Created by Martha Thomases
Red-headed former fashion model turned private eye DAKOTA NORTH originally ran a New York-based international troubleshooting agency, North Security, in a short-lived Marvel comic book from the eighties. Alas, the inspiration seemed to be more Charlie's Angels than Ms. Tree.
Still, Ms. North seemed to be doing okay, what with offices in New York, Paris, Rome and Tokyo; or at least well enough to finance her seemingly endless supply of red motorcycles and skin-tight black jumpsuits (Well, she was a Marvel comic heroine --what else would she fight crime in?).
'Course, even a jetsetting take-charge kinda gal needs a bit of help every now and then. Pitching in were Dakota's brother, Ricky, and her faithful assistant, Mad Dog." Meanwhile, lurking just out of sight was her dad, Samuel J. "SJ" North, a retired agent of some unnamed U.S. intelligence agency.
Big guns, a little cleavage, and lots of things exploding seemed to be the main points of interest in the series, and it was scrapped after just five issues, leaving a case that began in issue three, involving super-models and nerve gas hidden in an antique pen unresolved.
However, Dakota has rather remarkable staying power for the star of a failed (and it must be admitted, rather lame and embarrassing) series. Just a little over a year later, she popped up in Web of Spider-Man, helping Spidey capture The Slasher, a serial killer who'd been murdering fashion models with a straight razor, with Mary Jane Watson (Spidey's sweetie) one of his intended targets.
Subsequently, she popped up in assorted Marvel books, most notably in an arc in the Cage series (featuring superpowered "hero-for-hire" Luke Cage) in the early nineties and finally as a supporting character in Daredevil in 2006. By that point, most of the more ridiculous trappings of her earlier incantations were gone, replaced by a calm, competent professional put on retainer by the law firm Nelson & Murdock as an investigator and bodyguard (Jessica Jones, who formerly held the position, was the one who recommended her for the job) while Matt Murdock (aka "Daredevil") languished in prison.
What made this unexpected renaissance so appealling was its suprisingly mature, almost-noirish (and decidedly non-spandex, at least in the case of Dakota) tone. It's the first time she's seemed like anything other than a preposterously bad joke. But then, the arc was scripted by Ed Brubaker and illustrated by Michael Lark, who've done some damn fine P.I. comic work over the years, including The Little Sister, a graphic novel adaptation of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe novel and Scene of the Crime, still one of the best comic book P.I. stories I've ever read.
Although Dakota has flitted in and out of the Daredevil stories since then, making a cameo here, or playing a pivotal but brief role there, and even occasionally disappearing for a few issues, it's still got to be one of the most satisfying character turnarounds in comics history, particularly in the "Cruel and Unusual" arc (issues #107-110), co-written with Brubaker's old pal Greg Rucka, a man who knows a thing or two about crime and comics himself. Dakota works to free a man on death row, prompted by Luke Cage, and realizes she's beginning to have feelings for Murdock, her boss. This was the real deal -- picking up Brubaker and Lark's lead, Rucka delivered a taut, terse and decidedly adult burst of honest-to-goodness detective fiction driven more by character and plot than endless, ridiculous fight scenes.
But after that glorious run in Daredevil... nada.
A new Dakota North mini-series was rumoured to be in the works, but other than a few cameos in a handful of titles, Dakota seems to have fallen back into the shadows.
Although Dakota was introduced in issue #82, and is very much a part of the cast, the issues marked by an asterisk feature her in a more pivotal role.
At this point, Marvel reverted to their old numbering system.
AND IF YOU DIG THIS, CHECK OUT:
Private Eyes of the Marvel Universe.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith, with a special thanks to John McDonagh for the heads up.
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