Clandestino

Amancay Nahuelpan (Writer and Artist)
Black Mask Studios, LLC
January 10, 2018

In 1973, Tairona was destabilized by a military coup, and 20 years later, fighting between rebel forces and the government regime established by the general who led the coup continues. People are tired of fear, tired of loss, and want their country back. Clandestino, a victim of the coup, leads a rebel group of former soldiers and citizens ready to take their freedom back.

This was a departure from my usual reading material, although it’s good to branch out. The illustration style is what caught my attention first. It is stylized and expressive, gritty and graphic (but not gratuitous), and unforgettable. It sets the mood for the rest of the comic. The overall design creates the sense that the country has remained suspended in time, that they haven’t been able to move forward after the coup. The bold lines paired with the primarily monochromatic color palette remind me of the retro colors seen in photographs of my parents’ youth. I am a very color-oriented person and have always associated warm, moderately saturated colors with the ’70s (think harvest gold and the darker shade of brown often paired with it). Clandestino’s character design, with aviator shades, a sharp collared shirt, large belt buckle, and bushy mustache with a stubbly jaw drive home the impression that the decade never ended for him.

We don’t see a lot of detailed architecture or buildings. What we do see is fairly generic. There’s not a lot of unique detail to the background designs, and the bulk of the narrative focus is on the people playing out the story instead of the setting. I do think it would have added to the reading to see more of the background details, especially in the architecture and nature design. I’m a sucker for architecture and love the depth that it adds to the people in it. Buildings are not simply backdrops, but integral parts of the story for me, and with graphic novels and comics, it matters all the more to see care given to the background as well as the foreground.

From the other elements of the book, we can see further evidence of the halting of the progression of time, from the cars, all of which would make a collector drool (then cry as they are utterly demolished), to the secondary characters. The punks at the beginning are the most “forward” characters design-wise, and they look like something from an ’80s club scene with their piercings, tattoos, and hair. Many of the other characters are almost as generic as the backgrounds, which is something that I would like to see developed into tributary storylines. How and why are they where they are, and how does that affect the revolutionary groups?

Coming at a time when many of us are experiencing some level of political unrest, and as other countries begin the long process of reconciliation, Clandestino is a well-written and powerful story. It shows the strength of a people desperate for change and the power of hope. I also like the news articles, propaganda posters, and TV broadcasts scattered throughout the comic. A revolution doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and these elements provided a broader picture to frame the immediate focus on the rebel groups.

Overall, this is a great read, layered with backstories and relationships that keep the characters from being one-dimensional. I do want to learn more about the sisters and their continuing stories. There are a lot of paths that a story with as many characters as Clandestino can take, like what led to the original coup? How does the newly freed populace handle freedom? How does the international community react? What drove the different characters to do what they did? And most of all, what do we do after we have changed our world?