mr. Bradley stutters again and Strange picks up on his nervous composure. Strange digs deeper with his questioning and Howard gets very defensive, telling Strange he doesn’t have to stand for these accusations.
Dr. Strange, not one to let things go so easily, uses a quick spell to calm Harold’s nerves and then sends out the Eye to examine Harold’s mind. The Eye approaches Harold and peers within. Strange discovers someone is after Harold, someone who wants to punish him. Strange delves deeper and Harold claims the ghost of Dr. Thatcher and some demons are behind it all, threatening him with death if he doesn’t do as they ask. Strange has seen enough and ends the psychic session.
Harold is all distraught, sweat running down his face. Strange and Richmond leave him in the room and head out into the hallway, Strange having erased his memory of their little encounter. They start discussing what all this stuff means. Strange is concerned things might be more serious than they originally thought.
As night approaches Harold Bradley stealthily makes his way to the lab. After closing the door behind him Harold calls out to Dr. Thatcher and tells him he has the spacial disruptor with him, ready to go. The aforementioned item, the spacial disruptor, looks like a gun with a giant silencer attached to the front with a cord running from the back of the gun, which connects to a pack slung over the Bradley’s shoulder.
The ghost of Thatcher appears and accuses Howard of plotting to use the disruptor against him. Harold, shaking, denies those allegations. Thatcher tells Harold to hand it over and hook it up to the proton converter then. Seemingly doubtful, Harold asks if this is really going to be the last thing he has to do. Thatcher’s ghost agrees that this will be the last time any agents of the netherworld will bother with him.
In barge Dr. Strange and Nighthawk to put a damper on the nefarious meeting. Strange tells Nighthawk to grab Bradley while he goes after the spirit. Nighthawk achieves his goal and with Harold out of the way Strange can work his stuff. He activates the Light of Agamotto, which forces the ghostly façade to disappear revealing the true identity of their enemy, Death-Stalker.
Nighthawk is the first to charge in, recognizing the guy as one of Daredevil’s rotating cast of villains. Strange cautions him against the direct approach, but it’s too late. Death-Stalker delivers a strong left hook that knocks Kyle to his knees. Death-Stalker then grabs Nighthawk and lifts him over his head and tosses him at Strange. Stalker’s grip, icy, paralyzing, knocks Nighthawk out and he falls limp to the floor unconscious.
This leaves it up to Strange who uses his magics to throw a force field around the disruptor, preventing Death-Stalker from acquiring the device. Death-Stalker turns and orients his own weapon at Strange, now realizing he’s dealing with a formidable opponent. Death-Stalker fires and Strange erects the Shield of Seraphim, protecting him from the powerful blast. Death-Stalker increases the power of his weapon causing Strange’s shield to break down. He has no other choice than to call upon the Winds of Watoomb to strengthen his defense. It works, and Death-Stalker’s force beam is reflected backwards, tearing a hole in the wall behind the villain’s head.
Death-Stalker uses the hole as a means of escape, leaping through it into the next room. Strange is quick to follow, intent on preventing Death-Stalker from killing anyone with that weapon of his. In the darkness Strange is caught off guard and Death-Stalker gets his icy-cold grip on the mystic master. Strange folds up and collapses to the floor.
Before Strange loses consciousness he sends out his astral form. Death-Stalker believes himself the victor, but is somehow able to see Doc’s astral figure and mistakes it for a ghost. He’s actually a bit frightened by this and Strange uses this to his advantage.
For starters, Dr. Strange threatens to avenge his death against the wicked Death-Stalker. Death-Stalker stumbles backwards, aiming his weapon at the apparition. He fires a strong blast, hoping to finish off his ghastly opponent, but it passes by harmless, burning yet another hole in the wall. Frustrated, Death-Stalker tosses some office equipment at Strange’s astral form. Strange uses this moment of distraction to teleport his body out of harm’s way.
Nighthawk regains consciousness with all the commotion coming from the other room. He peers through the hole in the wall and sees Death-Stalker tossing equipment seemingly at random. Kyle thinks his costumed adversary is crazy, Kyle unable to actually see Doc’s astral form, the target of Stalker’s rage.
Nighthawk calls out to the unconscious body of Dr. Strange. When the master of the mystic arts doesn’t respond, Nighthawk rushes over to check on him. Not dead, Kyle realizes, thinking he’s in some kind of trance. Death-Stalker notices Kyle checking on Strange’s body in the adjoining room. He turns his weapon toward them and fires.
Strange sees this about to occur and throws out the Eye of Agamotto instantly. It flies out at blazing speeds and intercepts and deflects the deadly beam, then the Eye reverses direction forcing the energy back to its source. Death-Stalker can’t believe it and soon the Eye is upon him. There’s a large explosion and Death-Stalker’s body seems to disincorporate in the resulting bedlam.
When the smoke clears, and Doc’s astral form returns to his body he and Nighthawk check on Harold and see him to safety. They head back to the scene to survey the damage and find all that’s left of Death-Stalker is his hat. Nighthawk announces the case as closed. Strange cautions him not to speak so fast, as they don’t know who Death-Stalker is, or what his motives were.
As the two take off into the night sky Dr. Strange wonders if they’ve really heard the last of Death-Stalker. Nighthawk sides with Strange and suggests they now have an even bigger mystery than they did before.

Characters Involved: 

Dr. Strange

Clea, Wong (all Dr. Strange’s associates)
Nighthawk (a Defender)
Beast, Iron Man, Yellowjacket (all Avengers)
Dr. Thatcher, H. Howard Bradley (all named employees)

Story Notes: 

The battle with Black Knight’s statue, which Yellowjacket referred to, took place in Avengers (1st series) #157. The statue was animated under mysterious circumstances and battled the Avengers because it felt betrayed by them, believing the Avengers didn’t try hard enough to restore him (the statue believed it really was the Black Knight who was turned to stone in Defenders (1st series) #4 thanks to a kiss form the Enchantress). Eventually the Vision arrived on scene and defeated it.
Here’s a little more information on Thanos than what Beast gave to the good doctor. Thanos of course was not killed, but at the time was thought dead courtesy of Adam Warlock’s spirit who, freshly emerged from the Soul Gem, turned Thanos to stone. [Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2]
Strange received intel on Thanos from the In-Betweener in the previous issue.
All this talk of demons doesn’t seem far-fetched for Kyle. The Defenders recently battled the Agent of Fortune and the Cult of the Harvester of Eyes. The cult’s main focus was to bring about the rebirth of the demon race, also known as Xenogenesis, to Earth. This happened not too long before this issue in Defenders (1st series) #58-60.
Dr. Strange was correct to assume Death-Stalker might not be dead. The villain next appears in Daredevil (1st series) #155.

Issue Information: 
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