Strange Tales (2nd series) #18

Issue Date: 
September 1988
Story Title: 
Descent into Darkness (First Story)

First Story: Terry Austin (writer), Dan Lawlis (penciler), Kevin Nolan (inker & colorist), Ken Bruzenak (letterer), Carl Potts (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

first story:

Dagger battles the dark shadows from civilians who have fallen to the villainess Night. Mr Jip observes this, pleased with what Night has done, but he is frustrated that Cloak has mysteriously vanished from his clutches. Cloak has found himself prisoner of a young boy called Lamar Plotnick, who captured Cloak in a pentagram, believing him to be a demon that he conjured. Cloak worries for Dagger’s safety, while Dagger gains the upper hand when Night pulls out Dagger’s inner shadow, transforming her into a pure being. All of the shadows combine into a large creature which Dagger battles for some time, and eventually slays. But this only results in the shadows splitting back to their individual states. Cloak tries to explain his situation to the boy, but the boy isn’t having a word of it. Dagger starts to be overwhelmed by the shadows, and eventually is covered by the shadows. Night has succeeded, and sends the creature called Yip Yap to tell Mr Jip of this. Night then phones X-Factor, claiming that there is a dangerous mutant attacking people. Iceman, Marvel Girl and the unstable Beast answer the call and arrive on scene, where they are confronted by Dagger, transformed by the shadows into a dark version of herself, ready for a fight.

Full Summary: 

first story:

‘Perhaps I should thank you, Dagger, for being so cooperative in rushing headlong into my trap - but, instead, I’ll thank my Dark Master for this opportunity to revenge myself on you - by dumping your lifeless corpse at his feet!’ grins the woman called Night, as she stands and watches Tandy “Dagger” Bowen throw light daggers at some shadow demons who are attacking her. ‘Don’t count your corpses before they’re cold, Night! I’m not about to lie down and play dead for the likes of you and your rotten puppet-mater, Mister Jip!’ Dagger tells the woman who wears a fish-net body suit, with black material barely covering the necessary parts of her body. Dagger wishes she was as confident as she founds, but decides that Cloak brought her here, so surely he will return and help her - won’t he?

The hideous Mister Jip watches Dagger’s plight from the barren location where he is currently, and remarks to himself that Cloak was his prisoner, that he placed him here in order to witness Dagger’s plight, tortured with the knowledge that he was helpless to intervene. He holds up some chains and decides that he must reason this out - as Cloak could not have escaped, for the mystic bonds saw to that, and they are intact, which means, Cloak did not escape. Mr Jip realizes that another unforeseen random factor has entered the equation to once again disfigure his exquisite machinations. Stroking his upper lip, above his jagged teeth, Mr Jip checks the view screen, which shows that Cloak is not at his imperilled partner’s side, and wonders where Cloak can be.

Far away from that bleak mountain top, in a basement rec room in Fernwood, Ohio, the subject of Dagger and Mr Jip’s thoughts is engaged in earnest conversation with the youngest member of the Plotnick family, little Lamar. Tyrone “Cloak” Johnson is on a pool table, a pentagram has been drawn on it and candles are at each point. He tells the child that he must free him from the pentagram so that he can go to the aid of a friend who is in dire jeopardy. ‘No! You’re my demon! I conjured you up and you hafta be my slave! My pop’s book says so!’ the boy, clutching a teddy bear in one hand, calls out as he looks up from the oversized book on the floor. Cloak asks Lamar to listen to him, and explains that he is not a demon, but a super hero, of sorts, and that he needs to rescue someone.

‘Nope - ya can’t fool me! The book sez demons tell fibs! They’ll make up any kinda story to git loose!’ the boy replies, declaring that he conjured Cloak up and that he is keeping him. The boy heads towards a flight of stairs and announces that he is going to get some Froot Loops and root bear and think about what he is going to command his slave to do. ‘Hmmm…my big sister’s mean to me all-time…maybe I’ll have ya snatch her bald-headed right in fronta all her dumb boyfriends at school!’ Lamar supposes. ‘Wait, kid - come back!’ Cloak calls out. He looks concerned and realizes he doesn’t know where that child got a hold of that mystic tomie, but that he obviously misread some passage in his “conjuring” to leave him trapped in this magic circle instead of a creature from the nether reaches. ‘Probably luck for him that he did - but unlucky for me!’ Cloak decides, knowing that he has got to convince the boy to break the circle free so he can go to assist Dagger.

Night continues to watch Dagger battle the demons and, calling her “cherished enemy”, remarks that revenge is sweet. ‘I promised you would die at my command when you were responsible for badly injuring my partner, Day’ Night reminds Dagger. ‘You kept me out of that fight by stunning me with one of your light knives before I was ready to defend myself. You never got a chance to see my powers in action’ Night smiles and explains that her powers are to extract the darkness of evil from people and create begins of “pure” darkness who respond to her every command, and fortunately, this city is full of evil people, ripe to be drained of the darkness needed to populate her army here. Dagger is backed up against a wall, as the shadow army closes in on her. ‘Send your army on, then - I’ll take as many of them with me as I can before I fall to the likes of you!’ Dagger declares defiantly.

