Appearing in "Darkness, Darkness..."
Synopsis for "Darkness, Darkness..."
Six hours earlier, Spider-Man encountered the Werewolf in a Los Angeles nightclub known as Cat's Jazz Club. It is now well after closing time, and Cat and Mouse are cleaning the place up. Cat comments that it is odd that Spider-Man should be in Los Angeles, so far from his usual hangout. Mouse wonders why their boss kept them out of the fight with the Tatterdemalion. They could have easily taken him, she says. As they converse, they fail to notice Spider-Man himself clinging to the ceiling. Suddenly he snags Cat with his webbing and suspends him in the air. Mouse tries to rescue her partner, but Spider-Man hangs her in the air, too. He wants to know where the Shroud is, and Mouse is only too happy to point out that the Shroud is on the club's stage behind him. The Shroud demands to know why Spider-Man's looking for him, and Spider-Man replies that he was told the Shroud has been taking over the Los Angeles gangs one by one. Then Spider-Man attacks, but the Shroud easily dodges. When he tries to cover the Shroud with webbing, the room is suddenly plunged into pitch darkness. He can see nothing, but his spider-sense warns of danger from all directions. Punches start coming at him that he cannot see to avoid, and the Shroud declares that he is aware of all of Spider-Man's limitations. Spider-Man knows little about the Shroud, but he realizes that the Shroud is somehow responsible for the darkness that is triggering his spider-sense. Focusing his sense and allowing it to guide him, he strikes out with his fist and connects. The darkness vanishes, and Spider-Man finds the Shroud unconscious on the floor beside him. Spider-Man picks him up and web-swings out of the nightclub.
As Spider-Man web-swings above Los Angeles, he muses on the events of the past few hours. He recalls encountering Spider-Woman, meeting the Werewolf, and battling the Tatterdemalion. Then he met a strange woman, whom the Werewolf could not see, and followed her home. Calling herself Dansen Macabre, she explained to him her talent to prevent people from seeing her unless she wishes otherwise. Her hair was platinum blonde, and she wore a revealing violet costume with a dark ribbon in constant motion around her body. She told him she needed his aid against a "fiend" threatening the city who calls himself the Shroud. His powers were given to him by the Cult of Kali, she continued, and he intends to become the lord of crime in Los Angeles. The Shroud bears the mark of Kali, the Hindu goddess of death, on his clothes and on his person. Under him, criminals will spread the worship of Kali, she explained, and she has been charged by her own sect to stop him. But all the while that she spoke with Spider-Man, she danced lightly in front of him and put him into a trance. No mortal can resist the hypnotic effects of the Dance of Shiva, she said as he stood immobile. When she first saw him, she continued, she knew he had the power to defeat the Shroud and would aid her. Speaking slowly, Spider-Man agreed, and she commanded him to bring her the Shroud, so she could crush him forever.
As she awaits Spider-Man, Dansen Macabre addresses the giant statue of Shiva that dominates her living room. Soon, she promises the deity, his foe shall be stretched helpless across his altar. In that hour, Spider-Man and the blasphemer will both die. As Spider-Man approaches the apartment, he is amused that a complete Hindu temple exists inside an otherwise ordinary penthouse, and he chalks it up to the notorious "California lifestyle." Dansen Macabre is amazed that he has returned so quickly, but he explains that the Shroud did not put up much of a fight. When Spider-Man lays him on the floor, Dansen draws her dagger, saying that the time has come to put an end to the Shroud. In gaining his power from the priests of the Cult of Kali, she says, the Shroud transgressed against Shiva and now he must pay the price. Spider-Man tries to prevent her, but her hypnotic control immobilizes him. But as she raises the Shroud's head to cut his throat, she sees that he is someone else dressed in the Shroud's costume.
Then the real Shroud leaps in through the window. He says that the man on the floor is a decoy to make her drop her defenses and allow him to enter her lair unnoticed. She is puzzled, for her existence should have been unknown to him, but he replies that his special senses are not so easily deceived. He knew her from the moment she stepped into the jazz club, he says. Then he plunges the room into darkness. Dansen, however, remains unaffected and strikes at him with her dagger. Seeing that his darkness power is useless, the Shroud quickly turns it off, hoping that the sudden burst of light around him will blind her momentarily and break her control over Spider-Man. This works, because Spider-Man, fortunately, is not looking toward the Shroud when the lights come on. But even though blinded, she begins her Dance of Shiva, and once started, she says, no man can look away. She moves faster and faster, saying that the dance that hypnotizes can also kill. Then Spider-Man and the Shroud collapse.
But when Dansen approaches the Shroud with her dagger, Spider-Man suddenly grabs her. She is astounded that he is alive, and he explains that the Shroud covered his eyes with patches of blackness so that he could not see her. Presumably, he did the same for himself. But the Shroud stands up and proclaims that he has no need of such "tricks." Spider-Man wonders what they will do with her because the authorities will surely not believe the "cult business." Then Dansen Macabre abruptly vanishes. The Shroud, however, tells Spider-Man that she is present but outside his perceptions. Not even his spider-senses would be able to find her, he continues, but he himself can still detect her. He grapples with her invisible form and forces her to drop her dagger, but she knocks the wind out of him with a kick. The Shroud tells Spider-Man to stop her, but Spider-Man has no idea where she is. She is climbing up the statue of Shiva, warns the Shroud.
Then the idol starts to fall on them, but Spider-Man manages to catch it. It is solid gold and weighs many tons, however, so he cannot hold it very long. The Shroud instructs Spider-Man to strike it between its fifth and sixth ribs on the left side with all his strength, and when he does, it shatters. At this point, Dansen, still invisible, heads for the door. But as it opens, Spider-Man comprehends what is happening and quickly webs it shut. Then the Shroud knocks her out with a punch, and she suddenly becomes visible as she collapses. There is no need to turn her over to the police, says the Shroud, because they would never be able to hold her. When Spider-Man hears this, he decides that the Shroud must be a criminal after all. He attacks, but the Shroud plunges the room into darkness. He admits that he is trying to take over the Los Angeles gangs, but he has his reasons and does not have to explain them to Spider-Man. As they wrestle, he tells Spider-Man not to bother using his webbing, because he has learned its flaws after Spider-Man webbed up Cat. Spider-Man uses the Shroud's voice to find him in the dark and hurls him to the floor.
The Shroud says he is disappointed with Spider-Man because Spider-Man was the greatest inspiration for his career. Suddenly, Spider-Man feels the Shroud's costume empty, and when the lights go on, he is left holding just the Shroud's cape. The Shroud himself, and Cat, who was unconscious the whole time, are gone. Only Dansen Macabre remains where she has fallen. Spider-Man decides he has had enough of Los Angeles and leaps from the window, headed for the airport to catch his plane back home.
Later, as Peter Parker sits awaiting his flight, a darkly clothed man sits next to him. He would like to show him something, the man says, in return for his aid in trapping Dansen Macabre. Then he calls Peter "Spider-Man." Peter becomes alarmed, but the man assures him that his secret is safe. He does not know his real name, he says, and he certainly cannot tell anyone what he looks like. Then the man removes his sunglasses, and Peter can see the scars around his eyes and realizes that the man, the Shroud, is blind.
Now, says the Shroud, Peter knows one of his secrets. Then he wishes Peter a safe flight home. When Peter tries to touch him, all he finds is a man-shaped patch of darkness where the Shroud was standing.
- Spider-Man recounts his recent encounter with Spider-Woman, that happened in Spider-Woman #20.
- Cohen credited as Jan Cohen.
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