Marvel Team-Up (Vol. 1) Annual #6

Background

Although this is pretty much a stand-alone tale, it probably wouldn't hurt to have a bit of background on Cloak & Dagger and The New Mutants:

Cloak & Dagger were first introduced in Spectacular Spider-Man #64, and you can click on the link above for a full profile on the duo. This is their first appearance after their original 4-part limited series.

The New Mutants were a group of... well... new mutants, who Professor X brought together as a team when the X-Men were thought dead in the early 80s. When the X-Men returned, the New Mutants continued as a separate team, although they too were based at the Westchester Mansion, being tutored by Professor X. When this annual was released, the New Mutants were only up to issue 4 of their own mag and none of them had met Spider-Man before.
The New Mutants are:

  • Sam Guthrie (aka Cannonball) who can fly with the impact of a cannonball;
  • Danielle Moonstar (aka Psyche) who can probe her enemies' minds and use their greatest fears as illusions against them;
  • Roberto DaCosta (aka Sunspot) can let out fantastic sunblasts, but really needs to be in daylight to use his power fully. A kind of solar powered mutant, I guess;
  • Rahne Sinclair (aka Wolfsbane) who can transform into a wolf.

(The New Mutants' line-up at this time also included Karma, who for some unexplained reason is not featured in this issue.)

See also this complete index to the New Mutants comic.

Story 'The Hunters and The Hunted!'

Pages 1-6: Spidey's swinging by a Warehouse district by the waterside to check out the disruption of local criminal activities in the area. Drug runners left unconscious and numb with cold and a lot of dead teenage runaways to account for. It sounds to Spidey like a similar background to his last meeting with Cloak & Dagger. Sure enough, the couple in question duke it out in one of the warehouses out with what appear to be a gang of car thieves. Spidey's puzzled about why they're beating up on car thieves instead of drug dealers, but joins them anyway in a bit of "Ka-Powk!", "Bok!" and "Ftak!"

Pages 7-8: Once the battle's done, Cloak & Dagger lead Spidey through one of the doors into a darkened room. We see a few dead teenagers lying on the floor and one tied to a chair. C & D suspect that the mobsters who first created them with experimental drugs are attempting to create a new Cloak & Dagger to do their bidding and destroy the original pair. They vanish within Cloak's cape, but Spidey correctly assumes that he'll run into them again real soon.

Pages 9-15: Our scene then changes to four of the New Mutants walking along Broadway having just seen a performance of the musical "Cats". After discussing the merits of the Cat performers not really wearing that much, Roberto (Sunspot) leads his mutant companions into a Video Arcade. He clears the screen six times in Space Invaders (now there's a blast from the past!) Click here to play Space Invaders online!
Some creep starts giving Rahne (Wolfsbane) a hard time and pulls a knife on the youngsters. After Roberto knocks the guy backwards with a burst of his sun power (which is only operating at a fraction of its power as it's nighttime), the mutants run, pursued by a number of thugs. In the ensuing battle, Sunspot's back is sliced by a knife and a bullet grazes Wolfsbane's head. Both of the unconscious mutants fall down the embankment, where two figures emerge from the shadows, content that they may have found the guinea pigs they've been looking for. Once they've been carried off, Cannonball and Psyche realize their teammates are missing and go off in search for them.

Pages 16-21: Spidey's spider-sense leads him to The Holy Ghost Church on 42nd Street, where he finds Cloak & Dagger seeking sanctuary with Father Francis Xavier Delgado. Father Delgado was introduced in C & D's Limited Series where he first sheltered them in his church building.
Cannonball and Psyche also run into the church as they are too conspicuous out on the street in their costumes. Spidey recognizes these costumes as what the type the original X-Men used to wear. Once Cloak & Dagger learn about the kidnapped mutants, they immediately fear that they are to be experimented on with the same synthetic drug that gave them their powers.

Pages 22-24: An hour later, Sunspot and Wolfsbane wake up in a meat-packing plant on West 14th Street. Their wounds have been seen to, by they're tied to a butcher-block about to be injected. The perpetrators express their delight in finding two youths who already possess uncanny abilities. And despite an attempt by Sunspot to burn out and Wolfsbane biting one of the mob guys, they are injected.

Pages 25-29: The heroes arrive mere seconds too late. Cannonball bursts through the wall, closely followed by the others. However, no longer held down by straps, Sunspot and Wolfsbane are now very scary-looking and completely out of control. Dagger cleanses the drug from Wolfsbane with a light dagger, but is bitten on the shoulder just before Wolfsbane is cured. Cloak also rids Sunspot of the effects of the drug within his cape. Sunspot's okay, but the same can't be said of Dagger. She is now obviously affected by the drug from Wolfsbane's bite.

Pages 30-32: Cloak is also affected by absorbing the drug from Sunspot's body. He and Dagger move towards each other, she firing her daggers at him, and he enveloping her in his cape of darkness. In the end, the light and darkness cancel each other out, leaving them as they were before it all.

In the aftermath, Spidey advises C & D that they should go with the New Mutants to Professor X's school so they can better understand their powers. They both decline, saying that they have much to learn about their powers and themselves. And they can only do it alone. Dagger steps into her partner's cape, and they both disappear, leaving Spidey alone with the mutants in the meat-packing plant.

General Comments

It's really hard to find fault in this little gem of a tale. Despite the fact that Spidey really plays no part in it at all (they could easily have cut him out and just had it as a Cloak & Dagger and New Mutants team-up), the characterization is so good that it doesn't seem to matter.

Cloak & Dagger are on great form, fresh from their first 4-part Limited Series. Bill Mantlo (who penned this issue) gets across their inner pain and turmoil brilliantly. While The New Mutants' 2-page banter after seeing the musical, is both funny and character revealing. Usually when you have this many heroes in a single issue, the plot can seem somewhat contrived. But not here, no siree. The kidnapping of two of the New Mutants to create a new Cloak & Dagger was ingenious and its execution almost flawless. I say almost because the ending seemed a little rushed - Cloak & Dagger say they need to be alone, they disappear and Spidey says "Yeah". That's it.

But the artwork's great as well. There's some great imagery, like the dead animals hanging on butchers' hooks while the kids are being experimented on like animals. On Page 32, panel 2, there's a great shot of Cloak & Dagger hugging each other on their knees. You can just feel their defeat even though they've 'won', they are still "cursed as ever before". Great stuff.

Really, the main problem with this issue is that so few comic fans will ever get to read it. Annuals tend to only get bought by the die-hards. And this is a Marvel Team-Up Annual at that, so it's only going to find it's way into the die-hard die-hard's comic collection. This is therefore destined to remain an undiscovered classic.

Overall Rating

4 webs. Great stuff. A brilliantly told tale let down only by a premature ending.

Footnote

The events of this annual have repercussions in The New Mutants #23-25, where Sunspot and Wolfsbane begin manifesting symptoms of the drugs they were injected with. They also meet Cloak & Dagger again in these issues.

Spidey, however, next meets Cloak & Dagger again in Spectacular Spider-Man #94, Cannonball in Marvel Team-Up #149 and the rest of the New Mutants in Secret Wars II #9.