Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thirty Days of Graphic Novels, Day Eleven "Shelter From the Storm"

The extraordinarily long title for this is officially "Marvel Graphic Novel: Cloak and Dagger and Power Pack: Shelter From the Storm".  Even abbreviated as MGN:CD&PP:SFS, that's quite a mouthful!  But I digress.

This 1989 tells the tale of two small-town teenagers who decide to run away to the big city.  As with most presentations in the 1980s, New York is portrayed as an urban jungle, full of threats around every corner for the unwary (it seems like every Marvel writer felt this way, but I'm guessing they would have complained if the company moved its headquarters to South Dakota).  These two runaways find shelter quickly at a caring and reputable youth center called "Safe Refuge".  So far, so good, until a rival shelter that is actually a front for a nefarious super-villain kidnaps the youths!  An unconscious and amnesiac Dagger is taken as well.  Erstwhile partner Cloak starts searching for her, but has no luck until he calls in allies in the form of Power Pack.  If I were a super-hero (and I'm not saying I'm not) and needed help searching crime-ridden New York high-and-low at night, I don't think Power Pack would be my first call, but then nobody writes graphic novels about me.  Anyway, the mastermind behind the criminal shelter is a pretty cool-looking villain named Cadaver (whose distorted, disfigured body reminds me very much of Mojo).  Cadaver drains the energy of the youths who come to his "shelter" in order to feed his ravenous hunger.  I think it will not be a spoiler to say that, working together, the good guys win.

I seem to remember a lot of stories published around this time concerning the plight of runaways, with the main worry being of naive youths preyed on by drug and pornography peddlers outside of bus depots.  Comics are as good insight as any into what the public was concerned about at any given time in history.

Shelter From the Storm is perfectly adequate super hero storytelling.  It's nothing that couldn't have been told in a few issues of a regular series, and I don't see anything in particular about it that warranted overside graphic novel format.  It's not an instant classic, doesn't take the characters in a new direction, etc.  That being said, it featured a cool-looking bad guy and that's always a plus.

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