Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Mike Richardson
Artwork: Jordi Armengol
Lettering: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Release Date: 15th December 2021
Twenty-five years ago a masked hero arrived on the streets of America, meting out his own brand of justice and gradually transitioning from violent vigilante to national hero to living icon… before disappearing without a trace. Enter disgraced former detective and current private investigator Jake Stevens, who is hired by billionaire Byron West to investigate the hero’s disappearance in the hopes of cementing his legacy once and for all. However, it quickly becomes clear that Jake’s investigation may quickly end up exposing the hidden truth behind the mask.
Cloaked, on sale today week from Dark Horse Comics, sees series writer Mike Richardson laying the Batman comparisons on pretty thick right from the get-go. It’s clearly by design though, and the execution throughout this first issue in establishing both tone and mythology is admirable. The hero in question – dubbed “The Reaper” by the criminal fraternity – is a blend of the Caped Crusader and the Punisher, swooping down from the shadows with his sidekick “Wonder Boy” and dispatching justice in a hail of bullets.
Having Jake Stevens as a flawed, skeptical bystander who’s clearly only in it for the money adds an interesting wrinkle to the proceedings, and his first port of call – a catch-up with the aforementioned sidekick – definitely goes a long way towards showing the cracks which are beginning to form in the icon’s façade. I also particularly like the way Richardson keeps The Reaper as an enigmatic, larger than life character to be viewed from afar, never once showing us anything from the his perspective and keeping everything about him a mystery to be drip-fed gradually.
While I’ll admit that I’m not too familiar with Jordi Armengol’s work, the Spanish artist feels like a perfect fit for the tone of this story, packing the pages with shadows, menace and grit. There’s a faintly stylised approach to the action that works beautifully, and while the occasional facial expression doesn’t quite land in the scenes based around Jake’s investigation, the sequences featuring the Reaper doing his thing are nothing short of stunning.
It feels like there’s a “twist” which is being fairly heavily signposted given the apparently Batman parallels, although that remains to be seen. Regardless, this is certainly an intriguing opening chapter for a series that feels like it hasn’t quite hit its full stride yet. The groundwork has been confidently laid though, and with some striking artwork, an engaging tone and an eyebrow-raising cliffhanger, this is definitely a series I’m going to be keeping an eye on.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]