Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #6

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This story is part of an Arc: "The Dark Kingdom"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

This review was first published on: 2 May 2016.

Background...

Parker Industries is now a worldwide success. PI’s CEO, Peter Parker, is now a globetrotting mogul who still finds time to fight crime as Spider-Man.

Cloak and Dagger haven’t been seen in the Marvel Universe since before the Secret Wars. When last seen in Spider-Island: Cloak & Dagger #3, the pair had been corrupted by Martin “Mr. Negative” Li’s corrupting touch, switching their powersets and turning them eee-vil. It seemed at that time that they’d regained their moral compasses, though not their original powers, but perhaps not...

In Detail...

"Turnabout"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 4) #6
Mar 2016 : SM Title
Summary: Cloak, Dagger, Mr. Negative
Arc: Part 1 of "The Dark Kingdom"
Writer:  Dan Slott
Pencils:  Matteo Buffagni
Cover Art:  Alex Ross
Lettering:  VC's Joe Caramagna
Colorist:  Marte Gracia
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Review

Three weeks ago, Martin Li is chained up in the hold of a US Department of Justice ship which is suddenly infiltrated by a darkforce-wielding Dagger and a bunch of Mr. Negative’s ninjas, who teleported in courtesy of the lightforce-wielding Cloak. Interestingly, though their colour motifs have switched, Cloak and Dagger retain their original powers of Ranged Combat Expert and Phasing/Teleport. I guess they don’t have new Heroclix dials, just repaints.

They do have new attitudes, though. Dagger is now a haughty dominatrix, while Cloak is perfectly happy to teleport innocent guards kilometres away from the ship into open ocean, where they will certainly drown.

In the hold, the cowering, snivelling Martin Li is transformed back into Mr. Negative, through an application of ‘Shade’, a drug which artificially induces the same changes as Negative’s corrupting touch. Cloak and Dagger have been using it in Mr. Negative’s absence to remain loyal to him.

“I have Cloak and Dagger… under my spell and using drugs. Astounding,” muses Negative. For those who remember the history of these characters, it is astounding, as they’ve spent most of their crimefighting career taking down drug dealers and their ilk. Negative takes control of the ship, but orders it to remain on course. Martin Li was being extradited to mainland China, but there’s no place that Mr. Negative would rather be.

Cut to Parker Industries Shanghai, and presumably to the present day. Peter Parker and his girlfriend Lien are having a picnic lunch on the roof. Lien, for those who need a reminder, was introduced back in Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 4) #1, along with the rest of the PI Shanghai office. She is an ace mechanic and driver who designed the Spider-Mobile. Amusingly, she’s infatuated with Peter Parker but thinks Spider-Man is an overrated glory hog.

Peter is called to a meeting, and the two of them depart for the ground floor via the Spider-Mobile, which - like its predecessor - can drive up and down walls. Once at street level, Peter is pleased to introduce his star scientist, Dr. Phillip Chang, to Qinghao, tycoon and philanthropist, who wants to collaborate with PI on a clean-energy revolution in China. But it’s a CEO’s job to put out fires, so Peter is called away from the meeting to talk to the Chinese police, who are searching his offices.

The police are following up on Zodiac’s raid, also in issue #1, but it seems their presence has less to do with any operational need and more to do with the injured nationalism of Dr. Yao Wu, Peter’s top biochemist, who resented that SHIELD was called in and not the local authorities. Fortunately for Wu, the police are much more chill about foreigners than he is; the police are grateful for Spider-Man’s assistance in recent weeks. In fact, they could use more of his help, what with Mr. Negative and his Inner Demon ninjas running about.

Peter is not pleased to hear that Mr. Negative is on the loose, but before he can do anything about that, he accedes to the police request to to ‘send Spider-Man’ to help with a breaking situation downtown. It seems a disgruntled construction worker is avenging his termination by using a wrecking ball to destroy a skyscraper. Spider-Man, with the help of his fancy new “quick-drying web-cement”, is able to secure the damaged building and restrain the wrecking-ball operator. As it happens, the mayhem wasn’t caused by mere anger, but by drug abuse: the operator had taken Mr. Negative’s drug Shade, which caused him to act the opposite of the way he normally would (which was why he was fired, in fact).

Back at PI, Peter asks Dr. Wu to drop his own work to create a counter-agent to Shade. Dr. Wu seethes at this, but agrees. Then, back in the privacy of his own office, Peter’s accosted by Cloak and Dagger, who teleport their way in to abduct him. He briefly resists, leaving both sides baffled: why is Peter Parker so nimble? Why are Cloak and Dagger wearing the wrong colours, and acting so strangely? Peter figures it out first, but even as he does, Cloak introduces Mr. Negative himself to the picture, who uses his corrupting touch to tag Peter himself.

In General...

Well, I wasn’t expecting that. Mr. Negative, for those keeping score at home, was last seen in the Gerry-Conway-scripted “Spiral” arc (which began in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 3) #16.1, where Spidey knocked him out with one punch. And Cloak and Dagger were power-switched by Negative at the end of their Spider-Island arc, but had their original personalities. Negative believed that Dagger was fated to kill him one day, and was intending to make a deal with the demon D’Spayre to change that. All of this was intended as a set-up for a new Cloak and Dagger ongoing series, but that never came to pass.

Why, might you ask, is that story being resuscitated now, in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man? Because Marvel Entertainment is prepping a Cloak and Dagger TV show, which means the characters need to be put under a bright spotlight, as well as restored to their status quo ante. Trust Dan Slott to find a way to do that while doing minimal damage to continuity… though I do note that D’Spayre and the Dagger-kills-Negative prophecy have been quietly set aside.

Anyway. Aside from all that, this issue does feature some interesting setups, most notably the friction between Peter Parker and Dr. Wu, which illustrates, I suppose, the difficulty with running a multinational corporation, especially in China, which has its own cultural norms, and its own reasons - some well-founded, some not - for resenting outside influences. I’d have preferred more of that, but it would have come at the expense of web-slinging action and clever use of super-gadgetry, which I must admit is this book’s stock-in-trade.

Overall Rating...

Lots of setup here - Negative, Cloak, and Dagger are established as reasonable threats, and the prospect of a corrupted Spider-Man is indeed frightening. But the action is in short bits and spread out throughout the issue, blunting its impact. Not the story’s fault - multi-issue arcs have their own narrative logic - but it does mean this issue doesn’t really gel on its own. Three webs.