Cloak and Dagger #14-19
Issue(s): Cloak and Dagger #14, Cloak and Dagger #15, Cloak and Dagger #16, Cloak and Dagger #17, Cloak and Dagger #18, Cloak and Dagger #19
Bill Mantlo created Cloak and Dagger, and say what you will about him, he did have a specific voice for these characters. But when he left, Terry Austin took over. This was in the middle of the period where Cloak and Dagger were sharing the Strange Tales book with Dr. Strange, so it was Austin who was the writer when that book ended and Cloak & Dagger's third series began. And Austin remained the writer throughout all of the issues so far, adding a decidedly different tone to the book than Mantlo. Austin made some decisions that were... strange, first with madcap zany weirdness and then by practically turning the book into an educational series on coping with blindness. On top of that, the main villain for the series was Mr. Jip, a magical weirdo. Very far from the gritty vigilantism of two runaway kids that the characters started as. And sales, never that high to begin with, plummeted (from 68,700 a year ago, already cancellation numbers for the time period, to 52,465).
So with issue #14, the "Mutant Misadventures" tagline that a lot of fans objected to was dropped, and Steve Gerber replaced Terry Austin and begins a more street level, politically oriented story. But then Gerber leaves and is replaced by Terry Kavanagh. Kavanagh begins by scripting Gerber's plot for issue #16 and then fully writes the rest of the story. And suddenly a story about Neo-Nazis (with, granted, occult trappings; it IS a Gerber story) turns into a personal appearance by Mephisto, followed by a visit from D'Spayre and a weird revelation about the character's origins. Guest stars in the form of Spider-Man and Ghost Rider, as well as an Infinity Gauntlet crossover (sort of), attempt to bolster sales. But the book is canceled with issue #19 despite the fact that Marvel was in an expansionary phase at the time.
Oh: the reason that this arc is so far away from the previous one is because it's a bi-monthly book, and all of the stuff that dictates placement happens in the latter half of the story. These six issues comprise a year's worth of Cloak & Dagger.
After an introductory scene showing Cloak pining for Dagger but thinking that he "cannot know her as a man would", we start with Detectives Brigid O'Reily (formerly Mayhem) and Rebecca 'Rusty' Nales discovering a runaway kid that was killed and stuck to the side of a building with a lance. A swastika keychain, with an image of an eyeball in the middle, is found near the scene of the crime.
Reily and Nales says that this is the fourth such crime in four weeks. Despite the swastika, all four victims were white teenagers.
Based on the eyeball and a few other things, it's definitely the case that Gerber intended a supernatural plot from the start. That certainly wouldn't be unusual for him. Gerber also has Cloak return to the mystery apartment from the end of last arc that Cloak, Dagger, and company popped out of when teleporting away from Mr. Jip's base. This time, the apartment turns into a hellish vision...
...but then quickly returns to normal, causing Cloak to wonder if he really saw what he thinks he saw. I find it hard to believe that Gerber was headed towards a direct confrontation between Cloak & Dagger and Mephisto, but i could be wrong.
Cloak later comes across a group of Neo-Nazis wearing the eyeball symbol beating up a Jewish man. It's a very dark scene; it almost strikes me as being too much designed for shock value. But it's a strong scene.
And it certainly helps us understand why Cloak sucks up the Nazis into his cloak and leaves them there as he teleports home to get Dagger and bring her to the old man, hoping that her light power will keep him alive. When she sees the man, even she says that she understands why Cloak isn't letting the Nazis go. But after the old man dies, Cloak does bring the Nazis to Brigid and Rusty.
Dagger, in (more or less) civilian clothes, starts investigating the next day, and attracts the attention of one of the group members, and is invited to their club.
Dagger goes to the club, proves herself in the mosh pit...
..and then is brought to their basement where even crazier stuff is going on.
The fiery explosion was unexpected, and the Nazis try to flee the club. Some are "rescued" by Cloak ("a moment of terror -- in exchange for their lives"), but it's actually a new manifestation of Cloak's power. He sends his "cloak" through the wall without teleporting into the room himself.
Cloak and Dagger leave to let the authorities deal with the fire. They haven't actually learned anything, except that the eyeball-swastika symbol is called the Eye of Force.
