Cloaked is a new three-issue series from Dark Horse Comics that Batman fans should check out. An analog for Batman is not a new thing in comics, but it’s always intriguing as it allows the creators to explore the vigilante superhero in ways you’d never see from DC Comics. It’s also a means to understand a hero in a more realistic setting. Case in point, Cloaked explores a gun-toting antihero who has disappeared, and an ex-detective is on the case to figure out where he went.
The first thing you’ll notice when you open this comic is the hyper-realistic style by Jordi Armengol. City streets, vehicles, and weaponry all look as close to reality as comics can get without being a photograph. It instantly transports you to a world that’s believable. The style is ever so slightly different from our own, especially the main superhero’s vehicle which has a Silver Age comics vibe. In general, the art has a thinner line that allows for more precise details.
The book is about a hero known as The Reaper to bad guys and The Sentinel to the public. Both convey a sense of authoritarianism as he wields two very big guns and kills with impunity. Little is known about him save for some familiar Batman tropes, like a clown enemy he fights in a flashback and a sidekick similar to Robin.
Mike Richardson crafts an absorbing story here, starting with the shock and awe of the hero to start the book and then a mystery worth solving. The main character is Roger Stevens, a down-on-his-luck type who is characterized as invisible at one point. He’s asked by a very wealthy man to find out facts on what happened to The Reaper. As the story unfolds, we meet some colorful figures who are edgy and believable enough to be real.
The meatiest part of the first issue involves the sidekick to the Reaper dishing to Roger about The Reaper. It’s a compelling angle on the sidekick trope and makes a lot of sense. If a Batman analog like Reaper is willing to kill, how might he treat a young boy sidekick? Richardson explores that element well here and goes fairly dark with the concept.
The art isn’t so great with faces, however, with the sidekick scene rendering their eyes in shadow. It creates a creepy effect, but also dehumanizes them and loses the realism element. In fact, literally no eyes are rendered in the issue, making everyone feel ghostly. Facial expressions are generally good, but body language can look stiff at times which isn’t helped with lengthy, dialogue-driven scenes.
Cloaked is an interesting superhero story thanks to its slightly different take on a vigilante hero who wears black and fights crime in the night. What’s most compelling is how the Reaper is rendered to look very cool and almost romanticized, yet all the facts show he’s a cold killer unworthy of admiration. What’s set up here is a story worth reading, especially since at just three issues we’ll likely get all the answers we need in a tight package.
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