I have this not-so-secret desire to learn close up magic and anytime I read a story or watch a movie about magic I consider purchasing one of those starter kits and learning a couple of coin manipulation and card passes. That’s pretty much the only reason I decided to check out Cloaks #1 by Caleb Monroe and Mariano Navarro with David Henrie (the geeky older brother from Wizards of Waverly Place) credited as its creator. I thought it’d be able to scratch my magic itch until the last of Lev Grossman’s Magicians series arrives at my local library. For the most part, Cloaks doesn’t cut it in the manner I hoped it would, at least not yet. Cloaks follows Adam D’Aquino, a young street illusionist who performs as the masked The Kid at random NYC locales and has a huge social media following and persona akin to street artist Banksy. When not making bull statues disappear in front of large audiences, Adam steals from the corrupt and wealthy to help fund the orphanage he formerly stayed at ala Robin Hood.
The premiere issue starts at the funeral of Adam’s magic instructor and father figure John Blackstone where we’re also introduced to his adoptive brother Will who returns later in the issue. From there on, the issue sees a day in the life of Adam four years later (he looks about 16, but he’s probably at least 18) going to a performance in the street where he meets a tourist named Evy hoping to catch one of the Kid’s shows only to be surprised when Adam puts on his The Kid disguise. The last few pages of this issue setup the rest of the series as Adam is captured by the titular Cloaks organization, facing either jail time or the option of aiding them.
I could see Cloaks becoming a noteworthy comic with some time for Monroe to refine Adam’s personality, and make him more than just a benevolent bad boy. So far we don’t know much about him other than that he’s lost his biological parents, smirks quite often, looks a hell of a lot like Tim Drake, and busts out some new skill every couple of pages in addition to the whole magician thing.
Monroe also does himself an injustice by introducing a whole slew of characters that seem to be important to Adam, but that we only see for a page or two. I had to read the issue twice before recognizing that Will reappears years later to assist Adam, a goatee aging him far beyond a mere four years as well as appearing in just one panel of the latter half of the issue. It also doesn’t help that most of the dialogue exists merely to deliver exposition, or to let us know just how cool Adam is to everyone but the reader. I was disappointed that the writers didn’t feel that creating illusions wasn’t sufficient enough for a skill set, and decided that Adam needed to do parkour and martial arts.
Mariano Navarro’s art is pretty by the books stuff, and I was left a little flustered by how he chose to illustrate Adam’s illusions. Rather than letting us view them from Adam’s perspective to gain some insight into his craft, Navarro simply sets up the illusion and then skips to the end result. Because of this I was never impressed by what Adam is able to accomplish since his feats seem more a trick of editing on the part of Navarro than any sort of real consideration of each illusion’s feasibility.
The end page shouldn’t come to a surprise to anyone, but since my library probably won’t be getting The Magician’s Land for another month I’ll check in next issue to see if things pick up once Adam officially the Cloaks organization. Here’s hoping he doesn’t end up acquiring super strength.
Writer: Caleb Monroe Artist: Mariano Navarro Publisher: BOOM! Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 9/3/14 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital