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The Defenders – Xenogenesis Day of the Demons (The Defenders: #58-60)

Way back in 1978 readers of The (original) Defenders were awaiting the return of Dr. Strange and in this issue they got it on the first page with the story opening at the Sanctum Sanctorum although Dr. Strange is asleep when we meet him with an open book in his lap! That’s ok though because according to the narration Strange’s sleep is the result of physical fatigue and mental exhaustion. Wong though is still awake and is very worried as he feels this quiet is the calm before the storm.

Wong takes the book from Strange, closes it, and places it back in the library. He is facing his own sense of foreboding, but decides against waking Strange. He has no concrete reason to share his fears with his employer. While Strange seems to be sleeping peacefully, he is actually having dark and disjointed dreams. Outside the Sanctum, the Agent of Fortune appears and observes the exterior of the building.

Suddenly Strange awakes and grabs a startled Wong from behind. The Sorcerer Supreme states that he has felt spatial displacement vibrations. He wants Wong to take cover, as he is expecting an attack. Strange uses the Eye of Agamotto to try to learn about the nature of the coming threat.

Strange then gets booted in the head by the Agent of Fortune, who has already entered the Sanctum and is swinging from the ceiling. The Agent covers Strange’s head with his Shadow Cloak and temporarily blinds him. Strange releases himself and counterattacks with some serious spell casting that summons the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak, but the Agent claims that they are ineffective against them.

The Agent then uses the shadow cloak to escape their grasp and disappear. Strange wonders whether he has already won this battle but then the Agent reappears and attacks him, claiming to have travelled through dimensional doorways, and that he is adept at lightning attacks. With Strange knocked out, the Agent steals the Eye of Agamotto. The Agent claims that he is working for a cult, and that he was send to harvest the most precious eye of all.

The story then moves to Avengers Mansion where Jackson Norriss has just parked his Jaguar car. Jackson has been offered a job by Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D., but he has no way of actually contacting Fury. He wants the Avengers to find Fury for him. He finds one of the exterior doors of the Mansion to be unlocked. He prepares to enter, and decides to warn the Avengers about their lack of security.

The story then moves to the hospital room of Horace Ledge, who has yet to recover from his injuries and even has trouble speaking. His friend Valkyrie is there to see him, using her mortal guise. She assures him that he will soon be back on his feet. Val is accompanied by a suited and booted Dr. Bruce Banner.

Dollar Bill arrives and enters the room. He has never met Banner before, so Val introduces them to each other. Dollar Bill listens to the name “Robert Bruce Banner” and decides to start calling him “Bob”. Dollar Bill invites both Val and “Bob” to a visit to the Felix Club, a nightclub. He promises to cover all expenses. Val is reluctant to accept, but Banner is overjoyed. Dr. Banner claims to have not enjoyed a night out for quite some time. He is looking forward to it. Ledge tries to warn Dollar Bill that Val is a super-woman, with a sword and a cape. Dollar Bill does not understand the warning. He jokes that the bandaged Ledge should appear in a remake of the horror film “The Mummy”, and then exits the hospital room.

Later in the Felix Club Dollar Bill is trying to impress Val and Banner with his generosity. Vera Gemini in human form is already there, and having a conversation with Eric Payne (the secret identity of Devil-Slayer). Vera warns Payne that he is only one man and can not last long against her entire organisation. Payne points out that she is not as confident as she sounds, or else she would not be meeting with him for negotiations. Val stares at Payne, who she sees in a somewhat different form. In her vision, Payne is cloaked in a strange cape and he emanates a distinct aura. She seeks confirmation of her vision from Banner, who sees nothing extraordinary about the man. In Banner’s view, Val is always on edge and expecting to be involved in unusual events.

As Vera and Payne continue to converse, she accuses him of betraying her organisation. They were the ones who trained him, and equipped him. Then he turned on them. Payne replies that he once believed in her organisation and trusted them and that this turned out to be a mistake. They simply used him, and he does not like being used. He rejects her offer of truce as another shallow attempt to exploit him. He vows to use his abilities to destroy her entire organisation. Vera is not impressed with his “verbal posturing”. He has proven to be a persistent and powerful foe, but he does not actually gain anything from his campaign against them. She notes how her organisation could offer him power and wealth.

In a nearby table, Valkyrie talks about her concern about the “pale and weak” Ledge. Dollar Bill asks her to forget her concerns for a while, and to enjoy a night of rest and relaxation. Banner agrees, as he feels that both Defenders need to rest away from battles. Banner also points out that Ledge is young and able to quickly heal from his injuries.

When Vera tells Payne that her organization has taken possession of the Eye of Agamotto, he grabs her hand violently and transforms into Devil-Slayer. He has clearly lost control of himself and can not maintain the illusion of normalcy. He accidentally scares a waitress, who runs away from him. Valkyrie mistakes Devil-Slayer for a super-villain and prepares to attack him. He in turn mistakes Valkyrie for an agent of Vera, and accuses Vera of leading him to a trap. As the battle is about to begin, Vera escapes his grasp…

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