Alan Davis’ original eight-issue run on his creation “ClanDestine” — plus his two-issue “ClanDestine vs. the X-Men” follow-up — was the sort of comic that was so much fun it was all the more painful that he left the series. (We won’t talk about the well-intentioned but disastrous four issues by other creators.) But when Davis returned to the property a few years ago for a new five-issue limited series, it was hard to keep from feeling that it was a bit… lacking. Could it be that “ClanDestine” had already run its course?
With Davis writing and drawing a three-part story spanning “Fantastic Four Annual” #33, “Daredevil Annual” #1 and “Wolverine Annual” #1 this summer, that theory is being put to the test. And so far, with the first installment released, it feels like those doubts were misplaced. Davis wisely recognizes that most readers probably are unfamiliar with his earlier creation, so the viewpoint characters for “Fantastic Four Annual” #33 are the slightly-befuddled Human Torch and Thing, getting drawn into a story involving time travel and an extremely powerful little boy named Vincent.
Because we’re seeing the events of “Fantastic Four Annual” #33, it cleverly allows Davis to show us just the portions of Vincent’s life that the two members of the Fantastic Four directly interact with. As a result, it’s a complete story for them, but there are still bigger, not-entirely-answered questions that presumably will get tackled in the remaining two chapters. The story itself jumps time and space rapidly (thanks in no small part to a temporal rift), and while it’s a little disorienting at times, that appears to be exactly what Davis is going for. We get the Thing and Human Torch’s confusion projected out to us, and while past exposure to “ClanDestine” gives the story an added punch (the story of Vincent has been held up and teased ever since the original series began, but never explored by Davis), it does stand well enough on its own.
Davis’ usage of just these two members of the Fantastic Four is a good choice; not only because of the nature in which they’re pulled into Vincent’s life, of course, but their personalities. The Thing as the protective father figure for the young Vincent is inspired, working in a way that none of the other members could quite slot into. And in terms of the one who can effectively get sidelined but also provide raw fighting ability, you can’t go wrong with the Human Torch. The pair also visually fit in well with the different shapes and sizes of the ClanDestine; the Thing up alongside the monstrously huge Walter is a great visual contrast (one smooth and blue, the other rocky and brown), and the sprite-sized Human Torch whizzing around is a great image. It’s hard to go wrong with Davis’ art; the crowds at Woodstock look fantastic, and the various monsters that Davis conjures up are creepy and dangerous looking.
I felt a little dubious about the ClanDestine characters getting trotted out for this story, but so far I’d call it a big success. Just the right amount of emphasis is given on them as supporting characters, while for fans of the original “ClanDestine” comics it’s like they’ve just hit the jackpot. Will I be back for the remaining two chapters? Absolutely.