A fairly common theme for super hero origin stories is tragedy, and Cloak and Dagger are no exception to that general rule. As two runaways who gained their powers after being forcibly experimented upon, Tyrone Johnson and Tandy Bowen became forever interconnected and thus Cloak and Dagger were born. The synthetic heroin that they were dosed with was administered by a criminal chemist named Simon Marshall, who was in the employ of the Maggia. Because of that, the two youngsters have had a score to settle with the Maggia since their debut in Spectacular Spider-Man #64.
Silvio Manfredi, aka Silvermane, for all intents and purposes is the Maggia. Since Silvermane is the head of that criminal organization, it is no surprise that there was an inevitable collision course set between he and Cloak and Dagger.
In Spectacular Spider-Man #69, Cloak and Dagger made an attempt to kill Silvermane...and by all appearances it seemed as though they had succeeded...
|Essential Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #3
Perched to the ceiling outside of Silvermane's bedroom, Spider-Man evades gunfire blasting through the bedroom door, which he had webbed shut. Spidey finds himself in this odd predicament because he had attempted to stop Cloak and Dagger from killing Silvermane (in the prior issue), but his attempt had failed and Silvermane was now on his deathbed. While the gangsters occupy themselves trying to kill the web-slinger, one man slips out of the crowd to return to Silvermane's side.
The man, a doctor, pushes a button which puts a protective canopy over Silvermane's bed. He soon begins operating on the Crime Czar. Meanwhile, Spider-Man continues to dodge the flurry of bullets headed his way from the Maggia goons. Realizing his Spider-sense will not allow him to dodge every shot, Spidey makes his escape, but first he snatches his automatic camera from the wall.
Silvermane's doctor screams for the men to forget about Spider-Man and to help him carry this massive steel container which now houses the Maggia boss's body. They leave Silvermane's home in an ambulance and miss the police who had just arrived. Despite the fact that the officers there found webbing at the crime scene, the detective denies the need for an APB on Spider-Man. At that same time across town, the Kingpin revels in the notion that all three of his enemies (Silvermane, Spider-Man, Cloak and Dagger) are simultaneously taking each other down...which all works to benefit him.
Spider-Man makes his way home and attempts to get some studying in, but instead falls asleep at his desk...in his underwear! Soon after, atop the roof of a building, Cloak and Dagger discuss the nature of their mission. Tyrone feels like their mission to take down drug dealers will never be complete and Tandy feels as though they should not make themselves judge, jury and executioner of the criminals they fight. They appear to be at an impasse. At that precise moment, they overhear a drug deal occurring on the streets below. They make quick work of the criminals as they thwart the exchange.
The next day, Peter Parker arrives at the Daily Bugle offices and provides J. Jonah Jameson, who was currently on a warpath, with a prized possession. The news of Silvermane's demise was all the rage in the office that morning, and Peter hands Jameson first-hand photos of the action. Jameson is grateful, takes the photos and announces a headline, "Crime Czar Killed by Spider-Man!" Peter takes the money for the gig, but is clearly not happy about the (unsurprising) resulting headline.
As Peter makes his way to ESU, Silvio Manfredi is reborn! He wakes up to find that his head and most of his vital organs have been transferred into a bionic body. And not just any bionic body, this steel body has granted him incredible strength and speed.
Excited by the potential for his new body and angered by the attack on his life, Silvermane busts through the walls of his hideout and heads into the New York City streets. He's dead set on avenging Cloak and Dagger's attack, but he doesn't hear the doctor tell him that the bionic body will eventually run out of energy and fail.
After Peter snoozes through another one of Dr. Sloan's physics classes, he's greeted by Deb Whitman as he walks out of class. Deb pleads with Peter that she must speak with him and then confesses that she's worried about the "awful crime pictures" that he takes. Peter dismisses her fears and after he hears a news report that there's three "strangely-powered super beings" taking down drug lords, he realizes he must investigate this development as Spider-Man. As Peter runs off, Deb thinks to herself that Peter is lying to her and that he's going to fight the criminals as Spider-Man. It appears as though Deb has uncovered Peter's secret.
