Strange Tales (2nd series) #9

Issue Date: 
December 1987
Story Title: 
The Luminous Lady (1st story)

1st story: Terry Austin (writer), Bret Blevins (breakdowns), Bob Wiacek (finishes), Ken Bruzenak (letterer), Glynis Oliver (colorist), Carl Potts (editor, cover artist), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

1st story:

Having been abandoned by Dagger after willingly reactivating his shadow powers, Cloak searches for a light source to satisfy his insatiable hunger. He has trouble finding any criminals to feed from and eventually stumbles upon the light-emitting mutant Dazzler. Although Dazzler tries to help him, her light does not suffice. She passes out from exhaustion. Cloak resists the temptation to steal her life force and instead follows a mysterious new beacon of light back to the Holy Ghost Church, where Mister Jip and his minions capture him.

Full Summary: 

1st story:

The sun sets almost reluctantly over the island of Manhattan, as if sensing the horror that will be unleashed with the fall of night. Inside the abandoned Holy Ghost Church, there are none to turn their faces up and savor the last dying rays of the sun—no one, save one tortured soul who cowers in the darkest corner, writhing away from the shifting fingers of light, feverishly awaiting the coming gloom. This one is a friend of the dark hours that others shun. He welcomes them gladly. Cloaked in their mantle of shadows, he knows he will feed.

"Dagger," Cloak mutters. The single word he croaks triggers a fever dream spurred by the primal hunger he feels, a hunger he dimly remembers being appeased by shrouding wrong doers in his cape of darkness, sending them into another world of ebon fear, where the predator within himself would suck the exquisite light of their life energy from them, leaving them drained, cold and sick, and him, Cloak the Parasite—no, he shuns that thought—Cloak the Avenger, sated by the feast within.

That single word he gasped sparks images somewhere in the remainder of his mind of the terrible, all-encompassing hunger being abated by another means: a merciful angel of light, who would share her abundance with him, thus quelling the horrifying, exquisite longing within himself. But his longing gradually took on a different form, didn't it? Hunger was revealed to be a word of many aspects, wasn't it? His mind comes unbidden to a time when he thought those aspects were to be forever denied him. Now, with his powers, abilities, and need stripped from him, he feared losing the angel, and in desperation, sought aid in superstitious rumors.

An ebon cube held the solution to his heart's blackest desire, he was told. The price for this wonder of wonders? Payment would be requested at some future date, he was glad to hear. How to unlock the secret of the cube that would restore the angel to him forever? Merely to give in to the longing, unleash the desire, give vent to the hunger, he was told. Longing, desire and hunger were three of his oldest friends; in the end, it was almost too easy.

He became the cursed mad custodian of darkness again, knowing that this would cement the Angel of Light to him... when, in fact, it had the opposite effect. Disgusted by the choice he made, herself desiring only to be normal again, she left him, denying him her light—and that for which his longing was as strong as his hunger for her light. She left him alone in a deeper darkness than he had ever experienced before, alone in the darkness as the hours and days passed, and now, his hunger for life energy grows until it blots out all else in his brain, held back by the stinging brightness outside the windows, until, finally, it is night again. And this night, he shall feed!

In the one place of relative sanity that remains in his mind, he reasons that since his hunger will not and cannot be denied, he will find the wicked and deprive them of their light. After all, don't they deserve to suffer? Cloak follows two mischievous-looking boys down a decrepit alleyway. He watches them sneak behind a boarded-up door, moving quietly so as not to get caught. After all, no one must discover their secret. Cloak follows them inside. To his surprise, he sees the two boys, Paco and Manuel, playing with a litter of new puppies. Soon the puppies will grow big enough to leave their mother, Paco exclaims. They will continue sneaking them food in the meantime. Once the puppies are grown, they and their friends will all have a puppy of their own, and Paco will get to bring Lady back home, where his mother will not have to worry about the burden of feeding the litter.

It is said that hunger once denied becomes all the harder to deny the next time. Searching for another source of food, Cloak happens upon a grocer rushing out of his store and shouting at a man down the street. Hey, stop, the grocer shouts! Cloak assumes it to be a robbery, and rejoices; he finally has a candidate for his dinner. To his disappointment, the grocer catches up with the man and returns to him the wallet he left on the counter. The man thanks him and smiles. Cloak, on the other hand, grimaces.

He retreats. The hunger gets harder and harder to deny each time. Eventually, Cloak staggers down the center of the street, cars swerving wildly to avoid him, while passersby hurry to get out of the way of his lurching, shambling advance. In his wake, he leaves a trail of utter darkness. The light he absorbs is the wrong kind, but, blindly hungering for the living light, he selfishly drinks it in anyway, leaving a black vacuum where no hint of light can penetrate. The zone of shadow creeps up the sides of buildings, resembling nothing so much as some sort of obscene scar across the face of the city. But somewhere, there must be light to hold back the darkness...

