Marvel comics


Collects Cloak and Dagger maxiseries issues 1-11 (1985) and their part of Strange Tales issues 1 and 2.

Writer: Bill Mantlo
Artists: Rick Leonardi, Art Adams, Terry Shoemaker, Terry Austin, Mike Mignola, Bret Blevins, Marc Silvestri, June Brigman

Just like the first Cloak and Dagger collection, “Shadows and Light”, “Lost and found” is a perfect example of 1980s superhero comics. Compared to current comics, it’s very wordy. The pictures are explained and Mantlo also has lots of explanations about how Cloak feels. There are also some unfortunate stereotyping. But if you don’t mind that, it’s a very good read.

It starts right from the previous collection and has the same (small) cast of recurring characters. Cloak and Dagger break up a illicit porn shop. The police show up and the men who run the peep show, using mostly unwilling girls, tell detective Brigid O’Reilly that many of the cops in her precinct have been bribed. O’Reilly starts to look into it over several issues while tracking down a big drug shipment coming to New York. Also, father Delgado is increasingly obsessed with “saving” Dagger from Cloak.

Meanwhile, Dagger wants a normal life. When father Delgado tells Dagger that her mom and stepfather are in down, Dagger leaps to the chance to meeting them again. Unfortunately, she’s bitterly disappointed and becomes a bit disillusioned.

Issue seven takes our heroes out of America and to Europe where they’re tracking down the opium so that they can get to the source and shut it down. This takes them from Marseilles to Istanbul and takes the rest of the collection. They encounter various local gangsters and for a brief time Dagger even joins a circus and finds a little bit of happiness there.

On the long ship voyage to France they’re joined by another young stowaway, Bill Clayton. He’s enchanted by Dagger’s beauty and he tags along, claiming that he’ll be a good guide. He speaks many languages and does know a lot of about various European countries. But Cloak is unhappy; he knows that Bill wants Dagger for himself.

The last two issues, in the Strange Tales comics, are set in India.

Spider-Man guest stars in the third issue and the fourth issue is a part of the Secret Wars II cross-over with the Beyonder getting a small taste of New York’s criminal underworld. Unlike the vast majority of cross-overs, Beyonder’s guest stint isn’t too bad. Dagger and Cloak must explain to him a lot of things, like why he shouldn’t just kill the bad guys. This makes their mission more clear to themselves. They decide that they should give the criminals a second chance to repent and turn to the light. However, in practice, this doesn’t change their M.O. much.

During the first half of the series, there are subplots involving detective O’Reilly and father Delgado. However, these are quickly dropped without clousure when our heroes leave US. I suspect that since this maxiseries led to a bi-monthly series, the subplots continue there.

Overall, this was a good read with very down-to-earth heroes. It was great to see the heroes really trying to stop the drug trade rather than just fight the symptoms. On the other hand, there are some stereotypes which can be uncomfortable to modern readers. This story also deals with organizations which are supposed to be good for people and the society but are corrupt instead.

At the heart of the story is the relationship between Cloak and Dagger. As long as he has his powers, Cloak can’t lead a normal life. His darkness needs to devour life’s light; he needs Dagger’s light or he will succumb to the hunger and feeding so much from humans that he’ll kill them. He’s jealous of anything or anyone other who draw Dagger’s attention and can’t help but to delight in Dagger’s disappointment in her mother and later in other disappointments. Dagger wants a normal life. When Bill Clayton gives her a taste of it, she’s eager to grasp it. But sometimes she gets weary of seeing bad guys all the time and wants to really punish them. Some of the stories explore her past but Cloak’s past remains mostly a mystery.

Rick Leonardi is the artist for issue 1-4 and 6. The other issues all have different artists. However, they’re styles are surprisingly similar so the differences didn’t bother me too much.

Collects X-Men Gold issues 7-12.

Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artist: Ken Lashley

The adventures of the new X-Men Gold (Kitty, Kurt, Ororo, Rachel, Old Man Logan, and Peter) continue. This time we get a mix of familiar old villains and a couple of new ones.

First, a mutant killer is stalking the X-Mansion. He’s a human whose son and wife were killed by Magneto and now he wants to take it out on heroic mutants. He kills one young mutant who we didn’t get to know and has set a huge bomb inside the mansion. Also, Peter was hurt in the fight against the super sentinel in the previous story and can’t change to steel anymore.