The lancing murders continue, and the next victim is pinned to a wall several stories above ground. Cloak offers to retrieve the body for the detectives, but when he teleports up to do so, he is wracked with pain when his cloak touches the lance.
Without knowing where it came from, the phrase, "The other is trying to return" pops up in his head. And he next finds himself back in the mystery apartment (with the murdered corpse).
Meanwhile, the Neo-Nazi that Dagger was talking to, Erich, to is met by a mysterious General Thule.
Thule says that Dagger may be "one of the new race", and tells Erich to bring her to "Schamballah" for evaluation.
Cloak returns (with the body) to the police station. The police say that it would be good if Dagger tried to find Erich again because they don't have any other leads.
It's noted that Cloak is becoming increasingly arch in his dialogue (referring to the detectives, formerly friends, by their last names only, and saying things like "Farewell" instead of "Goodbye"). He's also been refusing Dagger's light. When Cloak and Dagger get home, Dagger basically forces Cloak to take some of his light, and Cloak's powers go out of control.
Dagger finds Erich, who tries to convince her to go with him so that he can make her into an initiate and develop the "power" that he says he senses in her. Dagger agrees to go, but manages to let the detectives and Cloak (whose powers are back in control for now) know where she's going.
Dagger is taken to Schamballah, which turns out to be a military base in the Northern Rockies. Cloak had stowed away in the back of the plane, but his powers have waned again and he's discovered. This being a Neo-Nazi camp, it's not a good place for him to be found, but Dagger is given the privilege of kicking him out of the base. The Nazis give him a head start before sending out soldiers to hunt him down, but that's enough time for his powers to return, so they aren't a problem.
And that ends the issues that are fully written by Gerber, although the next issue still uses his plot. I think those two issues might be the best two "average" issues of Cloak and Dagger that i've read. It does depend on where Gerber was going with it. But they are very much in the spirit of Mantlo's original, with plots about street kids getting murdered and other street level problems. And with smartly written dialogue. Nothing extraordinary happens, which is why i say they are "average" issues. Not a huge event, just two regular issues of a book. Gerber does go very heavy with the racist stuff (Cloak - who is in his civvies at the time - is referred to by the Nazis as an "it"), and it's probably a personal judgement call on whether that counts for realism or shock value, but the writing is generally very level headed and natural sounding and the story is more grounded. We definitely were headed towards something supernatural, but it seems more in a Gerber-ish metaphorical way than a throwdown with Mephisto. Gerber often shows potential and then leaves me disappointed, so it's possible i'd be feeling less positive about his issues if i saw his ending, but i still come away feeling like it was a mistake to let Gerber go (the lettercol just says that Gerber had too much work on his plate). The book did feel like it was improving.
Cloak enters the Schamballah base...
...and finds a giant Eye of Force in a room that also contains a giant lance like the ones that were killing the runaways in New York.
And he finds the room where Dagger is about to be put through a ritual, but General Thule detects his presence and summons up "the light of the vril"
When he's hit by the light, Cloak is transported back to the mystery apartment in New York, and is again without his powers. He's also naked, but a demon (?) named Avandalia provides him with some clothing.
Also in New York, Spider-Man finds a pocket in the air that causes his limbs to disappear when they pass through it.
When he goes through it entirely, he winds up a few miles away, over by the Statue of Liberty. Spidey returns to the area around the pocket, and finds Cloak talking to to his two detective friends, but since Cloak is in civilian clothing he doesn't recognize him and doesn't approach at first.
Meanwhile, Dagger tries to stop Thule from sacrificing four teenagers on the lance, but fails.
She is briefly in another dimension where she sees D'Spayre...
...and then she pops out in New York near Cloak and Spider-Man. Spidey recognizes Dagger out of costume better than Cloak, so now he approaches.
Honestly, at this point i have no idea what's going on. It does seem like Gerber intended for D'Spayre to be part of the story, given his appearance in this final issue that he plotted, unless the panel was adjusted to accommodate Kavanagh's plans. But the plot at this point is pretty incomprehensible, with issue #16 not really moving things forward at all in terms of explaining what's happening, and with characters bouncing back and forth between New York and the Rockies. And the inclusion of Mephisto starting with Kavanagh's first full issue definitely comes out of left field.
