Doctor Strange #32-37
Issue(s): Doctor Strange #32, Doctor Strange #33,Doctor Strange #34, Doctor Strange #35, Doctor Strange #36, Doctor Strange #37
The Dweller In Darkness seeks vengeance on Dr. Strange for his defeat a few issues ago.
He more or less invades Nightmare's realm...
...and powers up a sleeping mortal. She calls herself Dream Weaver.
Strange and Clea are able to stop her and strip her of her power...
...but they don't know who created her. Strange initially accuses Nightmare, but believes Nightmare when he says that it wasn't him.
Nightmare tells Strange that his new adversary 'dwells in the darkness'.
Nightmare says that he would never act so overtly, but the very next issue (#34), he pretty much does the same thing, powering up someone to attack Strange.
This time the powered-up individual is Cyrus Black, a magician that Strange has some history with.
Strange uses the light of Agamotto to show Cyrus that he's not acting like a noble sorcerer...
...and Black kills himself. P. Craig Russell's inking on this issue give it an innovative look...
...but the story isn't really great, and it feels like a bit of an interruption to the Dweller In Darkness plot.
Issue #35 has Dr. Strange finally answering the Avengers' call about the Black Knight statue.
The timeline for this is pretty atrocious. The Black Knight statue story took place in Avengers #157, published Mar 77. They finally called Dr. Strange about it in Dr. Strange #29, published in Jun 78. And now here it is Jun 79 before Strange finally shows up to the Mansion to investigate. I suppose it just wasn't a priority for either Strange or the Avengers, so it kept getting pushed to the backburner. In the lettercol for issue #37, it is said that it's only been 'a few weeks' since Avengers #157 thanks to Marvel's compressed timeline. They also say since he's trapped in the past, it really doesn't matter when Strange gets around to helping Dane.
Anyway, Strange investigates and finds that the statue has a sword, which i guess it didn't have before. It turns out that it's not just a stone statue of a sword, but a real ebony blade (not yet determined to be the Ebony Blade). Strange decides to look back in time to see if Dane Whitman, the Black Knight who asked to be sent back to the time of the Crusades, is in any kind of trouble.
The Dweller In Darkness fears that Strange's probe of the 'byways of time' might reveal his subtle machinations.
So he possess a human and causes him to release a fire demon (by messing with the gas lighter on a hot dog stand).
While Strange is distracted, the Dweller puts out a summons to other extra-dimensional beings, looking for allies against Strange. Among some unnamed beings, we see Umar and Tiboro, but all but two decline to help.
Only a pair of demons called Ningal and Ludi agree to help. These creatures have appeared previously, some five years ago, in stories in Chamber of Chills #3 and Chamber of Chills #4. At the time, their stories were unrelated, although for what it is worth both were written by Gardner Fox. Now Ludi calls Ningal his "brother", although i assume he doesn't mean biologically.
Ludi replaces the fire demon...
...but Clea and Strange defeat it with the Black Knight's sword.
Murdoch Adams was the main character of the story from Chamber of Chills #4, which featured Ludi, not Ningal. But you can see from one of the scans above that he has subsequently been trapped by Ningal, from CoC #3. We learn in this arc it's because Ningal attacked Murdoch and killed his girlfriend Lenore Wilkins in retaliation for Murdoch having defeated Ludi in the second Chamber of Chills story.
When the Dweller in Darkness returns Ningal to Earth, Murdoch Adams is freed, too. He heads to Dr. Strange's house but asks for Stephen Sanders.
He had been trapped in another dimension when the Sanders identity was removed from everyone's memory. Strange travels with Murdoch to England, in part to investigate the Ningal demon cult and in part to return to the Whitman home to try and contact Dane. They bring the Black Knight statue with them.
Strange has an encounter with Ningal on the way, but he fights him off for the time being.
If you're already confused about Ningal and Ludi, adding to the confusion is that Ningal has two forms. There's the form of his statue, which we see here. And then there's the bird-like form that we saw in the earlier scan with Murdoch.
After fending off Ningal for now, Strange and crew land in England and are met by Marcia Trent, the woman that lured people to their death in Chamber of Chills #3. Note that she's still casting no shadow.
Murdoch goes with Marcia while Strange and Clea go on to the Black Knight's castle. Victoria Bently is a neighbor of the Whitman's, so she's been keeping up the place. There's a bit of a jealousy thing going on between Clea and Victoria. Victoria flirts very heavily with Strange, which is unusual for her.
The Ningal demon possesses the Black Knight statue and attacks.
Meanwhile, Marcia drugs Murdoch and tries to kill him, but Murdoch is able to save himself with an amulet given to him by Dr. Strange. Seeing the amulet kills Marcia, but she dies free of Ningal's control.