In issue 9, Peter and Illyana find out that they have an uncle, named Anatoly. Anatoly is a member of the Russian mafia, the Bratva, and that’s why the rest of the family shunned him. However, now he needs help. He contacts Peter who wants to connect with his only living relative, except for Illyana. So, the X-Men and Illyana travel to Russia. However, Anatoly’s boss has revived Omega Red from the dead and needs Illyana’s power to keep him alive. Of course, it’s a trap.

The final issue, 12, focuses entirely on the newest member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. He’s an alien from the Negative Zone but also a mutant among his own species. More surprisingly, he’s a despot who clawed his way almost to the top of his race, only to be humiliated. He was set free in the first issue and I’m sure we’re going to be seeing more of him in volume 4 which is called the Negative Zone War.

This is solid and familiar to us old fans. Old story lines are rehashed so much that even the characters talk about how this all feels familiar, such as Peter losing his powers after Magneto tried to heal him or Kitty trying to persuade US senators not to pass a Mutant Deportation bill. However, I also rather enjoyed Kitty getting back to her ninja skills and the rekindling of her and Peter’s romance.

Of course, it’s not perfect, but I’m looking forward to the next volume which is Mojo Mayhem.

Collects Shuri issues 1-5.

Writer: Nnedi Okorafor
Artist: Leonardo Romero

I really wanted to like this more than I did. There’s nothing wrong with it, though.

I haven’t read Black Panther’s own comics and I’m familiar with him through the Avengers and his (and Ororo’s) short stint in the Fantastic Four. So, I’ve no idea how this portrayal of Shuri gels with the previous comics. However, she’s very much the characters we saw in the Black Panther movie: a genius, lighthearted, and fun. She’s more a scientist than a super hero.

When the story starts, her brother and her love interest, the teleporting Manifold, are going to space. They shouldn’t be long but instead (of course) their space craft disappears. It’s two weeks later, and people are starting to think that Wakanda isn’t telling them everything. Shuri is trying to figure out where they’ve gone and lost herself in work. Namely, inventing nanotech wings for herself. Rapidly, she must deal with many issues. On the political front, other nations want Wakanda to join them in a council with other African nations. When they figure out that T’Challa is gone they, and Shuri’s mother, expect Shuri to take up the mantle of Black Panther. However, the previous time Shuri did that, she died (during the previous big Avengers event, Time Runs Out). So, she doesn’t want to. Also, she’s now part of a Wakandan women’s council.

On personal front, she has some sort of spiritual connection to her ancestors who are in her head apparently all the time. She has a hacker friend whom she apparently trusts with almost anything but doesn’t know who they are. Luckily, Storm has figured out that T’Challa is missing and offers her help. Also, general Okoye is a big help, too. This being a superhero comic book, Shuri must deal with a super villain attack and she also has some adventures in space.

All these elements gel surprisingly well together, although I felt that the requisite super villain didn’t add much. Shuri has a spiritual side even though her expertise is firmly in the sciences. It was great to see so many supporting female characters around her.

The artwork is more “cartoony” in style than I’m used to from Marvel.

I did mostly enjoy this so I’ll look for the next volume.

Collects Uncanny X-Men (2018) 1-10.

Writers: Matthew Rosenberg, Ed Brisson, Kelly Thompson
Artists: Mahmud A. Asrar, R. B. Silva, Adriano Di Benedetto, Yildiray Cinar, Pere Perez

The book starts with Jean’s dream where Jamie Maddox is fighting the X-Men and asking “where is Kitty Pryde”. Next, Kitty leads a group of newer X-Men (Pixie, Armor, Rockslide, Glob, and a couple of others) against Forearm. However, the team encounters a whole team of supervillians and Kitty disappears. At the same time, a US senator Allen is giving a speech in favor of a vaccine which will will eradicate mutants. Dozens of Jamie Madrox’s duplicates attack the crowd and the X-Men while claiming that he’s trying to save everyone. In the end, senator Allen disappears.

Meanwhile, mysterious things are happening all over the world: rain in Kalahari Desert and dinosaurs appearing. Also, ordinary humans are picketing the Xavier Institute of Mutant Education and Outreach and Legion returns, claiming that he knows who is responsible for the chaos and that he’s trying to help. Not surprisingly, the X-Men aren’t convinced. But then the Four Horsemen of Salvation appear and destroy the X-Mansion.

