Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Premiere Hardcover, 2008
The first story arc in the CLANDESTINE ongoing series is titled "Family Reunion". In it, we meet the core cast: siblings Walter, Dominic, Samantha, Kay, Rory, and Pandora. The last two are the youngest and initially believe themselves to be the niece and nephew of Walter, but they soon learn they are his younger brother and sister, and that everyone they had been told was an aunt or uncle is actually a sibling.

There are other Destines who pop up here and there, notably genius Newton, who lives in a parallel universe, and Gracie, the family mystic -- but the above characters comprise the core cast. Additionally, by the end of the first four-part story arc, we meet Adam Destine, the family's father -- who sired all of his offspring with an otherworldly genie.

Davis builds quite a mythology for the Destines, and he has stated that he has a great deal of their past -- they are all immortal -- mapped out. Unfortunately, in the twenty or so years since CLANDESTINE premiered, Davis has had barely any chances to flesh that history out. There have been, as of this writing, a grand total of eighteen issues published by Marvel featuring the ClanDestine characters. The reason, sadly, would seem to be that they just aren't that interesting.

It's clear that Davis has a great affection for these characters, revisiting them as often as Marvel will allow, but having read all of their adventures in quick succession, I don't find much appeal in them. In the initial eight issues presented in CLANDESTINE CLASSIC, I was far more interested in the cameos from other parts of the Marvel Universe. MODOK and AIM play an extremely minor role in the creation of the first story arc's villain, and the Silver Surfer has a guest-spot as well; and the second arc fearures Rory and Pandora attempting to become Spider-Man's sidekicks. The last issue has a brief World War II flashback appearance by Captain America and the Invaders.

But through all that, the main characters in the book failed to hold my interest. Davis tries to set up mysteries and conflicts for them, but with only one exception -- the frequently hinted notion that Adam was forced to kill his son Vincent at some point in the past -- none of these are enough to pique my interest. And beyond that, their personalities are mostly uninteresting as well. I like Kay, the über hedonist, and the kids, Rory and Pandora, are fun, but that's really about it.

I was excited to finally read X-MEN AND THE CLANDESTINE -- not for the ClanDestine characters, but because this was, to me, a "lost" tale from one of my favorite X-eras -- 1996 (think somewhere in the year or so between "Age of Apocalypse" and "Onslaught"). Unfortunately, this story is little better than the others in the book. Davis uses some reality-warping trickery to get X-characters of all eras into the story, but in the end the only real X-Men involved --outside of a brief cameo scene by the "original five" (plus Cannonball) during the story's outset -- are Wolverine, Storm, Forge, Colossus, and Professor X (and Colossus and Forge weren't even X-Men at the time!).

My last criticism of CLANDESTINE is the scripting. I loved Davis's writing on EXCALIBUR -- both plot and script were top-notch. But here, ironically writing characters of his own creation, Davis's scripting comes off as stilted and somewhat awkward. Perhaps this is due to a different editor. For all his faults, EXCALIBUR editor Terry Kavanagh was a writer by trade. CLANDESTINE editor Paul Neary is known primarily as an artist.

Now, for all the negatives I found in these stories, there is of course one silver lining -- and it's huge: Alan Davis's artwork is, as always, spectacular. As uninteresting as I find the characters, I like the majority of the Destines' visual designs. Samantha in particular is quite striking, with the ability to create armor and swords from thin air. And the kids, in their superhero costumes, are a lot of fun as well. Beyond that, Davis handles Spider-Man well, drawing him in the "huge eyes" style which was in vogue at the time. And it is always, always a huge treat to see Davis illustrate the X-Men. And as noted above, the reality warp he employs for the crossover allows him to draw X-characters past and present, and even a villain or two as well.

Samantha Destine, armored and... less than armored.
(Love those strategically shredded pajamas!)
So while I'm not sure I'll ever go back to read this book again, I'll certainly keep it on my shelf so I can admire the pretty pictures. The book itself is quite a handsome volume, too: a sturdy hardcover with a slick black dust jacket. If nothing else, at least it classes up the bookcase.

Next: Alan Davis returns to the Destines over ten years later!

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