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Comic Book Review: The Troop #1

Written and created by Noel Clarke
Art by Joshua Cassara
Colours by Luis Guerrero
Letters by Rona Simpson
Edited by Steve White
Published by Titan Comics

Noel Clarke should stop being so damn capable at everything he tries. In addition to acting, screenwriting, producing and directing films, he’s turned his attention to writing comic books, and he’s created a really good comic book that is interesting and exciting. It’s so frustrating …

The Troop is definitely a comic book with comic book antecedents, which is definitely a good thing – the industry is littered with comic books written or co-written by film/television personalities that are nothing more than thinly veiled pitches for films or television shows, which is a sad indictment on the way that some people view the medium. However, this story is created by someone who loves comic books: the super powers – a woman who can turn rocky, a man who can create fire from his hands, a girl who can manifest diseases in other people – are rooted in comic books, and this first issue is an archetypal ‘gathering the team’ story.

The story stars in Australia, where a young woman is rescued from a paramilitary squad trying to apprehend her by a man who teleports in to help (he also has technology that blurs his face in video footage) – she can turn her body to rock, giving her strength and a degree of vulnerability. Later, the two of them rescue the young man with fire-hands and the disease girl from a man in advanced armour who calls them ‘demons’ and who reports in to ‘your holiness’. This element of religion is also present in the man who saves them – his narration refers to a prophecy that has begun but which he will not let happen. There is also a very brief glimpse of what would appear to be a vampire, so there is a lot more going on in this world and more to explore.

This is a comic book set in the real world with burgeoning super powers and shadowy organisations trying to control them or eradicate them, echoing the likes of Rising Stars or Heroes in its general tone, even though it feels more connected to the X-Men and the world of mutants in general – no explanation for powers, people fear and hate them, an older man saving them to be on his team. However, it does seem to want to aim for a mature-reader level – there is swearing, the violence seems a bit bloodier than normal, and there is full-frontal nudity (of both sexes). There doesn’t seem to be any reason for these things as yet, but perhaps the ensuing issues will justify the decision as it gets further into the story.

If this is Clarke’s first comic book script, he’s achieved a high level very quickly – the book is assured, competent, considered; the plot drives the story, the characters are fully realised and distinct and have precise backgrounds, there is an air of mystery and tension, and it instils a necessity to find out what happens next. This is an impressive achievement in a first issue of any comic book, let alone from an actor who decided to write and direct as well. It’s not perfect – the names of our protagonists are not all revealed in the first issue, the nudity panels seem unnecessary, the locations of events aren’t disclosed, the narration changes between characters but there is no difference in their voices despite their age and gender – but these are not insurmountable. Clarke is clearly a driven individual with strong ideas and the ambition to achieve them, so it’s satisfying to see a comic book that matches that.

I’ve never seen Cassara’s art before but I’m impressed: it is solid comic book storytelling with a nice style that makes me think of a British version of the good Top Cow artists, strong lines with a slightly grungy vibe, distinct character work and very good panel transitions, never losing clarity or pace. The action is dynamic and visceral, the design elements strong, such as the armour, and the right mix of realism and traditional comic book to enhance the tone of the story. The colours help in this regard, with a palette that reflects all settings instead of dominating the pencils with a single muddy palette that occurs frequently in stories set in the real world. The first issue of The Troop is a complete package and sets up what looks like a very interesting series. Damn Clarke and his talent, which doesn’t seem to know limits – I hope The Troop does the same.

Disclosure: this book was provided as a PDF for review purposes.

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