Cloak and Dagger – Lost and Found TPB Marvel Comics
Written by Bill Mantlo / Art by Rick Leonardi, Terry Shoemaker, Marc Silvestri, Mike Mignola, Arthur Adams, Bret Blevins, June Brigman & Larry Stroman / Inks by Terry Austin, Randy Emberlin, and Bret Blevins
So the 80’s street level Romeo and Juliet – Cloak and Dagger are headed for television, on one of those digital stations that risk me showing my age if I get into details. Based on the trailer the star crossed lover angle will be the focus of the new show, likely because as Brian K Vaughn once explained in the comic Runaways, heroes born from illegal drugs leave tainted shadows that will follow characters forever. I don’t blame Marvel’s television executives wanting to distance themselves from the drug angle, but it is something that is core to characters who’s original purpose was a very graphic look at the world of vice centered in Manhattan. Truly, to me growing up on the wrong side of the tracks, Cloak and Dagger was the only comic accessible to me with the type of stories that reflected some messed up things that were disturbingly familiar to me at a certain time in my life. This volume alone contains one of the greatest opening sequences ever seen in comics; perfectly encapsulating the world Cloak and Dagger were created for, a world that is largely absent in Marvel Comics today. Sure Punisher takes down drugs dealers, other street heroes do their part too, but Cloak and Dagger, back then, were the only ones dealing with the darkness of vice from all angles of that particular world.
This was Cloak and Dagger’s first on-going series after a successful introduction in Spectacular Spider-Man, and a well-received mini series. The first issue follows a man up close as he tries to sneak himself easily into a porn shop and the coin operated booths at back. This is a different time, a New York Time’s Square of strippers and smut in big store bulk proportions, not rowdy folk in costumes fighting over photo ops and naked cowboys. These were the dark days of the 1980’s made famous in works like The Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns. This opening sequence is so well done that you really feel that darkness, that shame, which defined a very difficult subculture of the times. The reader follows the man as he slides past the turnstile into a dark back room, where he picks a booth, enters, seats, and slides in some coins as the metal grate before him slowly rolls up to reveal his peep show, but instead we see the beat down stripper unloading her burden on an angered Dagger, while a snarling Cloak looks with distain at the man we almost felt sympathetic for. It’s a very powerful sequence.
Not just drugs and vice, it was the very real plight of the runaway in a big, dirty, nasty city that Cloak and Dagger made as the basis for all their best stories. It was the time of Nancy Regan’s “just say no”, a time where the users were just as looked down on as the pushers who got them hooked. In these tales Cloak and Dagger struggle with their powers which themselves were metaphors for the struggles of drug abuse – Cloak sketching for his next fix; Dagger elevated with a rush from her bursts of dagger light-euphoria. The series struggles between a push and pull of the very real, very human struggle with addiction from the gutter. Cloak and Dagger, weren’t just runaways, they were homeless, they had been preyed upon by the very worst that the big city could throw at them and in each other they discovered a flicker of hope.
In this volume, you get to see not just the struggle of the runaway, but the plight of those who try to help them, popular themes of police corruption and the power behind the business of drugs that erodes life at all levels. We even get to see the lives of those who loose someone that has runaway, and that struggle to reconnect. There’s even a crazy story involving an omnipotent man from beyond, trying to learn the highs and lows of humanity, who gets a hard lesson from the heroes about the addiction and withdraw. It is extremely gritty and real stuff, but I guess Marvel found it all too dark, and ever since they have worked to break the characters away from the dark shadows of those early, powerful stories.
There’s some awesome early art from Art Adams and Mike MIgnola to accompany Rick Leonardi with Terry Austin bringing their A-game, continuing define the look of the characters. For those into shows like Skins, The Wire, and the like – this classic tome is well worth the purchase.
- Chaos McKenzie