Reviewed in the United States on April 4, 2008
Alan Davis is a longstanding artist (and writer) in the comic book industry, having gotten his start with Marvel UK three decades ago. He is probably best known for his collaborations with Chris Claremont on the original "Excalibur", first as artist, and later returning for a run as the writer as well. "Excalibur" was a light-hearted take on the superhero genre, and this Davis creation, "Clandestine", follows in these tracks. It is actually quite interesting to look at this early 90s creation, because it must be seen as one of the early attempts to create a non-traditional superhero dynamic; though we see the whole Clan in costume and posed on the covers, all but two of the members (the exceptions being the idealistic children) are not superheroes, and, to varying degrees, have no desire to be superheroes, something they see as juvenile. This is not to say that, in the mode of modern superhero deconstruction, the book is cynical and/or dark; quite contrarily, this is a light and humourous series, though serious when it needs to be.
The story begins with two preteen superheroes, Crimson Crusader and the Imp (Rory and Pandora Destine) doing their best to thwart fairly petty crime (museum robbers and the like) in their home of Ravenscroft, England. Rory and Pandora believe they are mutants, and, having gotten superpowers, believe that the only thing to do with them is fight crime. Rory, in particular, is very much copying the stereotypical comic book hero, outlining the tropes of the genre, from banter with opponents (that generally isn't all that funny or clever) to his very stilted moralizing speeches. What the twins don't know is that their father and grandmother, Walter and Flo, are not actually what they seem; they're actually their siblings. Rory and Pandora belong to a family of magical beings descended from a 900-year-old immortal and a djinn (genie). Siblings include Samantha, Kay Cera, Newton, Dominic, and Gracie. The opening story arc finds the whole family under attack by mysterious villains, forcing them into action and drawing absent patriach Adam Destine home for the fight (having spent a decade or so travelling through space in a 60s hippie van; a priceless visual). Further stories (and there were only eight initial issues by Davis) tie the family more closely into the Marvel Universe, with guest appearances by such mainstays as Spider-Man (who gets the most substantial role), Doctor Strange, the Invaders (Captain America, Namor the Sub-mariner, the Human Torch), and the Punisher.
Davis left the series with #8, leaving another creative team to do a handful of subpar issues that are not collected here; when Davis returned to the property with his two-issue "X-Men and Clandestine" miniseries (which rounds out the collection), he retconned said issues into a dream, so far did they depart from his vision. "Clandestine" was caught up in the collapse of Marvel UK, itself part of the speculator bust of the 90s. Tied into Marvel's biggest franchise, Davis gets a chance to tell what was then potentially the characters' last hurrah. At the end, Adam Destine remarks about the future of his family:
"My family and I are no longer a part of the world you inhabit, Logan. We linger like shadowy relics of a forgotten era...it may be that we have had our time."
Wolverine can only say "I hope he's wrong.", and after reading this hardcover I think you'll agree; and, luckily, Wolverine was proven correct, although it took more than a decade, when the Clandestine returned in 2008 for another five-issue miniseries. Hopefully they continue to not fade away.