Meanwhile, the young mutant known as Dazzler sits on a roof ledge, lost in song, using her ability to transform sound into light to provide her own private fireworks show. Following a concert at the pier, Dazzler was too jazzed to go home just yet, so with the aid of a radio, she has stopped off to give her own vocal skills release. "Marlene watches from the wall, her mocking smile says it all, as she records the rise and fall, of every soldier passing," Dazzler sings, transducing the music into a colorful display of light in the process. "But the only soldier now is me, I'm fighting things I cannot see... I think it's called my destiny—" Something grabs her foot. Dazzler looks down in utter shock and sees the desiccated Cloak clinging to her ankle for dear life. The expression written on his face is clear: he needs her help. He clings to the surface like a spider, his cape whipping and billowing in the night wind, a dark trail running up the building he slowly climbed, too weak to travel through the darkness he holds within himself.

Cloak has found the Dazzler. However, the whereabouts of his original target, Dagger, remain a mystery.

Several hours earlier...

Tandy Bowen, the blond-haired superhuman known as Dagger, talks to her mother on a payphone. The conversation ends as they usually do; Tandy's mother neglects to listen to her daughter's cries for help and heads off to a party. Tandy gives a curt goodbye and hangs up the phone. Next, she dials her step-father, Phillip Carlisle. Unfortunately, she only connects with the answering machine at his office. Tandy is supremely disappointed. Surely her stepdad would have listened while she explained the rotten way Cloak treated her; she cannot think of anyone else who would. Father Delgado is locked up in an insane asylum, Brigid O'Reilly turned into some sort of weird creature, the Power Pack kids are way too young to understand, and the New Mutants are just as mixed-up and confused as Tandy. She needs to find a clear-thinking, rational adult to whom she can spill her heart. Suddenly, it hits her: Spider-Man! Dagger takes off running.

The present…

Back on the building ledge, Dazzler helps Cloak reach the safety of the roof. That scare he gave her must have taken twenty years off her life, Dazzler says! She wonders if she will see white hairs next time she looks in the mirror. In the meantime, she rolls Cloak on his back and sees what she can do to help. Obviously, he is in pain. Dazzler emits a slight glow from her hands so she can examine his injuries. To her surprise—the second one of the evening—Cloak reaches up and clamps her by the wrist, muttering Dagger's name. Suddenly, Alison realizes who this man is. She recognizes him from the files at the X-Mansion. Having once accessed his file while studying, Dazzler knows both he and Dagger are mutants whose latent powers were awakened by their involuntary injection of an experimental drug. Dazzler also knows Cloak needs the light given off by Dagger to survive. That must be why he is in such pain, she says.

An announcement on the radio asks its listeners to stay tuned for a special bulletin regarding the city's mysterious blackout. Ignoring this announcement, Alison asks Cloak where they can find Dagger, but he can barely speak. The news bulletin continues. It states that the blackout crippling the city continues to spread, even though its cause remains a mystery. If it continues, the announcer warns, it may soon overwhelm all of Manhattan. Suddenly, Dazzler realizes this blackout must be Cloak's doing! He must be absorbing all the light from the area; perhaps this is why he felt attracted to Dazzler. She can produce light of any variety by altering its color, intensity and duration, but she knows not what kind of light Cloak needs. Without Dagger around, however, it falls on Dazzler to try.

Recalling that Cloak liked her glowing hand earlier, Dazzler produces a mega-dose of that same variety and channels it toward Cloak. Strangely enough, she can feel him "drinking" the light, but sees that it is not doing the trick. She instead tries some pulsating beams. They don't work either. Next, Dazzler tries her signature chaotic cascade of sparkling lights and colors. The exertion from these repeated efforts start to wear on her. Sweat begins accumulating on her forehead, and yet, Cloak remains unsatisfied. Through with playing around, Dazzler begins lobbing several geometric shapes of solid light at the starving man, but watches in despair as Cloak's dark tendrils reach up and snatch them as fast as she can produce them, with no seeming effect on his health. Finally, as a last resort, Dazzler expels the remainder of her energy in the form of an expanding light-sphere. She wonders what might happen if her best is not good enough. "It's showdown time, buster!" Dazzler says. "I'm hot and I'm tired and I'm sick of feeling you trying to reach inside of me and pull out my light! You want it—you got it! And I hope it gives you indigestion!"

The Dazzler explodes in a glare of blinding polarity. The effect is somewhat akin to the sun suddenly going nova in a next-door neighbor's backyard. Unfortunately, although the quantity of light is sufficient, it happens to be the wrong kind. Dazzler passes out, completely exhausted. "That's it... the fat lady's sung," she says, "...and it looks like I'm dessert." She falls unconscious as Cloak's snaking tendrils worm their way over to her limp body. They seek out the only source of the kind of light that will appease the darkness, the one kind of light that the Dazzler couldn't give—her succulent life energy!

