The proto-Jessica Jones gets her time to shine in this collection.
Chances are you saw this article and wondered, “Who the fuck is Dakota North?” Truth be told, she’s a Z-list Marvel character, and I don’t even really understand why they’re putting out a collection of her appearances. In a lot of ways, she is the proto Jessica Jones: a smart-talking, tough and badass private investigator who rides around on a motorbike and bashes bad guys. Dakota has a flair for the dramatic, and her first stories in the Marvel universe heavily involved the fact that before being a PI she was a high fashion model. There’s a very heartfelt and cute foreword by the writer who created Dakota, Martha Tomases, detailing how she came to be in the comic world and what plans she had for Dakota had her solo series lasted longer.
Luckily, I think I know why this collection was released: A while ago, there was a very small and meandering rumor that CB Cebulski (who you might now know as the editor-in-chief of Marvel’s publishing branch) wanted to write a miniseries about Dakota North. There hasn’t been much of anything about that in a few years, but with him now running the show at Marvel, we might have Dakota back in our midst soon.
This collection includes two one-issue appearances she made in Spider-Man and Power Pack. These two are fairly standard for the time and only have Dakota as a bit player, so I suspect they’re really just there to pad out the trade. Despite that, they were still enjoyable and helped to broaden the scope of Dakota’s influence (as little as there is) on the MU. The art in the Web of Spider-Man issue was actually really nice, and seeing rough and tough Dakota tag along with the Power Pack kids was very cute.
The other two stories that dominate the bulk of this trade are Dakota’s original solo series and select issues from Ed Brubaker’s Daredevil in which Dakota played a major part. The Daredevil stuff was where I originally read Dakota and is also one of my favorite runs on the series. It felt a little out of context in this collection, but that run is so airtight that taking any portion from it would feel that way. That being said, it was very indicative of who Dakota is and what kind of role she could play if the right writer got a hold of her (wink wink @ CB).
Her original solo series is not anything to write home about, but it is an enjoyable read, and I really liked the fashion designer aspects of it. Tomases’s comment in the foreword about there not really being a fashion-centric character in superhero comics was totally correct, and I appreciate the attempt to do something different, even if it didn’t work sometimes. The art is a little wonky because it’s obviously a retouched and colored older comic — some of the coloring just doesn’t look natural. There was actually one panel where I thought there was a printing error, but no…that’s just how it was colored.
Design for Dying might seem like a strange release currently, but hopefully with a little Marvel magic and the support of Marvel’s new EiC, Dakota North can go from nobody to somebody. I really enjoyed this trade and would recommend it to anyone who just wants to read some fun and lighthearted comics. Even if you don’t know who Dakota North is, or why she has such a stupid name, pick this up if you get the chance because I can feel in my bones that Dakota is the next big thing.