Issue(s): ClanDestine #1, ClanDestine #2, ClanDestine #3, ClanDestine #4
This book is miles above anything else published at Marvel UK, whose output became extremely shattershot as the imprint went on. I could imagine a world in which Marvel UK limited itself to, say, a Knights of Pendragon series that retained the quality of the early issues, and Death's Head II, and this, and therefore managed to survive as an independent office. But i guess that would be cheating since, although Alan Davis is British, he had been working in American comics for years at this point.
This series runs for twelve issues, but Alan Davis leaves after issue #8, and when he returns to these characters in X-Men and the ClanDestine, he writes off issues #9-12 as a dream. Alan Davis will return to these characters a number of times over the years, which ensures that they have a lasting legacy and meet a number of Marvel universe characters. Although it doesn't seem like they've ever been in a comic not by Alan Davis.
The story opens with a prologue depicting events from "years ago" in which MODOK and AIM are shutting down a Project Lenz because the subject has gone out of control.
MODOK believes that he's killed "Lenz" (along with a number of AIM agents) but we see at the end of the prologue that it has survived.
We then jump to the present day, where a pair of super-hero siblings - the Crimson Crusader (Rory) and Imp (Pandora) are foiling a robbery by the "Rainbow Quartet".
The kids are under the impression that they are mutants, and they've been sneaking away from their family to be crime fighters. The costumes were made by "Cuckoo" for what was meant to be just for fun until their powers manifested.
Next we see a woman in Spain getting attacked by creatures looking for the "Gryphon".
The woman is introduced as fashion designer Kay Cera, but we'll later learn that she's Jasmine Destine, aka Cuckoo. Kay is seemingly killed, but she's a telepath, and it's pretty clear that she transfers her mind into a cat before her body dies.
We see another person, Maurice Fortuit, getting killed by the same people in the Swiss Alps, and some priests in Nepal reacting to his death. Then the creatures attack a house in London. This turns out to be the home of Rory and Pandora. The kids arrive in time to see the woman they think is their grandma - Florence - get mortally wounded. And the man that they think is their uncle, an author named Walter, transforms into a big blue hulk.
The creatures he's fighting dissolve when they're hit.
As Florence dies, she tells Walter to tell the kids the truth. And the truth is that Walter and Florence are actually Rory and Pandora's siblings, not their uncle and grandmother. The same is true of Cuckoo, Maurice, and more that we haven't met yet.
Walter contacts another member of the clan, a woman named Sam (Samantha) who can summon a sword and armor, to warn her that they are under attack, but she's already dispatched the ones sent after her. Two more characters are attacked by the monsters. William and Alice are actors, currently filming for a superhero movie. William smashes the monsters in the van, and initially thinks it's a prank by the film crew.
We also see Cuckoo transferring out of the cat into a woman who was on death's door after an attack by drug dealers. She goes searching for "Albert" while Walter takes the kids to an island where a hermit member of the clan - Dominic - lives. Dominic has super senses, but that means that he can't stand living among people. And he and Walter have a longstanding disagreement over the fact that Walter let "Adam" kill "Vincent". But the kids stop them from fighting. Inspired by the kids' costumes, Dominic changes into an old theatrical costume and starts using the name Hex.
Dominic calls in the clan's resident tech genius, Newton, who looks like Woody Allen.
Except when he doesn't.
Newton is given clues to look into, and in the meantime Dominic's group decides to investigate a company whose name was found on a business card of one the attackers: Griffin Technologies.
We'll see William and Alice moving around during the remainder of this story, but they don't actually get involved or meet up with anyone yet.
Albert turns out to be the priest in Nepal. He's unhappy that Cuckoo has possessed a body, but she convinces him that the body was dying anyway, and he uses his powers to heal it. He warns her that there are "some sicknesses even I cannot heal" though.
Meanwhile, the Silver Surfer finds a trippy VW Bus floating out in space.
Inside the van is Adam. He's been floating listlessly in space, hoping to somehow die even though he's immortal. But then he's struck by a psychic wave that alerts him to the fact that his "children" (so now we know that he's the father) are in danger. So the Silver Surfer repairs his space bus.
Outside of the Griffin building, Dominic's team is psychically contacted by Cuckoo now that she's been healed. And then Cuckoo goes to support Sam, who is being attacked by more creatures. Which is lucky, because the creatures are now using a psychic attack.
The group at Griffin are dealt a setback when Pandora hands Dominic a chocolate candy, which he absentmindedly eats. The problem is that with his heightened senses, coupled with the fact that he's been isolated on an island eating nothing but seaweed, the chocolate sends him into an ecstasy coma.
The others leave him behind. On the way into the Griffin building, the kids decide to give Walter the super-hero name of Wallop. In general, a point is made to give a reason why every member of ClanDestine is wearing a costume and going by a superhero name. It's mostly to indulge the kids, with some exceptions like William and Alice who were filming a superhero movie and Newton's weird body.
