Saturday, June 9, 2012

Spider-Island: Cloak and Dagger #1

Cover by Mike Choi

Spider-Island: Cloak and Dagger #1 (August 10, 2011)
Writer: Nick Spencer
Penciller: Emma Ríos
Colorist: Javier Rodriguez
Letterer: Joe Caramagna

In an effort to reacquaint myself with my beloved comic books and force myself to write on a regular basis, I’ve decided to restart my review-a-comic-a-day summer project. I’m terribly excited.

This will also give me a clear reason to finally sit down and read my increasing pile of comic books that I have been accumulating on my bookshelf for the last year. I have a very bad habit of buying comic book issues in a fury and then not reading all of them. I therefore have unread comics that are at least a year old, such as this one, Spider-Island: Cloak and Dagger #1. Rather than ignore these and move on, I’ve decided to sit down and read and review them, regardless of how old they may be. I refuse to give up on them.

I’ve had this issue for a long time now and due to my indifference to Spider-Island, I never picked it up. Nonetheless, I have been interested in the characters of Cloak and Dagger for a while, mostly because I dig their name and was also intrigued to read about a super hero duo. Aside from the occasional Cable and Deadpool or Batman and Robin, I don’t think I’ve read many duo books. It’s an interesting dynamic that offers a great deal of possibilities in terms of tension.

Anyway, Spider-Island: Cloak and Dagger #1 opens up with a solid backstory to both the Spider-Island storyline and the history of our two heroes. Spencer was clever in alternating between Cloak and Dagger, granting them an equal voice and their diverging views. Of course, I felt that Cloak was a bit more central, mostly because she’s the pretty blond girl and also, Dagger maintains this aloof mystique. Their polar binaries in personalities could have been really overdone or clichéd but Spencer gave them a nice balance. I found myself immediately feeling comfortable with these characters and caring about them.

I was a trifle confused as to their opinions regarding joining a team or not. Their non-mutant classification prevents them from joining the X-Men; all right, I got it. But when Cloak suggests joining the Avengers, Dagger refuses. Yet, when the Avengers show up later to ask for their help in dealing with the Spider-Island situation, Cloak is incredibly annoyed while Dagger readily agrees. Did I miss something there?

I also wasn’t crazy about the ending, in which the Chinese witch, Suan Ming, reveals our mysterious villain. Ming’s stereotypical broken English made me wince. Accents and non-native English speakers are always difficult to write, but this was particularly uncomfortable if not downright offensive.

I did, however, enjoy the interaction between Cloak and Dagger and found myself rooting for them. I also enjoyed the way in which Spencer included the “real-world” side effects of being young, self-employed super heroes in New York City with no real source of income. The realistic and negative side of being a super hero vigilante is a theme that should be explored more often in comic books and it was handled well here.

Ríos’ art was also very nice and refreshing, though a little confusing at times during the opening backstory. She struggled to include as many key moments of Cloak and Dagger’s history in a couple of pages, though I actually think the coloring did not help matters at all. I’m also not crazy about Cloak’s unnecessary cutout in her costume. Seriously, how is that beneficial in anyway? You’re more exposed to harm! Comic book artists, please work on this epidemic problem in our female characters’ costumes. Please.

All in all, I greatly enjoyed Spider-Island: Cloak and Dagger #1. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of these two dynamic characters.

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