Strange Tales #1-3
Issue(s): Strange Tales #1, Strange Tales #2, Strange Tales #3
Cloak & Dagger
Title: "Cloak and Dagger" / "All in the family" / "Nightflight"
Title: "And have not charity..." / "The world well lost for love--!" / "Goodbye to all that!"
Peter Gillis - Writer
Carl Potts - Editor
Even in the 60s, of course, Marvel got away from the split book format when they were able to.
That's the general statement. There are a lot of counter examples. The later Dr. Strange stories in Strange Tales were nothing but continuing stories. And in other countries, where anthology titles were the norm, the idea of having just a few pages to tell part of a story was a lot more common (as we've seen with the Captain Britain stories in this project so far). And that continued to the present where, as we've seen from some comments here, 80s US books were broken up and reprinted in the backs of other issues (personally, reading a single random issue of Iron Man over the course of six months sounds torturous).
So those are the things to consider with Marvel's decision to revive the Strange Tales title, bringing Dr. Strange "home" and also canceling Cloak & Dagger and moving them here. The move did seem to save both books from cancellation, and also put the stories back on a monthly schedule (which i guess cancels out the problem to a degree). Personally, the stories in each issue feel stunted to me, but both creative teams do pretty well with keeping a flow and keeping the exposition reasonably subtle.
In both cases, we are picking up where we left off in the cancelled books. So for Cloak and Dagger, the characters are still in Asia after their hunt for the source of the drug shipment that they stopped back in their own series. While in India, Dagger detects someone stealing the "light" from people that are moments from death...
...and the duo track that person down, and he turns out to be Dagger's father (who we'd already heard had left Dagger's mom while Dagger was still young).
Bret Blevins's art gets more stylized (and sometimes a bit messy), and Cloak has become very clearly demonic.
The "Lord of Light" zaps him with enough light that he at least temporarily loses his powers, and becomes his old stuttering self. But he distrusts Dagger's dad, and his distrust turns out to be justified when he finds him stealing light from people that are not guaranteed to die.
Dagger doesn't want to hear it (and note Cloak's archaic "aye")...
...but soon afterwards, her father tries to sacrifice her so that he can ascend to a higher spiritual level.
Cloak manages to convince him that he's wrong, and he instead jumps to his death inside Cloak's cloak.
For redeeming her father, Dagger promises to love Cloak forever.
The fact that Dagger's father had powers similar to her raises the question of whether or not her powers were in fact latent and not directly a result of the drugs that she and Cloak received in their origin story.
This seems to contradict the idea from the last issue of Cloak & Dagger's series, which seemed to suggest that their powers came from some property of the drugs.
It's also explicitly said in issue #2 that if Dagger doesn't expend her light energies, she becomes cold and aloof. It's always seemed like the dependency between Cloak and Dagger was one way, but that makes the relationship more symbiotic.
After the encounter with her father, Dagger contacts her step-father, who sends her and Cloak some plane tickets and a change of clothes. But their flight home doesn't go well. Sometimes the mystic entity Nightmare causes people to have bad dreams, but sometimes people just have dreams so bad that they bother him.
Nightmare realizes that Cloak's dark dimension borders his own, and he also learns that Cloak has a connection to Doctor Strange. So he begins manipulating poor Cloak. He causes a creature that lives in Cloak's cloak to escape (Nightmare says that there are actually multiple demons in Cloak's dimension), so that Cloak will be more likely to want to contact Dr. Strange again.
Dagger (with a statement that sounds "almost like a wedding vow", according to Mantlo)...
...helps get the monster back inside Cloak...
...and then the two of them teleport off the plane, leaving Dagger's step-dad waiting fruitlessly at the airport.
On the Dr. Strange side, the group return from the Pyrrhic battle with Urthona. Topaz conveniently has recently turned 21, and this apparently increases her powers and allows her to heal Wong's face.
