About Damn Time: Daughters of the Dragon is the long-running duo of Misty Knight (private investigator turned FBI agent) and Colleen Wing (detective/super samurai), who first teamed together in 1977’s Marvel Team-Up #64. Since then, the pair have made infrequent appearances, always kicking butt and taking names, including a limited series in 2006. With both characters earning high marks via the Netflix Marvel-verse, this tag team is once more given a chance to shine with a recent digital series (now in print for the very first time).
And… Fight!: This collection – titled “Deep Cuts” – collects the first three issues of DotD, as written by Jed MacKay and with art from Travel Foreman, Joe Silver, Joey Vazquez, and Craig Yeung. In this first arc, Wing and Knight come together to figure out which shadowy figure from their past wants Wing dead. (Spoiler: loads of competition.)
The arc itself is masterfully broken down in to three converging storylines, each of which is essentially a standalone piece feeding into a larger, equally rewarding narrative. The first contends with the pair’s run-in with the fiendish Bunraku, who tries to trade Wing to save himself from a slow death via the Death Touch technique. From there, they team up with Nick Fury to take on a former brainwashed H.Y.D.R.A. agent named Winner, who is related to the book’s Big Bad. Finally, in issue 3, they come face-to-face with their adversary, who has a deep and bloody connection to DotD. It feels very much like a story seated deep in the heart of the Marvel Universe – with lots of references and cameos – and yet with a sense of momentum all its own. That connection gives the book real stakes, but it doesn’t prevent the book from focusing on development within its own weird, wacky corner.
Off like a Rocket: Even without spoiling the end, this first arc is an exceptional piece of storytelling. There’s so many elements at play – kidnapped orphans, killer assassin puppets, warrior spirits, aging rock stars, etc. – it’d be easy to get lost in the shiny ephemera. But MacKay (X-Men: To Serve and Protect, Ghost Panther) relies on a few essential pillars to keep everything cohesive. Not just an excellent sense of pacing, and a regular sense of accomplishment or closure for each “chapter,” but the dynamics between characters. That sense of unity and collaboration crucial to great teams is the brilliant glowing heart of this book. Wing and Knight are the closest of allies, and it’s easy to follow them through boundless wackiness given how much you want them to learn and flourish together (or, exchange friendly insults/banter). Teamwork truly does make the dream work.
Talk of the Town: A huge part of the Wing-Knight dynamic is the dialogue between the two. MacKay has totally nailed this back-and-forth that makes you understand the history and emotion shared between the two. It’s sometimes flippant, little more than cutting remarks and random slang and pop culture references. And other times they exchange real emotion (as toward the end, when they strike at the emotional core of their most recent adventure). But no matter how they’re talking to each other, it’s always wildly interesting, the sort of organic convos that aren’t always easy to nail, but when done properly hint at so much of the story and overall history without bogging things down.
Wing and Knight each get their chance to shine individually, and they have subtle styles all their own (Wing is way more prone to shouting and delivering the jokes, while Knight is clearly the adult of the pair and has the one liners to prove it). It’s when they’re bouncing off one another, though, that you get a glimpse at what makes them such an effective pair, and what that ultimately provides. As an extension of that, MacKay ensures every other character has the verbal chops to keep up, and it makes for an all the more effective book with better momentum. It’s sort of like an Aaron Sorkin script, only it feels more relatable and less wildly pretentious.
The Rainbow Approach: MacKay may have the storyline to himself, but there’s so many folks contributing to the artwork. (In addition to the aforementioned, there’s also work from Jordan Gibson, Andres Mossa, Rain Beredeo, and Ferran Delgado, plus a cover from Andrew C. Robinson). Each artists maintains their own style and aesthetic – Foreman’s pencils (chapters 1-2 and 5-6) have a more minimalist lean, with clear influences of Manga and European comics, compared to the cleaner, highly stylized work of Vazquez in chapters 3-4. While it’s subtle, there’s still a sense of cohesion between these works. This thread of visuals that not only enhances the story, but mirrors the book’s kinetic pace and frequent change of scenery and overall focus. It’s undoubtedly a real feat balancing so many artistic chefs in the kitchen, but that sheer volume does wonders for the book’s sense of self, a title brimming with a vigor that can’t be contained by the panels alone.
A New Beginning: In just three issues, the creators have accomplished quite a feat – crafting a book that feels connected to some of its primary character and story roots while pushing toward a future with new threads. DotD feels like it’s been around for so much longer than it has, and that’s because all the elements work in such unison. More than that, the series has created a place in the MU that feels so essentially open-ended, and there’s so many ways these two can move forward.
Whether part of bigger storylines, or just operating in its own corner, the book excels because it so perfectly recreates friendship. The magic and mundanity, the peaks and valleys, of supporting and loving another person through thick (H.Y.D.R.A. attacking a putt-putt) and thin (relationship woes). (Or is that vice versa?) Wing and Knight are great characters, and their dynamic is the purring engine of a deeply entertaining book that eats genres for dinner and spits out pure fun.
Closing Thoughts: Wing and Knight need a couple’s name (the mark of all truly amazing friendships). Kning? Wight? Comment below.
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