Clandestine #5

Story by
Art by
Alan Davis, Mark Farmer
Colors by
Paul Mounts
Letters by
Dave Lanphear
Cover by
Marvel Comics

Alan Davis, especially when inked by Mark Farmer, is one of the best mainstream superhero artists in the business. He can make any story, no matter how sluggish, look sleek and dynamic. And he does a great job making "Clandestine" #5 look really, really good. But this issue, the conclusion of the five-part mini-series, stumbles over itself in its haste to wrap up the divergent plot lines. It's a pretty-looking comic, but Davis's story can't get out of its own way.

I can't bear to give this issue less than three stars, just because Davis is such a stellar artist, and I appreciate the fact that we get a whole lot of story for our $2.99. In this age of decompression and unsatisfying single issues, who can criticize a comic for being too dense? For having too much plot?

I can, unfortunately, if we're talking about "Clandestine" #5.

It's not that this is a bad issue by any means. This is a good, solid, superhero comic. It's exactly what the three star rating was made for. It's slickly drawn, it has some interesting concepts, and it does some things well. But it also jumps too quickly and easily from one resolution to the next. When I say that it stumbles over itself, I'm not just talking about the plot. The overlapping panels, beautiful though they may be, visually represent the haste with which this issue unfolds. This story just doesn't have time to breathe, especially with the large Destine family (with over half a dozen members), the classic Claremont/Davis Excalibur team, and the Inhumans all thrown into the mix, along with ugly, evil clones of the Destines, plus a mind-controlling alien with a giant cranium and tiny little T-Rex arms. That's a whole lot of characters for one issue, and with so many characters, and so many plot lines between them, there just isn't room to give anyone enough time. Davis almost pulls it off, deftly wrapping up the parallel-Earth Inhumans subplot before shifting back to our Earth, but it's just too much in too few pages.

In many ways, this issue feels like one of those Silver Age Marvel comics where Gene Colan spent too many pages on the ballet-style acrobatics of the characters in a slugfest and had to wrap up Stan Lee's entire plot on the final few panels. Perhaps this "Clandestine" series was planned as something a bit larger (five issues is a strange length--many of these kinds of series last at least six), or maybe it's just Alan Davis being Alan Davis. This isn't the first time he's thrown too many characters into a series and then wrapped things up rather abruptly ("JLA: The Nail" being a prime example, as the reversal, climax, and resolution happened right on top of one another).

"Clandestine" #5 certainly isn't worth picking up if you've ignored the first four issues, and if you were waiting for the trade, you have to ask yourself what you're looking for. Are you looking for a fully-developed exploration of a superhero family? Then this won't be the series for you. Are you looking for a fast-paced, overwhelmingly packed narrative involving a huge cast of characters drawn by Alan Davis? Then this is right up your alley. And, man, does Davis know how to draw.

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