Cloak grabs Spider-Man and teleports him and Dagger back to the Schamballah base. But Cloak's weakening powers are strained by the teleport, and he's now reduced to manifesting as shadows on the wall.
Thule is now working on a new ritual involving a young woman named Anna.
Dagger does... something with her powers to bring Cloak back, and the three heroes fight off the Neo-Nazis (although Spider-Man's spider-sense is buzzing so badly that he's not at full strength).
Thule opens a portal, letting out armored shock troops called the Vril...
...which turn out to be demons.
And then Mephisto shows up.
Mephisto devours Thule, and we watch him get digested.
Then Ghost Rider shows up, because why not?
Note that the demons identify Ghost Rider as "the rebel", and that they think he's Zarathos.
Mephisto tells us to forget about Gerber's plot. This is just a straight up demon attack.
But at the time this issue was being published, Infinity Gauntlet was starting up, and Mephisto was a part of that. And in fact this issue is billed as an Infinity Gauntlet crossover. So the story has Mephisto basically having to stop what he's doing to attend to Thanos.
Of course, Thanos has no interest in what's going on in this book.
Meanwhile, the heroes just fight hordes of demons.
Mephisto eventually returns, and eats Cloak & Dagger.
Inside Mephisto's belly, Cloak finds his missing "darkform", which looks a lot like how Bill Sienkiewicz was drawing Sunspot when he had Cloak's powers in New Mutants #23.
Cloak embraces his darkform, and his newly merged self starts blistering Mephisto's stomach. So Mephisto spits them out. Ghost Rider helps Spider-Man flee Mephisto's hell, and Anna is also rescued (the Neo-Nazi Erich has a change of heart and helps care for her). Cloak and Dagger, meanwhile, get thrown into the dimension where Cloak keeps returning to when he gets into danger, and comes out in the mystery apartment again.
But earlier, Detectives O'Reilly and Nales went to talk to Dagger's stepfather, Phillip Carlisle. He wasn't home, but the door to the mystery apartment down the hall was open, and inside they found Phillip and the demon Avandalia, and they joined them for a pleasant meal.
As the Mephisto plot went on and things got increasingly weird, the entire building eventually crumbled, but the mystery apartment remained floating in the air.
Good thing Power Pack's family has left for outer space. They lived in that building too.
Also Brigid O'Reilly has been turned back into Mayhem.
So that's the state of the mystery apartment when Cloak and Dagger arrive.
Oh, just to be clear: the Mephisto plot is over. Whatever was going on there, it's done now. We're moving on (or back?) to a story about D'Spayre.
Cloak "belongs" To Avandalia, amd Avandalia is an agent of D'Spayre, so Cloak captures Dagger. Mayhem is also under D'Spayre's control.
D'Spayre claims that he "created" Cloak and Dagger.
And he is now working on distributing a drug called D-Lite.
He feeds off the despair that the drugs create, and Dagger's powers actually make things worse.
Cloak and Dagger are then forced to relieve their origins, except this time we see that D'Spayre was there all along.
D'Spayre also shows that if he wasn't involved, Cloak and Dagger would have wound up with the opposite powers.
I think i can speak for Cloak, at least, in thanking D'Spayre for getting involved, so that Cloak never had to wear that horrible costume. But Dagger thinks they are beautiful.
While D'Spayre is dropping a turd in Cloak and Dagger's origin punch bowl, Mayhem breaks free of his control and destroys Avandalia.
Mayhem departs, leaving Rusty Nales and Phillip Carlisle to struggle with their addiction to D-Lite.
Code Blue show up and shoot at D'Spayre, to no avail.
The one thing about all this that rings true to me is that the purpose of these supposed light- and darkforms that D'Spayre put into Cloak and Dagger was meant to collect all the angst that they've experienced, so that he could use it to re-power himself one day when needed. One thing's for sure: Cloak and Dagger have gone through a lot of angst in their books. Now we know that it was all in service to a higher purpose, albeit an evil one.
However, Dagger is too "pure" for her lightform to be useful to D'Spayre, and Cloak has recently learned to embrace his. So D'Spayre's plan doesn't work after all.
