Wednesday, November 6, 2013


TPB, 2012
In 2009, shortly following the conclusion of the CLANDESTINE: BLOOD RELATIVE limited series, Alan Davis began work on a trio of annuals for Marvel which would continue the Destines' story. Each of these annuals would headline a different Marvel character, and Destines would be supporting characters in each. The stories would be designed to be read individually if desired; however, if read together, the three annuals would tell one overarching ClanDestine tale.

All three annuals eventually saw release in 2012. The first, FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #33, features the Thing and the Human Torch working with Dr. Strange to investigate the energy escaped from Vincent Destine's grave at the end of BLOOD RELATIVE. The Torch and the Thing are hurled back through time, where they encounter Vincent at various points in his life before finally witnessing his long-hinted death at his father's hands: Adam was forced to take Vincent's life when his reality warping powers ran amok.

The story is decent and it's nice to finally see Vincent's death, but after all the buld-up, it seems anti-climactic. We see the character at various stages of his life, but none of those stages do a particularly good job of foreshadowing his eventual breakdown. Also, Davis doesn't quite have a handle on the Thing's "voice", so much of his dialogue in particular is stilted and disjointed.

Next up, DAREDEVIL ANNUAL #1 features the scarlet swashbuckler's encounter with Kay and Dominic Destine as they comb Manhattan for a murderous escaped robot called a Plastoid (apparently a Stan Lee creation from his original DAREDEVIL run in the 60s). Dominic believes Vincent's spirit lives in the robot, but Kay disagrees. Daredevil eventually helps Kay destroy the Plastoid and the Destines escape -- but Dr. Strange, who has observed the entire affair, seems unconvinced the threat is ended.

Of the three annuals, this is my favorite, head and shoulders above the other two. Davis manages to pull off a perfect Frank Miller act here, drawing on Daredevil's colorful past while keeping the story grounded in the sort of hard-boiled world for which DD is best known. Even the rampaging robot is presented realistically enough to fit into the character's "street level" world. The bit with Vincent inhabiting the robot almost seems superfluous though, functioning as an unnecessary second act just to get the Destines involved. The story would have worked fine without their inclusion, and as the following installment shows, the Vincent mystery could have jumped directly from the FANTASTIC FOUR annual to the WOLVERINE one without any feeling of moving too fast or leaving anything out.

Not from this particular story, but this
is how Wolverine should be drawn!
Which brings us to the final (to date) adventure starring the Destines: WOLVERINE ANNUAL #1, in which the eponymous Canucklehead is summoned by Kay to help track Vincent. It seems Wolverine and Kay had a fling at some point in the past, and she feels she knows him well enough to entreat his aid. It should be noted that Wolverine also has a history with Kay's father Adam, as revealed in X-MEN AND THE CLANDESTINE, and expanded upon here though a dream sequence flashback at the story's start.

It seems Vincent's spirit had taken up residence in the Museum of Natural History, where Daredevil and Kay destroyed the Plastoid. Kay leads Wolverine into the museum while, at the same time, the rest of the Destines have arrived in New York and reunited with Dominic. Dr. Strange appears and follows them into the museum as well. Inside, Vincent has turned the world into a reality-warped madhouse, forcing our heroes to kill him... again.

I have to admit, I don't think I really followed this story. Vincent was a sweet kid and a pretty gentle teenager when we met him in the F.F. Annual. In the Daredevil story, inhabiting the body of the Plastoid, he becomes a serial killer, murdering people across the city to regain his powers. By the Wolveine story, it seems he's planning to conquer or destroy the world or something. He claims he's not evil, but all those murders would tend to dispute that statement. This is perhaps Davis doing an "absolute power corrupts" story, but if so, he doesn't really sell it. It just sort of happens with no build-up. Vincent was pretty innocent when he died, but he comes back as a murderer. I don't buy it.

That said, Davis draws an outstanding Wolverine, as usual. For years I felt he had trouble with the "wings" on the character's mask, but in this story he seems to be drawing the John Cassaday design from ASTONISHING X-MEN, which shrunk those wings considerably. I feel that Davis handles this look better than anyone, Cassaday himself included.

So that's it -- the full saga of the ClanDestine as of this writing. Though the characters never really grabbed me, there was some good plotting by Alan Davis, and it's clear he enjoys the concept. But for me, the best parts of all these series were the bits where the Destines met other Marvel characters. And as I've said several times, if nothing else, the art is spectacular.

Note: This volume also contains a Thor one-shot by Davis, titled THE TRUTH OF HISTORY. Though I read it, I did not review it here, as it has nothing to do with the ClanDestine (though Davis has indicated he recycled an unused CLANDESTINE plot for the story). I will state for the record, however, that the "classical" style lettering used for the Asgardians in this story is horrendous and nigh-impossible to read easily. How such an ugly font slipped through every editorial and production stage mystifies me.

No comments:

Post a Comment