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June 11, 2018

Cloak & Dagger Is A Different Marvel Show, And That’s Good

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Written by: Rodney Brown
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Two episodes in, Freeform’s first show in the Marvel universe is breaking new ground for both the young adult channel and the MCU TV world. Cloak & Dagger, which premiered on the streaming channel Freeform June 7 with the first two, hour-long, episodes, is tonally more like the FX shows Justified or Atlanta than any of the Netflix Marvel shows, for all their grittiness.

Cloak & Dagger is the story of the interconnected lives of Tyrone Johnson and Tandy Bowen, the respective title characters (assuming they get hero names at some point). The TV series moves the action from New York of the comics to New Orleans, giving the show even more atmosphere to draw from. And the way in which Tandy and Ty meet and how the get their complementary powers is different than in the comics. But the fact that both are dealing with tragedy, and the nature of their powers are pretty much the same as in the comics.

Speaking of which, Cloak and Dagger were created by the writer and artist team of Bill Mantlo and Ed Hannigan, and first appeared in issue #64 of the book they were working on in 1982, Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man. The pair got their own title for a while, shared a title with Doctor Strange for a bit, and are now mostly tertiary heroes that sometimes show up in big crossover events. Not exactly the kind of track record you would think of when pitching a new TV show.

It seems like series creator Joe Pokaski, however, saw the potential in a story about two young people with troubled pasts who are connected by that past and by their unique powers. Ty has the ability to manifest a mist-like darkness that he can use to cloak himself, apparently teleport and possibly become intangible (that is a power from the comics, but two episodes in and both characters are trying to figure out what their powers can do). Tandy can create powerful light from her hands that she can solidify into crystal-like daggers.

Pokaski, who was a co-executive producer on Netflix’s Daredevil, is listed as the creator of the show, and seems to be the writer of all episodes, according to IMDb. That would explain the consistent tone of the show, but doesn’t explain why Cloak & Dagger is so different. The show is not afraid to use visual storytelling in place of dialogue, and does so with great effect. The first episode may have fewer words of dialogue than any single hour of superhero entertainment to date. And when it does, the writing is solid, and the characters say believable things. There is a moment between Ty and his mother (the wonderful Gloria Reuben) that lasts just a couple of minutes and is absolute heart-wrenching.

Also, don’t think the show is light on dialogue because the actors aren’t up to it. Olivia Holt as Tandy and Aubrey Joseph as Ty are excellent, and believable as two kids dealing with tragedy in two different but realistic ways. Holt is a Disney kid, and in addition to a number of series for the Mouse, she has done voice work for one of the many Tinker Bell movies and the animated series Ultimate Spider-Man. Joseph has fewer credits to his name, but one is the well-reviewed HBO mini-series The Night Of.

As of yet, there is no Big Bad villain such as Kingpin or Kilgrave. But the show may not have one — the comic book focused more on the two of them fighting the drug trade in New York than any single super-villain nemesis. But, we are just two episodes in, and the Marvel comics version of evil Big Industry, Roxxon Corp., already plays an important role in the story so that may be where we get anything like a singular villain of the piece.

I recommend Cloak & Dagger highly. It deals with serious issues in a serious manner while not being an emo downer of a show, and is tonally much more adult than anything on Freeform. It is more like the gritty Marvel Netflix shows, but somehow seeming even more grounded in reality. One warning — there is an attempted rape, but in keeping with the quality of writing of the show, it isn’t a forced plot element but something that makes logical (if disturbing) sense (that it would happen not that it should, to be clear) based on the plot and characters up to that point.

 

 



About the Author

Rodney Brown





 
 

 
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