Manhattan is infected thanks to The Jackal’s genetically modified bedbugs! All the normal people have spider-powers!
Heroes Cloak (Tyrone) and Dagger (Tandy) get involved in stopping the Spider-Riot (Amazing Spider-Man #667). Although a duo, they feel very differently about each other – Cloak wants the spectacular and Dagger wants a normal life. Tandy leaves the fight to secretly attend college.
Meanwhile, the infection begins turning New Yorkers into spiders and Mr Negative/Martin Li is told of a prophecy that he is destined to be killed… by Dagger!
Now: Dagger is stuck in a nightmare featuring Mr Negative! She starts to come round and finds herself chained to a chair in Chinatown with the real Mr Negative facing her! Naked, Cloak lies unmoving on the floor…
Three Hours Ago: Dagger studies in her friend’s (Patrick) room at Empire State University. Patrick has spider-powers like everyone else but, as he tries to ask Dagger out, he transforms into a giant spider! He attacks Dagger and she blasts her way free into the corridor where she finds more spiders! She tries to fight them off but only succeeds when Mr Negative and his Inner Demons arrive to help! They chloroform Dagger and drag her away!
Now: Dagger, powerless against the mystical chains, asks where she is and Mr Negative, overlooking his Inner Demons keeping the spiders at bay, tells her that she is here at his request. She now wears her costume because Mr Negative wants her to be at her most… familiar for what is to come!
Cloak Gets Beat Up: A Silent Play In One Act, Staged Two Hours Ago.
As he overlooks the spiders below, Cloak gets beaten up by Inner Demons! He holds them off until Mr Negative steps in and knocks him out!
Now: Dagger recognises Mr Negative as being there when she and Cloak were first experimented on. Mr Negative explains that she is there so that he may study the woman that will kill him to make sure that she is honourable. The Inner Demons lift Cloak up and start to cut his throat! Mr Negative demands Dagger’s hand or he dies! As she offers it to him, he explains that he wishes her to know her true self before he dies. With that light becomes dark… He turns her negative!
Confused is the right word to describe my finishing of this issue. Having been plied with an awesome dual narrative that cut right to the heart and minds of the central characters last issue, #2 is severely lacking in character. Nick Spencer offers absolutely no insight into the thoughts of Cloak or Dagger but chooses to focus on the stranger elements of the story. Why is there this unnecessary nightmare sequence? Why include a detached silent section? What does Mr Negative do to Dagger when he asks her that cryptic question? All of these question things that, to me, do nothing for the story.
The redeeming thing about the writing isn’t the bog-standard flashbacks but Spencer’s use of Mr Negative. Fitting into continuity or not, the duality of Mr Negative is perfect with the duality of Cloak and Dagger. Spencer uses this likeness as opposition and, although not as thoroughly explored as the opposition between Cloak and Dagger last issue, the highlight scenes are Dagger talking street to the mystical tones of her captor. This culminates in the final, rating-boosting page where light turns to dark. Spencer doesn’t overcomplicate Mr Negative’s power but simply uses it perfectly to set up further opposition and exploration of these characters next issue. I have a feeling Spencer will explore this negativity more than any writer has before. Throw in a negative Cloak (who surely would turn light) and you’ve got a compelling scenario that has to bring the characters back into narrative focus.
Emma Rios nearly gets caught in a familiar trap. At times, such as the Cloak fight sequence and when Dagger is attacked by spider, there’s too much pencil on the page. In these instances I lose the flow, line and sight of the characters and the action, whilst fast and flurried, is hard to follow. Simplifying things with blockier shadow and less intrusive movement lines may help.
That isn’t to say that this is throughout. There are moments of grotesque genius that has to be celebrated, no matter how haunting and revolting the images may be. Her depiction of Patrick transforming into a spider is scarring to look at but you have to marvel at the detail and precision of the drawing. Equally, the nightmare sequence does have a point in that it allows Rios to go to town. Then there is the final page which is simply stunning. Blurring and blending the costume with the darkness is suddenly very seductive and evil and makes for a stunning conclusion.
A pretty confusing disappointment considering the quality of storytelling last issue.