Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dakota North #1 (June 1986)

Title: Design for Dying
Cover: Tony Salmons
Script: Martha Thomases
Art: Tony Salmons
Colors: Christie Scheele
Letters: Jim Novak
Editor: Larry Hama
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter
Cover Price: $0.75
Cover Date: June 1986
Release Date: February 1986
Synopsis: Dakota North was certainly a departure from Marvel’s standard lineup of titles when it hit the spinner rack in 1986. The eponymous series about former model turned detective was a bit of Charlie's Angels crossed with Mike Hammer in a brief run that was glamorous and globe-trotting in equal measure. Looking back it was also a bit silly and inconsistently executed, so it doesn't necessarily stand the test of time the way so many of Marvel’s gems do from the 1980s. Nonetheless, it was a really fun series for the fourteen year-old me at the time and it still holds a sentimental place in my heart.

The first issue introduces Dakota North and her supporting cast and immediately drops her into a complicated web of intrigue that involves a fashion designer in mortal danger, a very hostile corporate takeover and a mysterious woman seeking revenge on Dakota’s father. I actually had to re-read the issue three times to figure out the hostile takeover plot, which makes me wonder whether the writing was actually really clever or just really bad. In light of my nostalgic fondness for the title, I’ll give Martha Thomases the benefit of the doubt and assume that it was really clever writing.

For those of you who will never actually read the comic, here’s a brief summary: Dakota demonstrates her beauty and brass on a firing range before getting a call from a fashion designer Luke Jacobson whose life is being threatened. Dressed in her signature skintight leather pants, Dakota jumps onto her motorcycle and heads to his Seventh Avenue studio. Arriving during a fashion shoot, she is mistaken for a model and instructed by a photographer to change clothes. Dakota is then handed a makeup case, but surmises that it’s actually a bomb, hurling it through a window and saving the day just before it explodes.

The scene then cuts to a video arcade where we meet Dakota’s apparently estranged father and her 12 year-old brother Ricky. Her father tells Ricky that he needs to go live with his sister for a while he takes care of some personal business. The boy protests, but a bribe of $200 a week from his father convinces him to acquiesce. Meanwhile, Dakota and Luke compare notes while touring the Guggenheim Museum on the Upper East Side of New York City. Luke tells Dakota that he has had death threats and other trouble ever since he sold his fashion label to a conglomerate by the name of Rycom.

At Rycom, the mystery is revealed and further complicated in one fell swoop.  Rycom executive Cleo Vanderlip outlines her plan to bankrupt her own company by sabotaging Luke Jacobson’s fashion business with the goal of seizing control of the company while it is in a state of financial distress. Cleo says that the scheme will provide her and her assistant Anna with the money and power necessary to accomplish their true ends, which remain a mystery. Cleo also relishes the opportunity to seek revenge on Dakota and her father Samuel James North.  Dun Dun Dun…

Ricky arrives at Dakota's apartment, much to the surprise of his sister who is settling in for a potentially romantic evening with Detective Amos Culhane. Dakota launches her investigation into who might be responsible behind the threats to Luke Jacobson’s business and the next day Luke is kidnapped from Rycom’s offices by masked thugs. Dakota chases the criminals through the streets of New York on her motorcycle, ultimately driving through the front window Bloomingdale's and up the escalator to head off her quarry. She rescues Luke, who is enormously grateful. “Dakota, You were absolutely mythic.”

That evening, a silent alarm is tripped that Dakota placed in Luke’s showroom and she goes to investigate. She finds Luke’s assistant Anna, who we now know is a confederate of Cleo, who says that the showroom was robbed by a group led by a German man named Otto Shanks and that she overhead them plan a rendezvous at a warehouse at the corner of West and Christopher. Dakota goes to the scene with Luke in tow at his insistence where she surprises Otto Shanks and his henchmen shortly after Cleo departs the scene. A fight erupts and Dakota and Luke flee the building.

Ricky makes a surprise appearance and Otto is shot dead by Dakota while Cleo watches from a distance. “We’ll meet again, Ms. North. And you’ll pay for this.”  Chalk up a win for the good guys, but Cleo’s grand design is still a mystery and the danger to Dakota and her family seems to be worse than ever. Plus it turns out that she's married. The plot thickens. To be continued next issue in Pet Tricks.

Source: Kraalo  Archives, Marvel Comics

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