Written by Noel Clarke | Art by Joshua Cassara | Published by Titan Comics | Format: Paperback, 32pp
Ah, my favourite dysfunctional family book. Try as I might, I cannot find a better description for this book than X-Men/Fantastic Four on steroids. There’s also more than a passing nod to the self destructiveness of the old Doom Patrol. These are deeply flawed people, but people who ultimately want to do the right thing. That altruism is something that, although admirable, is also something that can be twisted, taken advantage of. The team’s benefactor, Mr. Edwards, has shown us he is a talented manipulator, though up to now it seems to have all been for good reasons. As the team grows, as individual members gain confidence in both their abilities and their place, dynamics may start to shift and any hidden agendas may come to light. Noel Clarke has created a story and cast that intrigue the reader just as much with what may be happening under the surface, as with what we see on the page.
The theme this issue is evolution. Evolution of identity, evolution of purpose, and evolution into a team. A team with costumes. Not the traditional spandex and armour look of say Superman or Captain America, but the costume look you would get if you gave a bunch of young people the ability to create their own costumes. Let’s say eclectic. To reinforce that evolution from individuals, with difficult backgrounds and situations, to ‘superheroes’, we get a roll call of their codenames – Terrain, Torrent, Wish, Trace, Hotshot, Virus, Rush. It’s nice in a way that although Noel Clarke has pushed his book in a firmly mature readers direction, he couldn’t resist the slightly cheesy codenames that come with most superheroes.
The main part of the issue dealt with the team attacking a yacht to rescue more super-powered children from captivity. Some of those children were forced into fighting them, and it’s quite a brutal throw-down. Truth be told, it’s all a bit too hectic, too many characters and powers jostling for attention. Ultimately, though, The Troop win. Meanwhile, we finally get an insight into Mr. Edwards reasons for saving his team; a prophecy states that super powered individuals could destroy everything in the future. His view is to gather as many as possible and help them control their abilities, his just as shady opponent Mr. Rodgers believes they should all be destroyed to be absolutely certain of averting the prophecy. Rodgers and Edwards also reveal they are both very old indeed, possibly immortal, and their rivalry has been ongoing for some time.
There is a lot going on this issue, lots of shifting from scene to scene, place to place, character to character. Plenty of action, yet subplots resolved and exposition conveyed. It’s a lot for a novice comic book writer to juggle, but Noel Clarke does it expertly. It does at times feel a little too busy, too crowded, but Clarke always keeps enough of a handle on things that it never gets away from him. He seems to enjoy throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the story, this being the final issue of this series. ‘How can you not want more of this?’ is what the creative team are asking us. It certainly doesn’t feel like an ending, as not only are some plot threads left dangling, but even more are added to the mix.
A quick word about the art. Although not my personal art style of choice, the art and colouring by Cassara and Guerrero does perfectly fit this book. It’s dark, gritty and shadowy, emphasising the dark places and dark characters this world has. Most pages have to have a lot of individual panels to accommodate all the text and scenes, but never feel too crowded or forced.
Great conclusion to what has been a stand out limited series. I very much expect to see more from this team, Noel Clarke clearly has a lot more of the Troop story left to tell, and who are we to stop him?
The Troop #5 is out now from Titan Comics