Tony meets the newest Troopmembers on the block.
The Troop has never been afraid to push the pace of its story delivery, but there’s an amazing amount of ground covered in issue #3, as not only do we get origin stories for a couple of new mutants, we get a bit of a backstory for how Edwards the billionaire first got into the mutant-finding business, how there come to be mutants in the first place, who the religious dicks with the heavy armaments and the demon complex are and what they’re up to, and an escalation of tension among the Troopmembers over a grisly discovery at the end of issue #2.
It’s pretty much a hallmark of the style of this story though that, for instance, the gruesomeness at the end of issue #2 is at the end of issue #2. J J Abrams would have got a season out of the escalating drama of ‘What’s behind the locked door?’ Noel Clarke and Josh Cassara drop a hand grenade on such ponderous plotting and explode the bejesus out of it because frankly, when you have a roomful of angry superpowered humans and a suspicious locked door, the realistic result is no locked door in a big big hurry. Not only does Clarke and Cassara’s approach ring with truth rather than melodrama, it also sends a very clear message to readers: there’s way more plot coming, so we don’t have to wring every ounce of mystery out of this.
That’s certainly true in issue #3 – skateboarding extreme sport freak and everything-addict ‘Rush’ tells his backstory to a counselling group, before showing us in detail just why he’s such a danger to be around. It seems that Rush is unkillable, but (not unlike another popular culture with whom Clarke has had dealings) those who stand too close tend to be less fortunate. Meanwhile in Brazil, a brother and his two sisters find that their time is running out, as the Gits In Black, revealed in this issue to go by the rather more portentous name of ‘Illusion,’ close in on them. There’s a little bait and switch played with these three, our point of focus switching from one character to another towards the end of the issue, just to keep us on our toes and prove that The Troop is still able to shock us, three issues in.
The tensions in the Troop hit a high point too, with previously solid allies rocked by the locked-door mystery and its backstory. Clarke delivers a grim revelation that, while technically not new in sci-fi (and in fact, arguably used in a Who story during his time on the show), still ripples with grotesquerie and horror if you dare to stop and think about it – as the Troop absolutely have to, splitting their alliance.
The explanation of why there are mutants at all actually self-seeds further drama down the line, as many of the Troop we know may share connections with other, as yet unactivated mutants who might play a part later on, and as with any story of special people, there’s a sense by issue #3 of wondering “what the next one will be” – what their powers will be, and what their stories are before they become a part of the Troop. But there are developments in this issue that will have real impacts on the Troop going forward, not only in their interplay and internal relationships but in their safety and ability to act as free agents in the world. Edwards has already been acting as though Illusion could pick them off anywhere, any time they go outside. After this issue, his suspicions feel more grounded in reality, and it will be intense finding out how the world of The Troop changes in the fallout of events here.
The artwork from Cassara is developing its own distinctive style on The Troop, and it shouldn’t be taken as any kind of slight to describe it as ‘superior sketching’ – the faces here are very distinctly drawn, rather than photorealistically captured, the shadows almost look in the finished product as though they’ve been added pencil-line by pencil-line and left raw and authentic, the backdrops have an impressionistic lean-to imprecision that underscores a world of uncertainties, of bad people hiding in corners, but who know more than we do and want to do us harm. There are almost no superlatives which Luis Guerrero has not already wrung from me for his previous work, but here again, he brings a signature gift for colourwork and most especially for the qualities of light to the issue that works in perverse but gorgeous harmony with Cassara’s style of artwork – perverse because blending Guerrero’s perfection of light with Cassara’s impressionist style should be chaos, should be visual discord of the worst, most ill-conceived kind, and absolutely isn’t. In fact the harmony of their work serves to magnify both sides of the collaboration, meaning what you end up with is a world that looks entirely impressionistic, but feels absolutely real, Guerrero’s colour and light adding a certainty that goes past what’s actually on the page and tells our brains “you know an environment like this. You remember the mood it puts you in. Go there now.” Between them, the artistic contributors add a tone to Clarke’s humanistic sci-fi that might be called “gorgeous grit,” real enough to make us believe in the world, murky enough never to let us relax in it.
Given that there’s a lot of ground covered in this issue, there’s little time to relax in any case, but three issues in, The Troop shows no signs of slowing down or even plateauing enough to take too many breaths. It gives each character their time in the spotlight of its panels, gives them each enough time to develop a valid personality with which we can connect, but even the panels that give them breathing space are drenched in mood – and hence coloured with meaning – by Cassara and Guerrero, ultimately delivering what amounts to a gorgeous, gritty, fast-paced, realistic, diversely populated dystopian science-fiction story that’s already making its mark on the imaginations of comic-book readers everywhere.
If you haven’t gotten into The Troop yet, you’re behind one of the coolest curves in recent years. Rectify your omission, and catch up with Clarke and Cassara. Catch up with The Troop today.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk