There’s a fine line between love and addiction, and the two are harder to distinguish when there’s murder involved.
Cloak and Dagger #2
Writer: Dennis Hopeless
Artists: David Messina & Elisabetta D’Amico
Cover Artists: Mahmud Asrar & Dave McCaig
Colorist: Giada Marchisio
What You Need to Know:
Tandy and Ty have gone their separate ways and are trying to work out their identities outside of each other, but the two are drawn back into orbit when a series of Darkforce murders breaks out in downtown LA. It turns out that buried secrets grow very sharp teeth down there in the dark.
What You’ll Find Out:
The comic opens with a shot of a terrified man standing in a high-end living room. It’s night, and every panel is washed in shades of silver and blue. The man (short, built narrow, totally unassuming) is talking to the person he knows is stalking him. This mysterious, unseen person is delivering an internal monologue on the twin natures of paranoia and appetite, and he materializes behind the short man in order to heighten his victim’s fear.
The stalker is a tall figure wearing a long cloak. A cheek and eyes are visible beneath his cowl. The eye is like a star, burning in a skull.
The next page reveals the dead, drained body of the victim, leaning against the dining room table. He died, staring his killer in the face. He didn’t even spill the milk he was holding when he was attacked.
Detective Ikeda is speaking to a photographer about the killer and she suggests, jokingly, that they might have a vampire on their hands. Ikeda texts Tandy, asking for help, insisting that this second victim is only the start.
On the next page, Ty is running through a dark corridor, leading his employer and co-workers away from the paparazzi. He’s leaving a harsh message on Tandy’s voicemail, stating that he needs to be fed so that he will not lose control of his hunger.
One of his co-workers rebukes him for his lack of focus, and Ty turns to face her, teleporting everyone through the Darkforce dimension and into the limousine waiting out on the curb.
His employer makes a joke about milking the fact that he has a superhero on payroll in the tabloids for all that it’s worth.
The next page opens with a shot of Tandy on her couch in her apartment, ignoring her phone. She monologues about the way that being single makes her realize that people only seem to call her when they want something. It’s either Ty calling for his fix or the detective begging for her help. She knows that Ty needs her help in order to prevent himself from turning into a monster, but she would really like, just once, to be seen for herself, to be needed for who she is, and not merely what she can do for other people.
The next page is a flashback, ‘Years ago. NYC Subway.’ Tandy and Ty are riding alone, surrounded by graffiti and the subway’s requisite filth. Ty is pacing, hungry, but he doesn’t know how to draw back from that edge yet. He doesn’t know what the hunger is.
Suddenly, the doors at the far end of the car open up and a boy walks through, surrounded by plumes of brown-grey smog which seem to ooze up out of his trainers. Tandy asks him,’Who are you supposed to be?’ He replies, ‘I’m the headache medicine.’ and smoke overwhelms them both.
The next panel reveals that the smoke was only targeting one person — Ty. Tandy manages to claw her way out of it and she turns back, begging the boy to free her friend. Suddenly, the boy jumps out of the smog, shouting ‘Boo!’, and he laughs at her fear while the smoke vanishes as suddenly as it came. Ty bends down, helping her stand. He says, ‘Kid just calmed me down. Talked me through like you do.’
Back in the present, Tandy is sitting on a park bench, beside a dreadlocked busker playing a ukulele. She’s ignoring a text from Ty, who is complaining about his hunger. She thinks, ‘Cool, yeah, let’s grab coffee. We can talk about that time you murdered that kid in the alley and we just ran away…’
She’s also still ignoring the calls she’s getting from Detective Ikeda, but that doesn’t mean that she’s dropping the case. She rises from the bench, tosses a handful of change into the busker’s ukulele case, and walks to the scene of the latest murder, brushing past the police tape to enter the house.
Ikeda has left, but the modernist mid-level is swarming with low-level investigators. She greets them and begins examining the scene.
But her brain is busy with the past. The dead will not stay buried. She remembers running with the kid, who we now know was named Grey, through the Coney Island promenade. Grey uses his mind-fogging powers to commit a series of low-level crimes (stealing hot dogs, ‘borrowing’ a polaroid camera to take the snapshot Tandy found in the last issue, scoring free rides on the Ferris Wheel) and Ty says, ‘I can’t tell if he’s a genius or a sociopath.’ Tandy replies that maybe he’s both, and her internal monologue tells us that, ‘unlike us, he was confident. Settled. Full of life. Until he wasn’t.’
Tandy is walking back from the crime scene, remembering. The panels switch back and forth from the past to the present as spent events reassert themselves into her life. She remembers being hurled into the side of a dumpster, but not the thing which caused her flight. She remembers Ty sitting on the filthy ground, deadly still, staring at her. Climbing the stairs to her flat, she sees Grey’s face, alive and threatening against a bloody background, saying, ‘Hey there, Tandy girl.’ and then lying still, dead and shriveled on the cement ground, his eyes blank. She opens her front door and the past finds her.
Ty is standing there, waiting for her. He’s wrapped in his cloak. She shouts at him, asking what he’s doing here. He responds that he was worried. She wasn’t answering her phone. He thought she was dead. She responds that he knew she was alive because he’s been stalking her. Angry now, he responds that he can’t leave her alone because ‘This stupid system of yours only works if you show up! On time! Every time!’
Tandy is furious now, her face contorted. She shrieks, ‘Ready with a feeding, ready with a fix. Why don’t you do that, Ty? Remind me. Tell me what happens!’
The next page is intense. It’s composed of tight close-ups, the panels backed in bloody red. Tandy speaks to Ty, their faces close enough to touch, but held apart by their rage.
Tandy says, ‘Or why don’t I tell you about this case I’m working?’ We get a close-up of Ty’s confused face as she continues, ‘About this killer! This monster! Climbing out of people’s shadows. Draining the life out of them. Leaving behind –’
We see her lips, fierce beneath their black gloss, contorting as she says, ‘–Dead. Grey. Husks.’
Ty stares out of the page at us, his face lost in the shadows of his cowl. His left eye shines like a star.
Tandy asks him if that sounds familiar, and Ty stares at her. He’s either confused or feigning confusion.
On the next page, Tandy starts pumping her light into him, asking her former friend why he’s pretending not to remember what happened. She forces more and more light into him asking, ‘Are you good?! Are you full?! Because I can keep going!’ The light pounds from her fingers in a torrent, knocking Ty down, flooding him. She says, ‘Tell me how much it will take — to stop finding bodies all over town?’
Pulling himself off of the floor, Ty asks, ‘What are you accusing me of?’ Tandy reminds him of what happened to Grey, and Ty, lost in rage himself, now, asks if, after everything, ‘That’s what you think of me?’
Tandy responds that she doesn’t know what to think and Ty teleports away, his cloak a black swirl, leaving her alone in her flat with her training kit and her view of the city.
The next page reveals Tandy driving out of LA, calling Detective Ikeda to tell him what she knows. She wonders why he isn’t answering his phone.
The answer comes on the penultimate page. The setting is the office of the LAPD and we’re moving through it, the camera panning over a floorplan filled with thick, grey smog and a surfeit of dazed, slumped bodies. Tandy’s voice echoes through the halls, telling Ikeda that she’s coming. A voice, a dead grey voice, says, ‘Can’t wait, Tandy Girl.’
The final page is composed of two panels. In the first Grey, looking older than he was but no less dead is standing above the unconscious body of Ikeda. He is very, very hungry. He thinks, ‘See, hunger’s no big thing. Suspicion’s just a question mark. But let those bugs dig in. Swell up. See if they don’t drink you dry.’
In the final, red-backed panel, the dead man bares his fangs. The buried past has grown teeth, down there in the dark. It’s ready to bite.
What Just Happened:
The excellent neo-noir tone which began in the first issue continues in the second. The writing is sharp and clear; the dialogue is delivered in a manner which is both believable for the characters and which wastes no words. The pairing of internal monologue and action works less well, outside of the balletics of a fight scene, but the juxtaposition of past and present presented in a single page worked very well, generating a sense of painful resurrection as pieces of the past slide up through the tenuous skin of the life that Tandy is trying to build — guilt that has lingered, too long undealt with — ready to bite her again.
The most interesting aspect of this series is turning out to be its exploration of three emotions which spring, ultimately from the same source. These triplets are Hunger, Addiction, and Love and so far each protagonist seems to embody one element in large part. Grey clearly represents hunger, overweening appetite; the first things he steals are hotdogs and the last are human lives — which are strange fruit for him. He can choose to fight this, or he could up until the change happened, but he doesn’t appear to want to. He likes what he is. He enjoys being something of a monster.
Ty is channeling addiction. His whole life revolves around his feedings. His relationships and work life are secondary to his craving. He has no life outside of his addiction, and the effects on his personality are deleterious. He knows that he has a problem, but he doesn’t know how to change it. He might not be able to.
Tandy, finally, represents something far more complex — which nonetheless contains elements of both of the previous states. Tandy represents love. Love is giving, but it’s also hungry. She wants to be seen and appreciated for what she is, and not what she has to give, but at the same time (because she is who she is) she can’t withhold anything that is really important. She can’t deny Ikeda her help. She can’t deny Ty his addiction. It will be very interesting to see what the final answer is to her conflict — assuming that Hopeless provides one. For now, this is a fun, well-written book with a lot of surface sizzle and more than a little steak beneath the steam to sink your teeth in.
Final Thought: This is a fun, fast-paced book whose noir surface hides a surprising amount of psychological depth.
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