Cloak and Dagger: Shadows and Light

Cloak and Dagger: Shadows and Light
Cloak and Dagger Shadows and Light review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Marvel - 978-1-30290-424-1
  • Release date: 2017
  • UPC: 9781302904241
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Superhero

With Cloak and Dagger earmarked as beneficiaries of a profile update via a TV series (released in 2018), collections of their comics appearances were reissued thick and fast. Most of Shadows and Light was originally issued as the 2012 hardcover Crime and Punishment, covering Cloak and Dagger’s 1982 introduction via their earliest solo outings to 1984, but this paperback collection adds one extra three part story.

Much of Cloak and Dagger’s early appeal is down to their visual designer Ed Hannigan (sample art left), in 1982 impressing with art on Spider-Man that drew on both Steve Ditko and Frank Miller, creating an atmospheric noir world for them to operate in. His designs are solid, distinctive and contrasting. The balletic grace of Dagger is seemingly mismatched beside a bulky flowing cloaked figure, but that strong visual disparity is striking and effective. Later artist Rick Leonardi (sample art right) picks up on it, able to use them more effectively together in stories that don’t require Spider-Man, emphasising the contrast of dark and light, and working in a very appealing cartoon realism influenced by Michael Golden’s approach to superheroes. Hannigan and Leonardi are the best of the artists by some distance, with Ron Frenz, Al Milgrom and Tony Salmons less imaginative and less skilled. Kerry Gammill’s pages are fine enough, but he only contributes a short chapter.

Bill Mantlo’s not a subtle writer, and very much of the era, so while he has the necessary lightness of touch for Spider-Man’s dialogue in the early stories, the speech patterns become ever more melodramatic and overwrought as Cloak and Dagger move into their own stories. Their origin is explained occurring via unwilling participation in experimental drug procedures, briefly covered in a Spider-Man story and more effectively fleshed out later with the detail of what prompted teens Tandy Bowen and Tyrone Johnson to leave home. However, for all the overwriting, Mantlo’s plots sustain the stories, with Cloak and Dagger settling on a war against drug dealers and those who’d exploit children, while we’re gradually made privy to what they’ve become and how they need each other. He’s at his peak over the four chapters of what was originally gathered as Child of Darkness, Child of Light, which is overly melodramatic in places, but exploits a theme of contrast well and introduces two interesting supporting characters. Leonardi’s art helps greatly.

This is a bulky collection, so very expensive for what beyond the halfway point becomes distinctly average material. In theory the extra story not in the hardcover collection is enticing, being Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz instituting a meeting between the New Mutants and Cloak and Dagger. However, it’s not great. Sienkiewicz was either rushed or disinterested, providing very few of the distinctively wild illustrations he’s remembered for on New Mutants, disappointing when he had the visual innovation of Cloak and Dagger to work with. They’re very much secondary to the New Mutants, which is fair enough, and while Claremont’s plot inventively follows up on Mantlo’s earlier work, the word count is immense. Nice touches include Professor X’s conversation with Cloak, and the epilogue, but the interest isn’t sustained throughout.