Night responds that she will, but not until performing this final act of irony, and states that all humans are tainted by darkness to one extent, or another - even Dagger. ‘And so I will extract that bit of darkness from you, Dagger - and I will use it as part of the instrument of your death!’ A black cat shadow leaps from Dagger, and bounds into Night’s arms. Dagger suddenly feels strange, she isn’t tired anymore and the panic has gone. She decides that she feels centered somehow, and strong. She realises that Night has cleansed her system by taking away her darkness. ‘This state of purity is unlike anything I ever imagined!’ Dagger tells herself, as she closes her eyes, and begins to glow, feeling the light raging within her, without the darkness to temper the force of its purity.

Dagger starts to heat up, and with the glowing, she feels like she is going to explode with light, and wonders if she can control it. Night boasts that she will fashion the army at her command into a single collective mass which will mean Dagger’s doom. The dark shadows begin to merge into one being, as Night announces that she will enjoy Dagger’s death more fully, knowing that she has contributed to it in her own small way, as the cat shadow from Dagger bounds into the dark mass, which forms into a very large crocodile or alligator. ‘Now, my pet, enough stalling…kill the putrid girl!’ Night shrieks. The large shadow creature swats its tail towards Dagger, who leaps to safety. She feels so full of energy, so full of light, and wonders whether she can fight this creature and the fires that burn inside her as well.

Dagger dodges an attack from the shadow creature’s mouth, while deciding that the light wells up within her like a flood-swollen stream straining against an inadequate damn. ‘If I don’t give it some outlet, the dam (that’s me) will surely break!’ Tandy thinks to herself. She manages to climb up some rubble, reminding herself that she always expends light by throwing off her light knives, but given they had so little effect on the individual shadow creatures, she wonders what chance they will stand against the whole. But, she can’t hold it in any longer, so she has to do something. ‘I burn with the purity’ Dagger tells herself, realizing thatshe could never do this in her impure state, but somehow knows that she can do it now.

A glowing ball of pure energy is formed in her hand, and she wills the light into solid form, as solid as the shadow creature that she faces. An instant later, the light takes the form of a sword. ‘I did it!’ Tandy thinks to herself as she leaps onto the creature, ‘Okay, ugly - let’s dance!’ she shouts. Dagger feels wonderful, like she can do anything. ‘I can perform feats of skill and movement that would have been impossible for the “old” Dagger on her best day!’ Tandy decides, cart wheeling to safety when the creature tries to swat her with its tail once more. ‘Hahahaha - missed me, snaggletooth!’ she calls out, holding her sword of light up she boasts that she was trained as a ballet dancer, but now possesses the grace and stamina of a danger magnified an absurd number of times.

‘Isn’t that right, thunder-thighs!’ Dagger exclaims as she leaps onto the shadow-beast’s head, and grins as she shouts ‘Wah-hooo! Two gun Dagger rides again!’ and holds the sword overhead. ‘This old cayuse ain’t much on looks, but he sure gets the mileage fro ma bale of hay!’ Dagger jokes. ‘Well, o’l paint, we better be moseyin’ back to the barn -’ she continues to joke, when suddenly, the creature bucks backwards, and Dagger falls from it’s back as the creature starts to walk on two legs, like a tyrannosaurs rex dinosaur. ‘We could be headed for the last round-up!’ Dagger jokes, as she gets to her feat, suspecting only one of them is going to be riding off into the sunset. ‘And it ain’t gonna be you, buckaroo!’

Dagger reaches up, ‘Thanks, pal - you’ve got me right where I want you!’ Dagger exclaims as she shoves the light sword into the shadow beast. The thrust is deep and lethal - the shadow creature topples, and Dagger is saved - isn’t she? Night grins and thinks ‘Don’t celebrate just yet, kid. Your troubles are just beginning’.

Back in America’s heartland, Lamar is back in the rec room, sitting in front of a television. A bowl of Froot Loops at one side, a bottle of root beer at the other. Cloak calls out to him, telling him that he has to let him loose. ‘I’m not a demon, but the spell you used to bring me here is keeping me from being able to leave, just the same!’ Cloak explains, adding that Dagger is in danger and he has to go to her. ‘Shush, demon! I’m still thinking about what to order you to do first - be good or I’ll make you eat asparagus and worms!’ Lamar threatens Cloak. Tyrone decides that whatever faulty sort of magic the boy used was genuine, as the pentagram is look a force field, holding him in place. He can’t teleport away, either, meaning all he can do is wait and pray that Dagger is all right.

At that moment, Dagger pulls her sword of light from the shadow creature and tells Night ‘I should probably sheathe my sword in you next, but in my presence state, I feel an inexplicable surge of mercy’, and asks her if she will surrender to her. ‘Our duel is far from over’ Night replies, pointing out that she has slain the group mind, but has yet to deal with the individual components. From the slain shadow creature, the individual shadows spill, and move towards Dagger. ‘My mistake was in removing your own darkness to use it to kill you - allow me to return that darkness to you - and then some!’ Night declares.