The pace is down right frenetic: the mutants don’t have time to even search for Kitty when she disappears or even think about revelations or events. We have a large cast, which I mostly liked, but most of them don’t really do anything, such as Nightcrawler, Jubilee, or Cannonball. Instead, we have that group of younger X-Men who are fed because they’re kept in the sidelines. Unfortunately, I’m only familiar with Armor so I didn’t really care for their complaints.

Still, I mostly liked this. However, the story suffers from rehashing old plot lines. The X-Men even joke among themselves about how they’ve seen the vaccine before, not to mention mind-controlled people. Because of the fast pace, this felt like it just moved from one fight scene to the next. It also ends with a huge cliffhanger which I’m sure will be done away with soon.

This story comments on the real world: how people hate and fear each other more than ever and the world more polluted than ever. The mutants are told to “go home” which I’m sure is a nod toward some people’s attitudes about refugees and immigrants. I’m sure some readers will hate it; they just want their escapism. The theme of needing to destroy (parts of) the world in order to save it is an old one but can be handled well. However, the main bad guy’s actions don’t match with what he says he’s trying to do. Messing with natural world the way he’s doing is the opposite of saving it.

Collects Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #64, 69-70, 81-82, 94-96; Cloak and Dagger (1983) #1-4; Marvel Team-Up Annual #6; Marvel Fanfare (1982) #19; New Mutants #23-25.

Writers: Bill Mantlo, Chris Claremont, Al Milgrom
Artists: Ed Hannigan, Rick Leonardi, Ron Frenz, Tony Salmons, Kerry Cammill, Bill Sienkiewicz

This tome has over 400 pages and collects the first appearances of Cloak and Dagger, mostly in the pages of Spider-Man, and their first miniseries. These are very 1980s comics. Most of them are very verbose and as much as I adore Chris Claremont’s writing, he’s one of the worst offenders, although the Spider-Man writers aren’t far behind. These Spider-Man issues (specifically the last ones 94-96 were some of the first superhero comics I ever read (translated to Finnish, of course) so it’s hard for me to be objective about them. 🙂 Their TV-show isn’t on Netflix here and I haven’t seen it.

Cloak and Dagger first appear in the collection’s first comic: mysterious figures who are threatening a man’s life. However, rather quickly Spider-Man finds out that they aren’t really criminals. Rather, they’re a pair of teenagers who got their powers from synthetic drugs and now they want revenge against all drug dealers and also to help runaways who are exploited. I’m sure some readers find this too heavy-handed but I quite liked the theme.

The pair’s powers have changed a bit, depending on the story. In the first story, Dagger’s “daggers of light” kill the drug dealers. But later they purge the drugs out of the bodies of anyone who is hit. They’re also described as cold but in one story her light gave warmth. Cloak’s darkness is always cold and makes anyone caught in it weak. Later, it’s revealed that the darkness craves light and that Dagger’s light can feed it. But if Dagger’s light isn’t available, the darkness will want to feed on the light of humans (life). Cloak must constantly fight against it. While Dagger is a less tragic figure, she’s still a teenager who wants a normal life, which she can never have. In these stories at least, they aren’t portrayed as lovers but considering that they’re both 16, that wouldn’t have been appropriate for a Spider-Man comic (and I’m sure the racial issue also prevented that, too).

Most of the stories focus on C&D going after drug dealers or trying to save kids from them. But the last story appeared in New Mutants and is different from the others. However, all of them (except for the miniseries of course) have long-running subplots which aren’t resolved here. Debra’s subplot is especially cringe-worthy as she’s constantly crying when thinking about Peter. She knows that he’s Spider-Man and cries when she thinks of the dangers he’s facing. If that doesn’t bother you, this is an excellent collection of the beginning of Cloak and Dagger and a very good showcase of 80s comics.

Collects Uncanny X-Men vol. 1 #265-267 and Gambit (1993) #1-4.

Writers: Chris Claremont, Howard Mackie
Artists: Bill Jaaska, Joe Rubinstein, Mike Collins, Lee Week, Klaus Janson

Since I must wait for a couple of weeks more for my next (and apparently last! Why Marvel! WHY! 😦 :() dose of Rogue and Gambit, I decided to dig out some of my old comics about Gambit.

This collection starts with the three issues which introduce Gambit to us. It’s not a good place to start for new readers because strange (and I do mean strange, even by X-Men standards) villains called Nanny and the Orphan-Maker made Ororo a child in a previous issue. So, the story starts with Ororo as a child living in Cairo (Illinois, US, not Egypt) and making a living as a thief. She’s stealing from the rich and undeserving and giving most of the loot to poor people or back to their rightful owners. However, the Shadow King is at her heels and luring her into a trap. Fortunately, Gambit appears and they rescue each other.

