Review by Ian Keogh
Teenage Marjorie has over-protective parents determined to isolate her within their remote rural community. They’ve hidden letters showing her acceptance for Havard and Yale, deciding the local community college would better suit her, and confess to other matters they’ve concealed. When she decides to run away she meets Juan Cordova, whose circumstances have been established in equally broad strokes.
The reception the runaways receive on arriving in New York is predictable, but they’re saved by Cloak and Dagger, whose circumstances were once similar. The encounter leaves Dagger feverish, amnesiac, and separated from Cloak, who contacts Power Pack in an effort to find her. They’re a family of superheroes, the youngest being pre-school, who’ve met Cloak and Dagger before and consider them friends.
Bill Mantlo is sincere about explaining the dangers awaiting runaways in New York, researched the safe options available, and highlights them, including further information after the story. In 1989 it may well have been hard-hitting, but time hasn’t served him well, particularly when 21st century assessments reveal home abuse frequently causes children to run away. Even discounting his being unable to predict the future, Mantlo’s methods are extremely heavy-handed, everything underlined and in bold. The tension is sustained by Dagger’s amnesia and Cloak’s need for her powers to prevent the dark world within his cloak seeping out, and to a lesser extent by Power Pack’s need to return home so their parents don’t discover their other life. The characters used offer a set of circumstances with dramatic possibilities, but Mantlo always takes the obvious option, then overstates it. The biggest mistake comes from this being a superhero graphic novel, so needing a super-villain, and what Mantlo creates for the final act exceeds the lack of subtlety of the earlier material and even at the time must have undone the sincerity of the earlier pages.
Much of the story requires real life settings, and Sal Velluto creates suitably grimy environments, and only exaggerates when it comes to the villain at the end. It’s tidy work, but doesn’t exceed that to present any really memorable pages.
Shelter From the Storm has now been incorporated into Lost and Found, the second chronological gathering of Cloak and Dagger’s appearances.