This oversized (perhaps overlong) one-shot serves a larger purpose inside the Grand Marvel Narrative, other than just giving us a story about Cloak and his erstwhile pal, Dagger. It acts as a bridge from “Dark X-Men” and “Nation X” stories to whatever future adventures the cloaked guy and dagger-suited gal find themselves in. This issue seems like a launching point for a new “Cloak and Dagger” series, and it felt that way right up until the final scene. I was surprised to find “The End” in the last panel. I was surprised to find out that this was just a single issue, and not part of, at least, a mini-series.
I don’t think this issue would make a particularly good start for a new series, it just felt like that’s where it was headed. As a one-shot, it serves its purpose: it shows how the X-Men react to Tandy Bowen — a girl who wants ever-so-much to fit in somewhere — and it shows what Tyrone Johnson has been up to on his little solo jaunt. (He’s been hanging out in south Boston, playing some b-ball. Seriously.)
Mark Brooks doesn’t do a bad job here. He still has his moments of Mark Bagley-esque figure drawing (and particularly with character faces), but he tells the story effectively. His Dagger seems grotesquely voluptuous compared to the way the character has been traditionally depicted — and her costume, on that figure, looks more Emma Frost than usual — but I suppose that’s the inevitable trend in superhero comics. It’s not a charming one, though.
Emily Warren provides interesting colors on this issue. She gives everything an animation-cel kind of glow, but Dagger is particularly luminous, as if she’s burning through the page — and it’s a pretty sharp effect for a character who embodies white light. She is literally radiant, and even the normally black ink used for holding lines is colored a yellow or orange on the character. Warren gives Tandy Bowen an ethereal quality that works to show how distinct the character’s physical presence is, compared to the X-Men, compared to her shadowy partner.
So the art is fine, the coloring is impressive, and then there’s the story. Like most “Cloak and Dagger” tales of yore, it has a bit of an After School Special quality, an overly simplistic view of life on the mean streets, and a too-simple resolution. Both Cloak and Dagger seem too desperate here, too needy. It drives the plot, but it seems like a cheat. It’s just a way to put them in vulnerable situations when, after all they’ve been through over the years, you might think they’d be a bit more savvy. But they aren’t. Not here.
Ultimately, this is a comic that doesn’t do anything to move the Cloak and Dagger characters forward in any meaningful way, and it doesn’t even reaffirm the best parts of their previous stories. It’s just a competently-crafted, inconsequential episode. Like so many other one-shots.