Characters Appearing: Bill Clayton, Cloak, Dagger
Cloak and Dagger #11
Issue(s): Cloak and Dagger #11
We learn that the smugglers are supplying the drugs to Arab terrorists. We also learn that Bill Clayton, the boy that Cloak and Dagger have been traveling with, was actually one of the smugglers all along.
When he encountered Cloak and Dagger on the smuggler's ship, he befriended them to keep tabs on them. Along the way he's fallen in love with Dagger, and in this issue he also gains some sympathy for Cloak...
...and in the end he's inspired to sacrifice his own life to prevent Dagger from being shot.
Mantlo was more sympathetic towards the Palestinian side of the conflict in Hulk #256. In this issue the Palestinians start things off by bombing a school bus full of children...
...so there's really no way to think of them as anything other than terrorists. But Mantlo does still try for a message of peace by having the Israeli security officer (and the mother of one of the children on the bus) that was pursuing the pregnant Palestinian allow her to give birth.
The final step for Cloak & Dagger is tracing the drugs back to their source. And this brings them to the Golden Triangle where they find a Vietnam vet who has gone full Apocalypse Now.
What's interesting is that the drugs grown in these fields grant the users powers, either to attack...
...or to heal, very similar to Dagger's powers.
I may have lost the thread on this. Cloak & Dagger were recipients of synthetic drugs; the idea was the US gangsters wanted to make their own drugs and not have to worry about smuggling it in to the country. Mayhem was created in the same lab as Cloak & Dagger, presumably thanks to those same synthetic chemicals. But the implication here is that their powers actually came from some special property of the drugs in this area. I suppose it's possible that the synthetic compound included some portion of the drugs seen here.
In any event, Cloak and Dagger help the enslaved (or "liberated") locals and the poppy fields get burned down.
The story almost ends with the idea that now that the drug growers' livelihood is destroyed, they are all going to starve to death, which would have helped to show the futility of attempting to deal with the drug problem just by burning up the drug crops, but a last minute happy ending has Cloak and Dagger discovering a stockpile of food.
It's probably best to not think too hard about the geopolitics of either the Israel-Palestine or the global drug trade problems for the purpose of this comic book. Tackling the root cause of the drug issue is an interesting idea, but it might be better suited for someone with a more international scope, like, say, the Black Widow. I like Cloak and Dagger more as defenders of exploited children. This storyline has taken them far from their element. It's been interesting, but i'm not sure Mantlo has them reaching any significant conclusions here.
A few couple of weird angled word balloons in the second story; something i haven't seen since the Golden Age before certain standards were adopted.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Cloak and Dagger will still be out of the US at the beginning of Strange Tales #1 and therefore shouldn't appear elsewhere in between.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
I agree, Cloak & Dagger are in their element when stories occur in seedy urban neighborhoods exploited by the criminal element. Globe trotting to hunt down the sources of the drug trade is something that could conceivably work, but not here.
I think Mantlo makes a very common mistake in new titles - he introduces overly long story arcs WAY too early. This story arc takes up half a dozen issues which is an entire year for a bimonthly title.
The important things to do in the first twelve issues of a new title are:
1) Introduce a good supporting cast that engages the readers
2) Introduce an interesting and new rogues gallery for the heroes either with brand new villains or repurposed old ones
3) Integrate the heroes into reality by establishing the background of the heroes' setting; what are the recurring elements (e.g. Daily Bugle, Baxter Building, Danger Room)
Mantlo does some of this, but really fails to introduce a rogues gallery. This is strange since Mantlo is known for his character creation and introduced a lot around C&D during his run in PPTSSM. Combined with any number of near-forgotten street level villains (some of whom had potential) of other titles, I think C&D could have had an engaging and interesting foes to fight. There's several Spidey, DD, Spiderwoman, and PM&IF villains (and others) that could easily be slotted to C&D.
An arc like this is better done once a title has been established with a loyal fan base, perhaps in the 20s and 30s. At this stage, while ongoing subplots are OK, it's best to stick to 2-3 stories if not one shots so excitement can be built. If a story misfires, then a reader only needs to stick around past one issue to see if the next story once again wins attention. With longer arcs like this, if they fail to engage, a reader is either bored for a year or drops the title.
Posted by: Chris | March 9, 2014 6:31 PM
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