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The Avengers flashmob Cloak and Dagger’s book (Special Cameo by JOHN BYRNE’S GIANT OBNOXIOUS SIGNATURE) – Cloak and Dagger #9

February 20, 2012

There are times when you forget that Cloak and Dagger are a rather remarkable crime-fighting duo. They can easily appear as just another lackluster pairing that you don’t really care all that much about, one whose titles have relied on heavyweight guest stars to move copies — much like this issue. The only Cloak appearance that I can remember from my younger days is when he managed to wrap up the Infinity Gauntleted Thanos, only to have the Mad Titan blow him up like the Hindenburg. OH THE HUMANITY.

When I was younger I didn’t know that interracial couples were once a big deal. I wouldn’t even have been able to tell you what an interracial couple was. Then comes the time when we grow up and learn about racism and bigotry and all those other things. (Yeah, thank God for growing up, we really couldn’t get by without knowing about that.) It’s only then when this pair of crazy crime-fighting kids become sort of kind of maybe significant.

Cloak and Dagger, though they’re more platonic than romantic, are trailblazers. There had, of course, been other cross-racial pairings in comic books, whether you take the something like the noted Captain America/Falcon pairing, or even the Gold Key adaptation of the television barrier-buster I Spy. But C&D were cross-gender, a situation that in earlier decades — and residual fumes of this still exist — would have dredged up all the old “Get your hands off the white woman” awfulness. And they were headliners. They had themselves a regular title, a place of their own, though all incarnations of it haven’t had much staying power.

(If I might carve out a moment to semi-relevantly daydream… Ever read much of William Faulkner’s work? His bibliography has long been a nourishing stew for so many, and whenever I see C&D, I wonder what the Mississippi laureate, with his life-long chronicling of the South and its ante- and postbellum travails over race, would have made of this funny book “miscegenation.” In his (utterly magnificent) Absalom, Absalom, the Southern psyche was so torn up over men with even a drop of black blood mingling with the flower of white womanhood, incest was easier to accept. With the African-American Cloak’s insatiable hunger for light, a need so easily satisfied by Dagger’s light powers and one into which readers could easily find a sexual subtext, unreconstructed Southern heads might have had Scanners explosions.

Faulkner spent some time his writing scripts in Hollywood. I confess to allowing myself a fantasy of him penning a comic or two. Meltzer who?

Anyway. Daydream over.)

If Cloak and Dagger boldly went where no comic characters had gone before, they still have had a hard time getting a solid footing in the star-studded Marvel U. (I could care less about them, but I’ve always liked that Cloak’s power was his cloak, and Dagger’s power was light-daggers — I enjoy costumed vigilante onomonopia.) Their origin (two runaways linking up on the streets), their powers and their anti-drug milieu could be a bit trite, and Marvel had to resist the never-ending temptation to sawdust the meatloaf with a revolving door of noted guest stars. It was often a temptation too powerful to resist. Take this issue (Script: Terry Austine, Art: Mike Vosburg, Don Cameron), which transpires during the “Acts of Vengeance” storyline, one of the umpteen forgettable cross-overs that have come and gone over the years. Cloak and Dagger are recruited by a variety of D-level villains to help attack the Avengers, to which they agree, secretly planning to help the Avengers when the time is right. Fine and dandy. But those Avengers are the true stars of this issue, as even a Captain America-chaired civic meeting is more worthy of notice:

“Thor, please read the minutes from the last meeting.” “Verily.”

New Yorkers are in one of their semi-regular uprisings over the super-powered beings in their midst, and apparently only Robert’s Rules of Order can calm them. Then the “Who?” villains bust things up — “And you are? And this is regarding?” — and they have one very familiar face in their ranks. Have you ever wanted to see She-Hulk battle a gas-spewing robot Hulk with novelty gags popping out of its mouth? Yes? Then this comic, my friend, has just what the doctor ordered:

A lot of civilians get caught in the middle of the big fight between the villains and the heroes, and it falls to Cloak and Dagger to evacuate them. When I was reading this, it occurred to me that the reluctance of some to accept Cloak’s help — by entering his shadow realm and passing through it to safety — could be a metaphor for bigotry. Or maybe they’re just a bit leery about walking into the creepy guy’s abyss-cape. YOU DECIDE:

The two of them do manage to employ their powers in the actual defeat of their erstwhile doofusy villain partners, as witnessed by Cloak acting like a drain and sucking the (LAME) Hydro-Man down:

The issue ends with C&D sharing a quiet moment in their abandoned church digs. Cloak reads the blind Dagger a story. I don’t know if that’s a nice ending or a super-trite one. Again: YOU DECIDE.

There are also some pin-ups in the back of this slightly over-sized issue. I found this one interesting:

It’s nice. John Byrne is nothing if not a reliable, gifted artist. And his signature box isn’t quite as GINORMOUS this time around. BUT IF I MIGHT QUIBBLE FOR A MOMENT. Do we really need to the “second time I have drawn Cloak” commentary? Really? Do we care? Is this another example of Byrne injecting himself into his art? I admit to being predisposed to seeing obnoxious in many of the things that Byrne does, but I’d like to point out that the other pin-up artists featured in this issue — Charles Vess, Mark Texiera, Howard Chaykin and Walt Simonson — felt no need to annotate their work. Maybe if it was the first time I could see slapping a footnote on there (eh, maybe not), but this seems silly.

I know, it’s just a pin-up. It rubs me the wrong way, that’s all. Maybe I should relax. Fine. Whatever the case, I look forward to seeing the 17th time that Byrne drew/draws Cloak. I’ll know it when I see it, because he’ll tell me.

Back to the stars. It’s perhaps too much to say that these two young heroes were fictional trailblazers. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that Cloak and Dagger, and their unremarkable title, were a sign of the (improving) times. Maybe it’s that they were the first casual strollers on a trail that had already been blazed. Still, that a dumb 1980s kid like me could see their book, not find anything strange about it and pass it right on by, might be a small, odd — but welcome — marker on the continuum of progress. We’ve come a long way from Faulkner’s fictional Mississippi. Pat yourselves on the back America.

If you want to see this forgettable issue from a forgettable cross-over reprinted in a lush, over-sized volume, “Acts of Vengeance” has an Omnibus, the existence of which proves that there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING that can’t be crammed into a big fat expensive hardcover. It features some of the Todd McFarlane Cosmic Spider-Man, so there’s that. I’m don’t know whether or not the John Byrne annotated pinup made the cut. MY GOD I HOPE NOT.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2012 9:19 am

    I’ve never seen this issue, that Avengers meeting looks hilarious, and I’d love a novelty gag Hulk robot. That John Byrne annotation IS annoying. Worse, though, are the artists today who sign their splash panels mid-comic. The editors should tell ’em to hold off until they get the art back.

    • February 23, 2012 4:26 pm

      Glad to know that I’m not completely out on a limb with the Byrne thing. The Avengers PTA meeting isn’t all that funny on its own, but it is when you imagine Tony Stark dozing off inside his inscrutable armor.

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