It used to be relatively easy to keep up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, if that was your thing: For five glorious years, all you had to do was go to the movies a couple of times every summer. Then came the ABC shows—Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel’s Agent Carter, and, eventually, Marvel’s Inhumans: more Marvel content, but parceled out in manageable doses every week. Once our systems had learned to tolerate that, Netflix started dumping 13 hours of Marvel’s Daredevil or Marvel’s Jessica Jones all at once, so that the second they released a new series, everyone was hours behind. And now Freeform—the network formerly known as ABC Family—is adding to the giant pile of MCU content with Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger, shrinking even further the already slim number of people who will understand all of the interlocking references and advertisements that will make up the next Marvel film. As the trailer shows, Cloak & Dagger will be Marvel’s take on a young adult love story. Finally: a superhero show for teenagers!
The new show, set in post-Katrina New Orleans, starrs Aubrey Joseph and Olivia Holt as Cloak and Dagger, two teenage superheroes in a romantic relationship. The footage in the trailer seems to be taking its lighting cues from Winter’s Bone more than Marvel’s candy-colored ABC series. But while Winter’s Bone never did anything with its drab colors besides showing the misery of poverty in rural Missouri, Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger has a teenager who can throw daggers made of light, and another teenager who can drag bad guys to a dark dimension using his magic cloak. So this will probably be a slightly more superficial look at New Orleans than, say, Treme, no matter what the cinematography looks like.
And Cloak and Dagger has big shoes to fill when it comes to entertainment products called Cloak and Dagger. First, there’s Fritz Lang’s 1946 Cloak and Dagger, in which Gary Cooper searches Europe for Nazi nuclear scientists. But more importantly, there’s the 1984 Hitchcock-for-kids pastiche Cloak & Dagger—the director of Child’s Play and the director of Psycho II collaborating on a movie for children—in which E.T.’s Henry Thomas gets caught up in an espionage ring that’s smuggling military files hidden in Atari cartridges. It’s possible, of course, that showrunner Joe Pokaski will somehow eclipse the greatest, strangest Cloak & Dagger, but consider this: Does Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger feature Dabney Coleman in a dual role as an absent father and “Jack Flack,” an imaginary friend who happens to be a secret agent? For that matter, does Fritz Lang’s? Exactly. Here’s a scene from the other Cloak & Dagger that takes the kind of cinematic risks Marvel’s probably won’t: stealing directly from The 39 Steps.