The shadows begin to surround Dagger, who swipes at them with her light sword. But, as fast as she hacks one shadow-demon down, tow more spring up to take its place. Tandy is worried that there are just too many, and sooner or later, one of them is going to get through. As if one cue, one of them latches onto her left side. Tandy realizes that she is no longer pure, as the sword starts to fade when more of the shadows latch on to her. She starts to feel tired - worse than tired, sick. She starts to get entirely covered by the shadow, and feels dizzy, weak. Fear is in her eyes, as she realizes that she is helpless, she starts to panic. ‘This is it - this is the end -’ Tandy tells herself, as the last part of her body is covered in the shadow. ‘Go, Yip Yap! Tell the master it is done!’ Night orders the strange serpent-like creature flying nearby. She picks Dagger’s fallen body up and remarks ‘Poor, silly girl - you were as good as dead from the first moment Mister Jip set an eye on you and you never knew it…’

A short time later, sunrise over Manhattan, inside Ship, the sprawling headquarters of X-Factor, Bobby “Iceman” Drake, answers the phone. ‘X-Factor headquarters… this is the mutant hotline - Iceman speaking. Mutants ‘r’ us. What’s your beef, lady?’ he asks. Night is on the other end of the phone, and exclaims ‘There’s one of those horrible evil mutants in my neighborhood - attacking people - maybe killing them!’ Sceptical, Bobby replies ‘Uh-huh. Right…okay, if you’ll give me your location, we’ll check it out’, before seeing on the computer monitor that police bands show some unusual activity in the area, and a distress call goes out.
Hank McCoy a.k.a. the Beast is nearby, while Bobby decides that if there is the kind of trouble that the lady indicated, it may be too much for him to handle, as well as deal with Hank ins his present condition.

Bobby contacts Jean “Marvel Girl” Grey and tells her that he is sorry to disturb her, but that there is some sort of mutant emergency back here. He adds that he realizes the importance of Jean’s present mission, but Jean tells Bobby not to worry, as Cyclops has gone on ahead, so she will leave him a note to tell him where she has gone. Bobby tells Jean to stand by for transport. He gets to his feet and tells Ship to get ready to rattle his bolts and teleport Jean up, then send them all downstairs. ‘Affirmative, Bobby Drake, although my bolts do not rattle’ Ship replies, suggesting that something has come loose in Bobby’s head. Hank tells Bobby that he doesn’t get it, and asks what Ship means. ‘Skip it, Hank’ Bobby replies, and soon, Hank, Jean and Bobby materialize downtown.
‘Wow! What a mess! This is even worse than I thought!’ Bobby thinks to himself, while Jean sees such devastation and wonders if she made the correct decision in not asking Cyclops and Angel to accompany them here.

‘Hiya, Jean! How come all these people are sleeping in the daytime?’ Hank wonders as they see civilians scattered across the streets. Suddenly, a voice calls out ‘X-Factor! Am I glad to see you!’, and Jean sees that it is Sgt Miller. The police officer asks the heroes to come quick, ‘She’s hurting folks! I think she’s crazy!’ he adds. Suddenly, shadow spears are shoved through the police officer, and he collapses. X-Factor race over to him, ‘He’s down - and out!’ Iceman exclaims as he hovers above his friends on an ice-sled. Jean tells everyone to be careful, as those looked like some kind of missiles of black light. ‘And whoever hurled them is just around the corner!’ Jean adds.

X-Factor rounds the corner. They see a car has crashed into a building wall. Night stands, arms folded, looking pleased with herself. More civilians lay unconscious on the ground, and Dagger appears, her costume all black now. ‘Not missiles, Red! But daggers of devastating dark-light!’ Dagger calls out, and as she confronts a very unimpressed X-Factor, she declares ‘At last! Some worthy foes on which to whet my dark malice….’

Characters Involved: 

first story:

Cloak & Dagger

Beast, Iceman, Marvel Girl (all X-Factor)



Mr Jip

Yip Yap

Lamar Plotnick

Sgt Miller


Story Notes: 

The second story features Dr Strange.

This is the second-to-last issue of Strange Tales (2nd series). The final issue does not feature Cloak & Dagger. Their story continues in Cloak & Dagger (3rd series), which was known as “The Mutant Misadventures of Cloak & Dagger”, while Dr Strange, who shared this anthology book, also gained his own solo series once more.

first story:

This story continues in Cloak & Dagger (3rd series) #1.

X-Factor’s appearance here takes place between X-Factor (1st series) #29 and X-Factor Annual #3 and X-Factor (1st series) #30.

Dagger injured Night’s partner, Day, in Strange Tales (2nd series) #10.

Night drained the darkness from people in Strange Tales (2nd series) #16.

Issue Information: 
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