The hunger rips deep into Cloak's vitals. The pain has transported him into the unreasoning primal creature that he has become this night. It is the measure of the hero's spirit that resides within his soul that despite the desperate yearning to fill the aching void that torments him so, one last time this night, when it costs him the most, he finds the strength of will to say, "No!" No to the darkness! No to the surrender of will that would allow him to hurt an innocent being—an innocent being like Dagger, his beloved Angel of Light, who was hurt by his selfish surrender of recent days. Never again, Cloak vows!

Suddenly, in bright white light manifests far in the distance. Cloak wonders if it is the reward for his triumph of will. As he stands and runs toward it, Dazzler recovers from her fainting spell. Honestly, she is surprised to still be alive. She has never felt this tired in her life—every muscle aches—but she's alive nonetheless. And there goes the sponge of darkness, she thinks as Cloak flees. She sure hopes he finds Dagger soon, for everyone’s sake.

The bright beacon of hope eventually brings Cloak back to his former haven, the Holy Ghost Church. His lurching advance carries him within, croaking out his desperate litany once more. At the pew, he sees a lithe figure silhouetted by a flare of pure, white light. "Dagger!" Cloak cries.

The figure, a thin, blond man with a devious grin on his face, spins around and corrects his visitor. Cloak can call him Day, he says. "As in Night and Day," Day's shrouded female companion adds. Day grins as he summons as glowing white ball of light in his right hand. Grinning, he tells his ally that he knew his light would draw Cloak back to the church.

As he maneuvers the light in his hand, Day notices Cloak's eyes following it, just like a suckling babe drawn to its mother's bosom. "Does ya want this, playmate?" Day asks. "Well, then, me kind an' generous disposition is a gonna see that you gets it!" The glowing orb transforms into a spear in his hand. He hurls it at Cloak, hitting him squarely in the chest. Cloak groans and collapses to the ground, unconscious. Night and Day rejoice as they approach his smoldering body. He's such an angel when he's asleep, Day says. He and Night hoist the sleeping Cloak up onto the altar and lay him on his back. "Oh, Mister Jip, your wee prize has come a toddlin' 'ome and is 'avin' a bit of a nap!" Day says. Out of the shadows comes a hulking, grotesque, gray monster. This monster, Mister Jip, lurks over to the altar and beholds his prisoner. At last, Mister Jip says—Cloak is his!

Characters Involved: 

Cloak, Dagger
Dazzler (X-Man)

Mister Jip

Day, Night (servants of Mister Jip)

Manuel, Paco (puppy caretakers)

Grocer, Wallet Guy

Story Notes: 

The issue contains a second story about Doctor Strange titled “African Genesis!”

This issue takes place after Uncanny X-Men #218 and after the X-Men return from Muir Island at the end of the Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men LS, but sometime before “Fall of the Mutants” begins in Uncanny X-Men #225.

The powerless Cloak accepted the Obsidian Cube, a mysterious item with the power to restore his control of the Darkness, from a shady store clerk last issue. He restored his powers as Cloak last issue in an attempt to renew his relationship with Dagger, as he feared without their codependent powers, they would grow apart. The dealer, meanwhile, was actually Mister Jip in disguise, as revealed in Strange Tales (2nd series) #11.

Mister Jip first appeared last issue, in the disguise of a store clerk. He is actually an ancient Chinese sorcerer who usurps the bodies of others to prolong his own life, as revealed in Strange Tales (2nd series) #11.

Father Francis Xavier Delgado was the priest at the Holy Ghost Church. He first met Cloak and Dagger in Cloak and Dagger (1st series) #1, when they came to his church for refuge. He later became obsessed with the duo, and drove himself mad in his attempt to magically separate them.

Brigid O'Reilly was an NYPD police officer who initially learned of Cloak and Dagger because of their illegal vigilantism against drug dealers, but later warmed up to the duo. The “crazy weird creature” that Brigid became was Mayhem, a transformation that occurred in Cloak and Dagger (2nd series) #5.

Cloak and Dagger befriended the Power Pack kids in Power Pack (1st series) #6-8.

Cloak and Dagger met Spider-Man while engaging in vigilantism in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #64. They have been allies ever since.

Cloak and Dagger first met the New Mutants in Marvel Team-Up Annual #6, when their powers were transferred to the unwilling Wolfsbane and Sunspot. By New Mutants (1st series) #23, it became clear that the light and shadow powers of Cloak and Dagger had not truly left the bodies of the two young mutants. Worse, neither of them could handle the strain. With the help of the X-men—but acting of their own volition—Cloak and Dagger accepted their powers back unto themselves in New Mutants (1st series) #25, relieving Sunspot and Wolfsbane of the burden.

Although Dazzler states in this issue that both Cloak and Dagger are mutants, the debate continues to this day as to whether they are technically mutants or mutates.
The song Dazzler is singing is Marlene on the Wall by Suzanne Vega.

Issue Information: 
Written By: