Or – “The Family That Punches Together, Gets A Sequel A Decade Later…” 

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Let us go back, ladles and jellyspoons, to a far-flung time in our nation’s distant past.  As the years pile up in our wake, we travel back to another age, so different from our own as to be like a different world…  1994.  Bill Clinton was president, most of you weren’t even able to type yet, the Internet was still just USENET, Stephen was single, and I was just about to get married.  In the midst of the chaos that was comics (think teeth and claws, bad girls, Venom, Wolverine, dark and gritty, and EVERYONE had “Blood” in their name) there came a quirky little concept from Alan Davis that harkened back to the Silver Age of comics.  The adventures of teen superheroes Crimson Crusader and Imp and their uncle-slash-caregiver seemed to be a throwback to an earlier time in comics, but turned out to be something even more wonderful:  a throwback to ALL the earlier times in comics, in pulps, in adventure fiction itself!

Previously, on ClanDestine: Hundreds of thousands of years ago, a young man named Adam of Ravenscroft had a terrible accident that should have killed him outright.  Instead, he had a miraculous recovery, aided by a strange dream of a beautiful glowing woman, and found that he could not be injured.  Eventually, Adam encountered the strange woman (actually a genie) and began to be fruitful and multiply.  Over the centuries, his various offspring discovered that theyClanDestineC_1.jpgwere just as unusual as Pater Familias, and one of them realized that this made them ALL targets, and the family decided to separate and keep separate to protect one another, the “Relative Stranger” protocols.  Adam became angry at this decision, and left Earth entirely (flying through space in a psychedelic VW van, much to the consternation of the Silver Surfer, I might add) a few years before Rory and Pandora Destine were born.  If you’ve never read ClanDestine, that’s really all you need to know. 

If you HAVE read it, one more caveat applies:  the events of ClanDestine 8-12 (the ones not written by creator Alan Davis) did not happen, the Destines did not become superheroes who fought AIM, and Vincent was not resurrected.  Turns out, it was all Rory’s dream, a dream in which “the family were acting all out of character.”  This issue kicks off with Spider-Man (!) overwhelmed by a dozen of his most dangerous foes (most of which are dead, actually.)  Suddenly, the Crimson Cruader and Imp arrive to save his bacon!  CC saves Spidey, who apologizes for forcing him to go home the last time they met and offers to team up now that he doesn’t need to be close to his sister, Imp, for his powers to work.  Crusader replies that he still kinda does, before noticing she’s gone and falling to his death…

…whereupon  he wakes up in an even more life-threateningly worse situation, English public school.  The teacher chides him for his sleepiness, and awkwardly claims that she’ll call his parents before remembering that they’re orphans.  Rory and Pandora take off, and I marvel at how awesome Alan Davis’ art is, going from superheroes to regular-looking kids in blazers and school uniforms and making each look amazing.  We then cut to some mysterious hooded force analyzing the members of the family, easily identifying Rory as Crimson Crusader and Pandora as Imp by facial structure and flaming red hair.  They also provide a clever way of identifying each family member (Uncle Wally as the blue monster Wallop, Dominic as Hex, Samantha as Argent, and Aunt/Grandma/Big Sister Kay as Cuckoo.)  The entire family is under scrutiny, even identifying Dominic’s past career as a young Houdini…  Whomever this is, is very good at their job, and Davis manages to give us a ton of exposition without making it seem awkward or shoe-horned in.

Back at the Ravenscroft family estate, Walter and Kay argue over the household chores (she doesn’t DO menial tasks) while Samantha tries to get Papa Adam to “crack their heads togther” like a proper father would.  He responds that he can’t do that, as “the fact that I look so much younger than most of my children is counter to the patriarchal paradigm and diminishes my authority.”  Heh.  I really enjoy the detached and ethereal nature of Adam’s dialogue here.  Samantha continues on to visit Dominic, putting on his Hex costume.  The Hex suit is a beautiful piece of design work that nobody other than it’s creator can ever seem to draw right, and evokes Steve Ditko’s design for the Creeper.  Dominic’s already-superhuman senses have expanded even further, and he is nearly debilitated by the myriad of signals in the air.  In a very cute moment, Dom realizes the kids are watching, and says that they’re too young to see the “alien artifact,” then quickly catches the twins to tease them.  They explain that they flew home from school early, just as Walter arrives angry about that same fact.  He loses control, transforming into his muscular blue Wallop form as Adam Destine doubles over in pain not far away.

Walter sends the children to eat their supper and go straight to bed, then smashes a nearby oak screaming how he is not like Vincent, as Adam watches sadly.  The invulnerable man has felt pain for the first time in years, and it troubles him.  “This new sensation that flames my nerves is unfamiliar.  Something else breaches my invulnerability…  Something evil.”  Uh oh.  Meanwhile, the mysterious “Guild of Something Or Other” (certainly not of Malicious Intent, I hope) sets in motion a plan to take out the Destines, informing an old group of enemies, The Omegans of their location.  Out in the woods behind Ravenscroft, Kay tries to talk with her father, but Adam isn’t interested in her hedonistic viewpoint, so she tries to link his mind with Rory’s dreams of heroism.  The feedback causes both of them to be knocked down, and she remarks that his precognition/clairvoyance is particularly intense.  Adam gravely remarks “It has rarely been this extreme.”  Glancing over his shoulder at his lost son Vincent, he intones, “Only once before, in fact.”  As we close the issue, Kay snarkily remarks “I can live with that, as long as I’m not the one who suffers and dies.”  As she speaks, we see her head through a sniper scope…  DUM DUM DAAAAH!!!

It was faithful spoilerite Bruce/Prisoner who really hooked me on ClanDestine, back in the day, and it’s been far too long since we’ve revisited these characters.  As long as you’ve already got some background, this issue is very compelling, with a lot of setup, a lot of character moments for the large cast, and a lot of “sense of impending doom.”  I don’t know how well it would fly for the first-time reader, but I suspect it’ll hinge on whether you like vague hints to ongoing mysteries or not.  Alan Davis’ writing always has a gravitas to it, even when it’s not as polished or as realistic sounding as, say, Bendis dialogue, and his art (ably assisted by Mark Farmer inks) is top-notch, as usual.  I liked this issue greatly, I love the concepts behind the series, and I kind of hope that this is the beginning of more ClanDestine.  ClanDestine #1 ranks a very slick and well-designed 4 out of 5 stars…  Alan Davis is like pizza, even when it’s not as good as you’ve had before, it’s still pretty awesome.  

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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