Inside the building, Wallop and the kids are knocked out with gas. But their captors are not the creatures that have been attacking everyone. They are also seeking the Gryphon - which turns out to stand for Genetic Realignment Yield Polarity Harmonizing Orientation Net - it's because their leader Hywel Griffin, aka Alpha was the original owner of it.
The ClanDestines try to convince Griffin that they're not the bad guys, and then the real bad guys do attack.
The above is Lenz, the creature that escaped from AIM years ago. AIM's experiments unlocked a dead end branch of humanity. And being the only living member of his species, he's been trying to create more like himself by infecting humans with his DNA, hence the disintegrating monsters. He's been trying to get the Gryphon to stabilize his offspring. It turns out that Rory and Pandora have had the Gryphon stored away somewhere; they acquired it while foiling a heist but didn't know what it was.
Lenz kidnaps Rory and takes him away to try to learn the location of the Gryphon. We learn at this point that Rory and Pandora's powers are linked. When they're together, their powers are amplified, which is why they developed sooner than Walter expected. But when they're separated, they both lose their powers.
The rest of ClanDestine rally to save Rory.
And after Newton sends them to Lenz's lair...
...Adam Destine arrives on Earth. The others couldn't beat Lenz, but Adam is able to subdue him.
However, he doesn't kill Lenz and instead lets him go.
This despite the fact that Lenz has killed a few of the Destine family, and the rest of the group aren't happy about that. But Rory and Pandora stop the in-fighting again.
Now that it's all over, they begin to hammer Adam with questions, but it won't be until they get home next issue that he'll begin to provide the origin of ClanDestine.
Everything is really nicely done here. Alan Davis provides good character designs and a fun cast with distinguishable powers and personalities. He also does really well with the pacing. There are a lot of characters to introduce, but it's done well across these four issues while also letting the plot unfold. And there is plenty of action and humor along the way. It's all expertly executed. If there are reasons besides the overall state of the market that ClanDestine never really took off beyond a pet project of Davis', it might be because the Marvel UK line had kind of poisoned the well, and people might just not have had the stomach for yet another secret group of super-powered characters. But this was just the thing for people wanting a super-hero story that was "traditional" but not nostalgic, and with great art.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: A short preview story in Marvel Comics Presents #158 takes place after Rory and Pandora have learned about the rest of their siblings, and therefore takes place after this story despite being published prior. Next issue begins with the group back home, so i'm allowing some time to pass. Spider-Man will have a generic appearance (i.e. not calling himself The Spider, no clones, etc.) in issues #6-7, so all of this needs to take place before the Clone Saga starts circa Amazing Spider-Man #390-393 (see the note on placement in that entry).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showAdam Destine, Albert Destine, Alice Springs, Alpha (Hywel Griffin), Argent (Samantha Destine), Crimson Crusader (Rory Destine), Cuckoo, Giee, Hex (Dominic Destine), Imp (Pandora Destine), Mai, Newton Destine, Noe, Phaa, Raee, Silver Surfer, Wallop, William Destine
Three things. Although the Characters Appearing section correctly identifies Argent as being Samantha Destine, in the body of the review she is called "Gracie."
The first issue of the 2008 miniseries establishes that "Kay Cera, Jr." didn't show up to claim her supposed mother's estate until "a few weeks" after her death so there's a fair gap between issue #1-5 and 6-7.
Florence and Will appear in the 2012 Fantastic Four Annual where the Thing and the Human Torch each meet one of them while time travelling against their will. After his death in the first issue, Maurice only appears in two photographs, one in ClanDestine #2 and another in ClanDestine II#1 (but he is mentioned as being with William at Woodstock in the FF Annual).
Posted by: Don Campbell | March 1, 2018 4:50 PM
I'm honestly a little surprised to learn how thoroughly integrated with the Marvel Universe ClanDestine was/is. I wonder if it would have caught on more if it weren't part of an established superhero universe, and was more of a Vertigo-type title (or even an actual Vertigo title), even with the superhero trappings, or at least an Image-type book from after Image actually became good.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | March 1, 2018 4:56 PM
Thanks Don. When Walter is on the phone with Samantha, he mentions a "Gracie" and i got it mixed up. I've fixed that and removed the tags for Florence, Maurice, and Will.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 1, 2018 4:57 PM
Dominic is a naked ripoff of an Irish guy on the second season of The Real World, complete with the same haircut and a strong tendency to be drunk.
However, Alan Davis can do no wrong - no sarcasm intended. I wishthis had run longer, and I had found more issues before I dropped out of comics. Davis always gets it.
Posted by: BU | March 1, 2018 6:16 PM
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