D'Spayre winds up getting trapped in Cloak's dark dimension and is seemingly devoured by Cloak's darkform. Cloak and Dagger, now back to their normal old selves, set about busting down D'Spayre's remaining drug factory. If it wasn't a drug factory created by a demonic personification of despair, it would be just like old times.
Some loose ends: Tandy's stepfather Phil Carlisle wound up dying while fighting off the D-Lite addiction. Rusty Nales beat hers by going into Cloak's cloak, which somehow cured her. It's also revealed (to the audience only) that the woman Anna is actually Cloak's twin sister. We will see more of her in an upcoming Web of Spider-Man arc.
Well, we went from occult Neo-Nazis to a battle with Mephisto in Hell to a story about D'Spayre acting as a drug dealer and a revelation that he's responsible for Cloak and Dagger's origin. That's some journey. Or rather it's an example of bizarre flailing when someone just doesn't know what to do with a floundering series.
Cloak and Dagger are a good concept that no writer, even their creator, seemed to know what to do with long term. So despite having had their own series, on and off, since 1983, this is the last time they'll have an ongoing book. They'll continue to appear in other books, of course, but they next headline their own book in 2010, and that's just for a one shot. And then they get a 3 issue Spider-Island tie-in in 2011.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 52,465. Single issue closest to filing date = 77,417.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Despite issue #18 being an Infinity Gauntlet crossover, it seems to take place before issue #1. In that issue, Mephisto convinces Thanos that part of the reason he hasn't been able to woo Death is that he's been too busy feeding his own ego, and Thanos agrees and creates the floating ziggurat that is a monument to Death. In this story, he's carving his own face into planets. This isn't to say that it couldn't take place during Infinity Gauntlet (Thanos is meant to be increasingly insane while he's wielding the Gauntlet, so his actions don't have to be rational). But it works well enough prior to that, as long as it takes place after Thanos and Mephisto start hanging out in Silver Surfer #45. And the footnote does say that Infinity Gauntlet was "on sale soon", so this probably was meant to take place beforehand. The more concrete consideration is that this takes place after D'Spayre's appearance in Excalibur #36, per a footnote.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showAndrew 'Jock' Jackson, Anna Johnson, Cloak, D'Spayre, Dagger, Fireworks Fielstein, Ghost Rider (Danny Ketch), Mad Dog Rassitano, Marcus Stone, Mayhem, Mephisto, Noble Kale, Phillip Carlisle, Rebecca 'Rusty' Nales, Rigger Ruiz, Soul Gem, Spider-Man, Thanos
I love these characters, but they've never had a good book of their own.
Gerber might have turned it around, if he'd stuck on a bit longer and developed.
Leonardi (looking more rushed than usual) and Ross' art was a step up from the previous issues, but, as is the case with so much around this period, it's hurt by the horrid coloring and the printing/cheap bleach paper Marvel was pushing.
Posted by: Bob | October 7, 2015 2:59 PM
So the bottom line with Cloak & Dagger is: great concept, but poor execution from pretty much everyone who ever wrote them. Kind of a bummer! I want to like them, and I suppose I do like them, as characters, I just can't like their books.
Posted by: Matt | October 7, 2015 3:40 PM
I, likewise, love Cloak and Dagger. It's a shame their title never lived up to their potential.
They're not popular enough to have their own book, nowadays, but they're too popular to simply disappear into the limbo of forgotten characters.
Posted by: Thanos6 | October 7, 2015 6:04 PM
I originally knew of these guys from their guest spot in the original BKV Runaways series. I remember good things, but it's been years.
Posted by: gfsdf gfbd | October 7, 2015 6:24 PM
The initial Gerber plot showed a lot of promise. He obviously knew a lot about Nazi occultism especially as it developed postwar (by both neo-Nazis and occult conspiracists).
Kavanugh is just awful though. If I remember correctly, he made a lot of titles awful in this time period. I heard there was a real problem with Editors giving writing gigs to their other Editor buddies so they'd give them writing gigs. Never would have happened under Shooter.
