“Cloaks” #1 is a fun first issue that accomplishes a great deal. It follows the exploits of Adam D’Aquino, a young magician who uses his illusions to fleece Wall Street crooks. The creative team establishes Adam’s backstory, abilities, emotional ties and (illegal) employment — all while keeping one eye squarely on the magic tricks and class warfare. It’s by no means one of my favorite first issues, but it’s undeniably competent and totally enjoyable. If it gets more subtle and less saccharine in the coming issues, “Cloaks” could be an outstanding series.
The issue opens on Adam’s mysterious, tragic past, but Monroe only spends a page on that before shifting to the present with some meta advice to “always leave them wanting more.” In a book about adolescent magician-thieves, too much melancholy might have felt tone-deaf, but the forced bravado of sweeping it aside feels very much like a teenage boy. (Monroe does admittedly revisit Adam’s past later.)
From there, the issue dives right into Adam’s magic tricks and mythos in New York City. His performance is a joyful, clever disappearing act around the famous Bowling Green Bull. The scene is executed well, though one page in particular stood out. On this page, the panels take up only about three-quarters of the page, with a text list of magic effects running down the right-hand side. Every member of the creative team does clean work here in this cool, crisp layout. It’s one of those pages where I can really see the book enjoying its own layers and themes, and taking the time to let the audience in on them. It’s a delight.
In general, though, Monroe’s script waxes obvious. I understand that he needs to establish quite a bit in this issue, but there’s time for a little nuance. For instance, the first thing that a recipient of Adam’s ill-gotten gains says is, “Thank you, Adam. We would have closed years ago without you.” When Adam is finally caught, a cop says, “That strange feeling you’re experiencing? I know you’re not very familiar with it, so I’m going to help you out. It’s called losing.” These lines aren’t poorly written, but they are heavy-handed. (Evy’s dialogue is also almost comically old-fashioned — “It’s not a risk, swear. Your secret’s safe with me!” — but she is clearly positioned as more than meets the eye.)
Mariano Navarro’s style is cartoony and pointed, appropriate for the subject matter but occasionally hollow-feeling. His figures are charming and breezy — especially Evy and Adam, who both seem posed to fly off at any moment. I can easily understand why he was chosen for the title, despite my reservations. Gabriel Cassata keeps the colors bright and lively, and the faded wash he places over the flashback scenes isn’t too heavy. All told, the art is enjoyable, if average.
“Cloaks” #1 is the first of only four issues, so I’m excited by how it makes the most of its pages. With the groundwork now established, however, I hope that the creative team feels the freedom to be more subtle going forward.