Strange is able to defeat Ningal, but he's still not sure who the mastermind of all these attacks is.
Watching from his dimension, the Dweller explains to his lackey D'Spayre that because he has sown seeds of doubt in Strange, it means that he has won. He talks about the fact that in the past Strange has met lots of 'conceptual' beings (presumably like Death, Eternity, and Nightmare - Nightmare also referred to himself as a conceptual entity in issue #34), and that has given Strange an ordered understanding of the universe, and this series of attacks has somehow weakened Strange's understanding...? I don't think i quite get it.
And i think what really happened is that the Dweller has decided that he's gotten tired, because the next thing he does is go off and take a nap.
It's a strange, unsatisfying ending to an uneven story. (It doesn't even result in the return of the Black Knight, which would have at least given the story some sort of historical significance.) There's something to be said for a plot where the protagonist never really learns who's been attacking him. But it doesn't work very well for me. The use of Ningal and Ludi is especially strange. For a long while i felt like i was missing something from this story because i hadn't read their prior appearances. But they really just serve as generic lackeys that know no more about the Dweller's plans than Strange. It is still kind of cool to see them again, and it's interesting the way their stories are tied together (since they are "brothers", Ningal is interested in avenging Ludi and vice versa). Perhaps if Stern had seen it all the way through himself it might have made more sense, but as it stands it's not very good.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: The Sub-Mariner leaves Strange's house after the battle with Alaric last issue. It hasn't been long since the fight. He also takes the Sword of Kamuu but leaves Strange with the hilt-gem (the Eye of Zarta) so that the sword's dangerous power is limited. The Captain America and Iron Man appearances are context free.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): show
The character holding the green mace is Tiboro, a Silver Age Dr. Strange villain(and a Steve Ditko creation).
Dream Weaver probably got her name from the 1976 song by British rocker Gary Wright, and her costume seems lifted from DC's Ragman.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 17, 2011 8:50 PM
Added Tiboro to Characters Appearing. Thanks!
Posted by: fnord12 | July 17, 2011 9:22 PM
John Byrne was the originally announced artist for Macchio's issue.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 26, 2012 4:25 PM
FOOM#20 announced that Roger Stern intended the Black Knight story as a possible Defenders crossover.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 14, 2013 6:02 PM
I think the Dweller's point is that by this point, Strange thinks he knows all the big universal powers, their roles, etc. By reminding him not just of how much he doesn't know, but how much he DOESN'T KNOW HE DOESN'T KNOW, it severely rattles his confidence and throws him off.
Posted by: Thanos6 | September 8, 2014 10:24 PM
I just noticed that you have not yet covered 1973's Chamber of Chills #4, which is the first appearance for Murdoch Adams, Lenore and the demon Ludi (who should be a character appearing in this entry as well, doesn't he)?
Posted by: Luis Dantas | February 15, 2015 12:00 PM
Thanks, Luis. I've added Chamber of Chills #4 to the What's Missing page and listed Ludi as a character. I see that the Dr. Strange Essentials trade included that story, which is pretty cool. Since i have the original Strange issues, i'll have to see if i can track down a cheap copy of the original Chamber story.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 15, 2015 12:29 PM
At the risk of asking a stupid question, could Clea always fly? I was surprised to see her zipping around in #35.
Posted by: Matthew Bradley | November 12, 2016 3:04 PM
Fnord's review of DOCTOR STRANGE #175-178 (1968-69) has panels from a sequence where she starts flying in public and Strange stops her. But how she does it is a good question: Strange uses a Cloak of Levitation to fly, and Clea doesn't have one.
Jimaine Szardos does some hovering in DOCTOR STRANGE #57 (1983), so apparently it's something Marvel U magicians can do. Maybe Strange uses a cloak so he won't have to devote mental or magical resources to it.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | December 20, 2016 5:05 AM
We've seen Strange levitate without his cloak on several occasions- for example, Doctor Strange 49 (1981). The "cloak helps him conserve energy" theory is the usual explanation.
Posted by: Michael | December 20, 2016 11:30 PM
Thanks, Michael. Perhaps levitating is like walking, and using the cloak is like driving a car.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | December 21, 2016 2:17 AM
Or it might be smart to use one as releasing magic to levitate can disrupt one's other spells.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | December 21, 2016 3:05 AM
When we first met Clea she lived in a part of the Dark Dimension where there was basically no ground to stand on, and everyone was more or less just floating around, so she must have always had the ability to fly. How else could she get back and forth to and from the mysterious bathrooms and kitchens of the Dark Dimension? Wherever they are.
Posted by: Holt | March 25, 2018 12:56 AM
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