I am sad to see Cloak & Dagger keep failing. I think they have real potential, but never had the right writers. Mantlo had the best "voice" for them as their creators, but he didn't seem to know what to do with the characters on their own. He started a good supporting cast with Fr Delgado and Dt O'Reilly, but he clearly had no idea on how to develop a good rogues gallery. C&D needed good, appropriate villains for them - a combination of ordinary human scum committing vice crimes, interesting street level supervillains, and odder foes well adapted to C&D's unique powers.
Posted by: Chris | October 7, 2015 10:02 PM
Gerber leaving and the sudden right turn into Mephisto territory makes me wonder if an Infinity Gauntlet crossover was being dictated from higher-up, and Gerber was resisting it. Probably not, but the thought occurred.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | October 7, 2015 10:08 PM
It's funny; we talk about how much Marvel was flooding the market with books around this time, yet you've been doing 1991 only a month and you're already almost to Infinity Gauntlet. Granted, I've only discovered this site this year so I don't know what your normal pace is, and for all I know there's a bunch of titles of dubious quality that have to take place during or after Infinity Gauntlet, but it seems like the start of the trend towards decompression sort of offsets the flood of titles.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | October 8, 2015 12:16 AM
The choice of books for IG tie-ins was puzzling. The X-books were tied up with Muir Island, but the other anchor books (Avengers, FF, Cap, Thor, Iron Man) were noticeably missing.
Instead, the tie-ins were Cloak and Dagger (which made no sense), Quasar (which would have worked had he had any significance at all in the main story), Dr. Strange (the only one that made sense, though he was sidelined for a good chunk of the tale), Sleepwalker (?) Hulk and the MacFarlane Spider-Man title (though Todd was gone by that point).
As crossover-happy as Marvel is, you'd think they would have had the tie-ins be significant.
Posted by: Bob | October 8, 2015 7:40 AM
@Morgan, right now i'm less than halfway done with 1991, but i am moving at a faster pace than usual. I'm pushing to finish 1991 by the end of the year.
I expect that there will be about 280 entries for 1991 before i get to Marvel Comics Presents (which will add a lot more). By comparison, 1985 has 225 entries. So it's more entries. But the biggest difference is that there are more issues per entry. In 1985, most of those entries are single or two issue entries. There are a lot more 3-6 part entries in 1991. So while there will be a not insignificant increase in the number of entries, the difference in number of issues will be A LOT higher. My system can't give me a count for individual issues, but in my collection, 1991 takes up an additional long box's worth of comics compared to 1985.
I have been banking on the fact that decompression will help balance out the increased number of issues in order to keep up my pace. Right now that's not always true. It depends very much on the style of the writer and artist. Quasar's Cosmos In Collision, for example, is just as compressed as comics from earlier years would be. So those seven issues took just as long to review as seven individual entries would. But six issues of John Byrne's Iron Man have been like reviewing a single issue of, say, his Fantastic Four from 1985. And then there is stuff like these issues of Cloak and Dagger which are not decompressed but which are so awful that i don't care if i cover every in and out of the plot.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 8, 2015 7:44 AM
Cloak and Dagger were just characters who never found their niche in this universe, being street level but with a lot of supernatural things they were involved with. They could be worth a shot with a writer who cared enough, but with how many books and new characters that keep coming in (especially with Marvel in its "flood the marketplace mode" at this point in 1991), its impossible to say they would be able to make waves in the right sort of way.
Posted by: Ataru320 | October 8, 2015 8:31 AM
Remaking a planet in your image Thanos? Now that's totally ripping of Darkseid from the Great Darkness Saga and you know it!
Posted by: Berend | October 8, 2015 9:58 AM
If it is the case that Terry Kavanagh finished this book his way and not Gerber's, then it definitely wouldn't be the last time that Kavanagh rode roughshod over another writer's story. But, more on that when fnord makes it to 1992 and Howard Mackie's "Name of the Rose" saga begins...
Posted by: TCP | October 8, 2015 11:03 AM
How does Spider-Man know who Mephisto is? Isn't this their first meeting?
Posted by: Michael | October 12, 2015 5:48 PM
I think one thing stopping them from being popular enough to have another ongoing series is that they clearly lack compelling villains to battle and not villains of other superheroes either, but their own villains.
Posted by: Bigdaddyk | April 20, 2018 4:58 PM
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