Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Script: Mantlo
Pencils: Leonardi

"The darkness and light are both alike... I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

If that opening Bible-ish quote isn't enough, then the next three pages of Cloak and Dagger arguing with a priest should prove that this is one title not afraid to actually include the church in the battle of good and evil. The dialogue here is terrific.

Father Delgado: "You're both so... so naive! Do you really think that all of the world's problems -- crime, drugs, moral and spiritual decay -- can be so simply solved if only one possesses power?"

Cloak: "And are you so naive as to believe, priest, that the world can be saved through prayer?"

Father Delgado: "That is the core of my faith, Cloak, the basic tenet of my beliefs."

Cloak: "Then get down on your knees and pray to your god to cure the world's ills -- or, at the very least, to free Dagger and I from this power he has allowed us to be cursed with!"

Father Delgado: "I pray ceaselessly for both."

Cloak: "Then your god shows a marked disinclination to get involved."

That looks like the old faith vs. actions argument playing-out above, although I think most churchgoers believe in faith in addition to actions, rather than as an alternative.

Anyhow, despite the characters' polarised differences, what unites these three is their pursuit of the common good.

This issue, for Cloak and Dagger at any rate, that turns out to be rescuing the Beyonder from the drugs-pushers he's just been taken-in by.

It's not explicitly stated (in my 20-page UK version at any rate) but he seems to have got talking to them because of Doctor Strange's earlier words about how he should foster happiness in others. (in Doctor Strange #74) So when the peddlers promise him 'happiness', of course, he willingly rolls-up his sleeve.

After Cloak and Dagger have rescued him he, surprise-surprise, undoes their curse and grants their greatest wish, albeit inadvertently.

Then however, he goes on a bit of a trip...

Once the madness is over, he seizes the opportunity to do good in the world by murdering all the local dealers. It's important to recognise that his perception of good and evil is still at a very crude stage, apparently classifying people as either one or the other.

Cloak and Dagger know better however - that there is both in all of us - and so the latter makes an impassioned plea for the lives of her enemies.

Dagger: "But unless punishment has some end beyond the affliction of pain or death, you can never make a man reform! Don't you see? If Cloak shows a bad person what'll happen to him if he continues down the path of darkness -- maybe he'll turn aside and choose the light!"

See, this is my whole problem with the traditional view of Hell. If there is no opportunity to repent, then Hell has no purpose.

Anyhow, there's a great subtext in the quote above. On some level Cloak and Dagger have had their earlier prayer answered by the Beyonder, but have ultimately realised that there is a better way than 'God' just switching the problem off.

The Beyonder restores to his victims the chance to make that choice, and leaves our heroes empowered to once more fight the good fight, with another nod to the book quotation that opened this issue.

Dagger: "So I guess we've gotta climb out of the cradle and work at making this world a better place if we want to have the right to inherit the Earth!"


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