This story line leads to the Muir Island Saga, so Shadow King and his minions feature heavily. Gambit also just appears, apparently having randomly decided to just burgle the place the same time as Storm.

The rest of the collection is Gambit’s own miniseries. His brother Henri breaks into the X-Mansion. Apparently something big is happening at the Thieves’ Guild (whose boss is Gambit’s adoptive father) and Henri is trying to warn Remy about it. However, in a spectacularly bad move, a member of the Assassins’ Guild kills Henri right in front of Remy and the rest of the X-Men. Remy, of course, heads back to New Orleans with Rogue. There he finds out that his wife Bella Donna (who is, of course, the daughter of the leader of the Assassins’ Guild) is still alive but in a coma. Only an elixir of life could revive her. But that elixir isn’t easy to get. Also, Bella’s brother Julien is also alive but turned into a monster. Candra, the mysterious, alluring and immortal benefactor who has the elixir, isn’t an easy person to convince and Julien wants to kill Remy. Remy heads to Paris to meet with her, leaving Bella in the hands of Rogue and a healer.

This was a fun comic, establishing Remy’s past and the complicated relationship he has to the two rival illegal guilds in New Orleans. If you can ignore the huge amounts of hair that Lee Weeks gives to everyone, this is a fun read for fans of Gambit. Also, Remy seems to have quit smoking at some point. However, I can’t really recommend this as a starting point for new readers because the first three issues are from the middle of a long story line.

The second story line establishes the on-again, off-again nature of Rogue and Gambit’s relationship, complicated further by Rogue’s powers. Rogue accidentally touches Bella and absorbs her memories, leaving Bella an amnesiac. She doesn’t tell Remy about it, which is pretty shitty. I’m very glad they’re over this stage.

Interestingly enough, while Remy is often claimed to be a morally ambiguous character, his first appearance is very heroic: he helps an unknown kid against very powerful enemies and even has to give up all the loot to save the kid.

Collects issues 1-5 and annual 1.

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists: Mahmud Asrar, Pascal Alixe

The original Jean Grey is back! (In Phoenix Resurrection which I have mixed feelings about.) And she’s not happy about the state of the world and especially about the relations between mutants and humans. So, she’s determined to change things for the better. But to do that, she needs a team of both old friends and she also recruits some new ones. And she wants to rescue as many mutant children from bigots as she can. I really liked that premise. It seems that mutants are even more hated and feared than almost ever before, even mutant children are attacked and some humans want to confine mutants to their own ghettos. It all has a very strong parallel to our own world, unfortunately.

The collection starts with the Annual where Jean is reacquainted with her old friends but also with bigotry when the X-Men are hanging out at the school which has been relocated to Central Park. Some of the humans don’t want to see mutants. Jean teaches one of them a lesson, but it’s not enough to her. She also confronts Black Lightning, the man who killed Scott.

The actual comic starts with a mix of old characters and new. Kurt, Namor, and eventually Storm and Gambit are the old characters. Jean talks with people, she even addresses the UN. Her plan is to make mutants a nation, so that when (other) nations discuss how to “deal with the mutant problem”, the mutants will have a say as well. However, when Jean’s framed for killing the UK ambassador to UN right in front of cameras at the steps of UN building, she and her team are on the run. They go to Wakanda and later to Atlantis.

This was, in a way, a return to X-Men’s roots: humans outright hating mutants, Jean and her team hunted for a misunderstanding, powerful enemies at every turn. It’s also more tied to modern day problems than space adventures. The master villain is Cassandra Nova. I was a bit disappointed that Rachel (Grey) was again going to be someone’s puppet. In this case, Nova’s.

The idea of mutant nation isn’t new, either. Jean mentions Genosha and Utopia which both ended badly. She’s also not an elected leader and some mutants are criminals, so I’m not sure which way Taylor is going to take the story (since the comic ended with vol 2, not very far).

Jean is one of my favorite characters, so I’m happy that she’s back. Kurt is another of my favorite X-Men, so it was great to see them working together. X-23 (or Wolverine) and her sister Honey Badger were also good additions and so is the Indian mutant Trinary. She has technology powers. The later additions of two of my other favorite X-Men Storm and Gambit were also great. I already have the second volume.

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