Soon after, Silvermane makes his way to a subway station in order to track down the drug dealers who sold him out to Cloak and Dagger. As Silvermane uses his super-powered bionic body to intimidate the dealers by throwing steel girders around, Spider-Man arrives on the scene to stop him. The dealers bail as Spider-Man and Silvermane go at it mono a mono on the rails below. Before long, a subway train comes flying down the tunnel, headed directly toward the two combatants. They both manage to escape being plowed over as the fight then moves to inside the subway car.
Cloak and Dagger arrive on the scene and realize the engineer driving the subway had been taken out and that it is now careening out of control through the tunnel. Cloak is able to use his darkness powers to phase the out of control subway in order for it to safely stop. Silvermane now realizes that Cloak and Dagger are nearby, so he tosses Spider-Man aside so he can focus on his primary objective: Killing Cloak and Dagger.
Silvermane quickly neutralizes Cloak and had it not been for Spider-Man's intervention, Silvermane may have managed to kill him. As Spidey grabs Cloak to save the battle-worn hero, Silvermane turns his sights on to Dagger. The bionic Crime Czar uses his enhanced strength to rip down two support beams in order to collapse the tunnel down on Dagger. Silvermane's plan fails though because the debris does not touch Dagger (in fact it mostly falls on him), however it does cause sunlight to shine in to the underground subway. This allows Dagger to super-charge herself in the light, she then unloads a massive blast of light on to Silvermane. This fries his suit, causing it to short-circuit.
With Silvermane defeated, Spider-Man gives Cloak and Dagger a pep talk about how they cannot serve as judge, jury and executioner and he adds, "You'll forever be between the law and louses like Silvermane." He suggests that, since they're only kids, that they should try to live a normal life. They refuse his suggestion as Dagger confesses that a normal life is what she would want but that "for reasons she cannot speak" she and Cloak must remain together forever. They then part company.
The story's epilogue depicts Silvermane being taken away by an ambulance, but then quickly shifts over to Deb Whitman. She's agonizing, alone in her bedroom, over how she will confront Peter regarding her awareness that he is Spider-Man. Her mental health does not seem to be in good shape as she collapses in tears on to her bed.
I had recently reviewed Marvel Team Up #63 and one of the things I noticed for that story was that Spider-Man was essentially a secondary character, sitting in the background of the more relevant plot. The same thing occurs here, as the Cloak and Dagger battle with Silvermane takes center stage in this one. To be honest, it is the correct call for this story, because it is the most compelling plot that's introduced in the book.
And there's a reason why Cloak and Dagger take center stage here, because they are really cool characters. And their mystique at this point in Spider-history contributes to their intrigue. This is nothing new to the Spider-verse, characters whose popularity skyrocket after their introduction in the pages of a Spider-Man comic occurs fairly regularly. The Punisher, Black Cat, Venom and Silver Sable are the first few that come to mind...and obviously Cloak and Dagger. Spin-off characters are a great thing, a sign that the creative teams are developing interesting characters within the Spider-verse. Of course the collateral damage is that these new characters burn so bright at first (pun intended for Dagger!) that Spidey gets lost in the background. If it happens on a regular basis it's a problem, but for a character like Spider-Man, who has as many core titles as he has, it is bound to happen from time to time. No big deal.
Cloak and Dagger weren't the only two bringing intrigue and novelty into this story. The transformation of Silvermane from dying organic tissue into his iconic bionic body was really well done. I just love the design of that suit, the fact that you can see his heart beating through the glass cover of his chest reveals a certain level of frailty that has become synonymous with Silvermane. It is the perfect endpoint for Silvermane as a character, a villain who has been on a relentless pursuit to evade natural death at any cost would of course end up in a bionic body. I wouldn't have it any other way!
One last thing that really struck me from this story was the art from Hannigan and Milgrom, it was very reminiscent of Steve Ditko's work. The sequencing of the action in the panels and the way Spider-Man's acrobatics are depicted made me feel like I was experiencing Amazing Spider-Man #23 all over again. Intentional or not, the homage to Ditko's style is brilliant and is one of the reasons the action works so well in this story. Maybe I'm seeing things, you be the judge, the panels from this story and Amazing Spider-Man #23 are below.
The debut of Silvermane's iconic bionic body and the mystery shrouding Cloak and Dagger's future drive this one. 3.5 Webs.