But Strange's magical artifacts are still destroyed, and Strange himself is spiritually wounded. Topaz tries to fix the latter by summoning Clea, but despite Clea saying that she's really loved Strange all along, he's unable to accept her for his own monkish reasons.
The more immediate concern is a water demon that has been freed now when Strange's artifacts were destroyed.
Dr. Strange's powers have been weakened by the loss of his artifacts...
...so despite some help from Rintrah...
...Strange is unable to stop the demon without killing the human it has possessed. So he kills the human.
This is putting Strange down a path of darkness that will be the theme of his run here.
Strange then realizes the extent of the problem now that his artifacts are destroyed.
And the next creature to attack him is Khat, the creature that previously tore his cloak. This time, he brings some brothers.
Strange stops them by taking the life of an actual stray cat that happened to be following him around, because that's the price of the black magic he's forced to use.
After that's over, everybody realizes that Topaz has left. And Dr. Strange decides that he needs to leave as well to go to each of the trouble locations, and he doesn't want to involve Sara Wolfe or Wong. So he casts a spell of forgetfulness and then leaves for Hong Kong with Rintrah.
Something about the premise here bothers me a bit. The idea that there were artifacts that kept various Elder Demons in check makes sense, but the idea that they were the source of Strange's powers, and that without them he's forced to resort to black magic or black deeds seems a bit forced. But if you get past that it's an interesting new adventure for him and Rintrah to begin.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Cloak & Dagger return to New York in this arc. Marvel Graphic Novel #34 (Cloak and Dagger: Predator and Prey) takes place between this arc and issue #4. On the Doctor Strange side, i'm allowing some time to pass for travel back to New York from Urthona's planet before the beginning of this arc. Dr. Strange and Rintrah next appear in Hong Kong, so we can allow some time for travel there as well. FYI, Shuma-Gorath is behind-the-scenes for all of Dr. Strange's appearances through Strange Tales #13.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (9): show
"(personally, reading a single random issue of Iron Man over the course of six months sounds torturous)."
Actually, it would have been about four weeks, as UK comics are usually on a weekly schedule. In the days of Marvel UK, a US reprint would usually be published over two issues in its own title or four issues as a backup strip. Although there were some titles where a US main feature story was broken up into four parts and run alongside a five page UK-original story in the same issue. It was quite common to have a quick recap text on the first page of the second to final parts of a story, so that readers who had missed the last issue or two could quickly catch up.
This means that British readers have slightly odd memories of some stories, because we were often missing 5-6 page chunks.
Posted by: Stephen | March 14, 2014 4:43 PM
The prophecy about Topaz gaining vast power when she turned 21 was from Tomb of Dracula 64. The second part of the prophecy was that Topaz would eliminate all free will on the Earth, which obviously didn't happen.
Posted by: Michael | March 14, 2014 7:56 PM
I had to follow Born Again as a Spiderman backup strip from the Spanish edition. Four pages a month. Go figure.
Posted by: Jay Gallardo | March 15, 2014 3:45 AM
Mantlo is really moving C&D away from the milieu where they work best. The themes he's using aren't necessarily bad, but they aren't implemented well. Moving the kids away from the drug origin into some kind of latent powers is a bad move that detracts from their core mythos. And we still don't have a good rogues gallery for them. Mantlo is really screwing up.
Strange is better, but like FNORD12, I agree that Doc's reliance on black magic does not make much sense. He did not have most of these artifacts when he began, and he was able to use his own powers against all manner of bad foes. While Peter Gillis has some good ideas, they really aren't right for this character. What is bad is that it would not have taken much to change things a bit and make most of his ideas work.
Posted by: Chris | March 16, 2014 6:37 PM
Come to think of it, Strange destroying his artifacts to save his friends from Urthona now makes no sense if doing so made him virtually powerless. Urthona should have been able to kill Strange easily.
Posted by: Michael | March 16, 2014 7:39 PM
Comments are now closed.
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