Have you ever experienced the fall of a nation into a strict dictatorship? Have you ever joined one of the resistance groups to fight back against said dictatorship? Yeah, me neither, but the main character of CLANDESTINO has! Created, written, and illustrated by Amancay Nahuelpan, Black Mask’s CLANDESTINO is a story of resistance and revenge with violence to match the vibrancy of the color palette.

A Tour of Guerrilla Warfare

CLANDESTINO follows the story of a guerrilla warfare expert in his fight to bring down the tyrannical reign that has befallen his country. A strong narrative voice, reminiscent of veterans telling war stories, characterizes this comic from the outset. Each of the various narrators sound weary, having seen many defeats, but not quite ready to give up. Nahuelpan uses this narrative technique to offer readers a better sense of the characters and their status within this war-torn country. The stoic quality of the tone and the frantic and often desperate actions of the characters work to reinforce the rebellious nature of the story.

Nahuelpan is ambitious in the breadth of settings and characters that populate CLANDESTINO. In the six issues of the comic, we move through desert-like terrain, mountainous regions, and urban landscapes, each under a different group’s control. These diverse landscapes help to immerse readers in the danger of this vast battleground.

Unfortunately, though, Nahuelpan’s characterization of each controlling group is sometimes wanting. Three groups intersect across this backdrop: the Koyam factions, the Eastern rebel factions, and the NPG. We see the inner workings of the Koyam and Eastern rebel factions, but the story does little to flesh out the NPG (the ruling party). A remaining segment of the population, the loyalist pockets, receives no attention at all. I love the idea of telling the story across tribes and landscapes, but CLANDESTINO could have done more to tell each group’s story.

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Who is Clandestino?

Some of the same characterization issues detract from this book at the micro level, too. The titular character is a cool guy and a good fighter, but we don’t get to know much more about him. Nahuelpan shows a glimpse of his backstory, but Clandestino rarely talks, and we don’t see him do much else besides fight. And even when he’s fighting, he comes across as apathetic, which suggests that he doesn’t have much motivating him beyond the desire to fight.

Additionally, we never really get to see the relationship between Clandestino and the General, the ruler of the NPG. We know, given where Clandestino comes from, that there’s some animosity, but we have no reason to believe that the General sees one man as such a potent threat to his rule.

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The characters in CLANDESTINO just don’t always present as very well developed. In fact, the only character who gets real emotional exploration in this comic is the one trying to kill Clandestino, Vilcun. Vilcun screams his emotions out, by declaring that he feels betrayed by Clandestino, and he communicates his emotion—hatred, in his case—in a way that none of the other characters seem to do.

Women Warriors

Outside of Clandestino himself, some of the most important characters in this comic are women, and they fight alongside men throughout the book. Clandestino’s girlfriend features heavily, saving his life at one point, and the leaders of the Eastern factions are women. Still, the Nahuelpan’s attempt to feature strong female characters falls flat in his illustrations.

We see Sakin and Yanka, two warriors, decked out in long skirts, bikini tops, and corsets—downright impractical battle gear. It looks cool, but no warrior would wear that. Not to mention how easy it would be to trip over the skirts.

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The women in CLANDESTINO also all have the same basic design—big boobs and small waists. The men have varying appearances: Clandestino has a tall and slender body, Vilcun has extremely large muscles, the General has very few muscles and short stature. But the variation is only in the men. Women in this comic only differ in simple traits, like hair and skin color and certain clothing. Even the outfits that differ don’t differ the way the men’s clothes do. The men seem to have full wardrobes, while the women seem limited to crop tops, bikini tops, and corsets.

Image courtesy of Black Mask Studios

Probably the most important problem with the women in CLANDESTINO is that they barely speak. That is, they speak a little bit—as long as they happen to be sleeping with Clandestino. The only female character who gets to speak without sleeping with our protagonist is a leader of the Eastern factions. And even then, her lines are extremely limited.

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Playing War Games

Despite the various characterization issues in CLANDESTINO, the book’s artwork pairs well with its content. As a comic about war, CLANDESTINO is appropriately packed with action sequences. These scenes cover everything from car chases to hand-to-hand combat, and the artwork throughout is well detailed. Nahuelpan uses distinct lines to imply movement, as well as a shifting perspective of the figures that feels unique in its execution.

Image Courtesy of Black Mask Studios

Nahuelpan depicts action in a really cool way throughout this comic. In one scene (shown above), a character is doused with water by her captors. Her figure jumps out of the first panel just as a car hops a fence in the second panel on its way to rescue her. This creative use of panels characterizes many of Nahuelpan’s action sequences.

CLANDESTINO and the Fight Scenes

Another great battle occupies the fifth and sixth issues of CLANDESTINO. Nahuelpan takes readers across several fronts of the battle, from the advance to flanking groups to more individualized skirmishes. The sequence does a good job of building tension and excitement leading up to the story’s conclusion. Strong artwork notwithstanding, inconsistencies in the give-and-take of the fighting undermine the sequence’s effectiveness, as parts of the fight become unrealistic.

These scenes and others demonstrate the graphic beauty of CLANDESTINO. Blood abounds in every detail of the fight scenes, and it serves to make each sequence a bit more believable. Nahuelpan also uses violence to vary the comic’s color palette. While the NPG is often presented in muted sepia tones, vibrant colors dominate the rebels and their cause. Against the darkness of the desert’s muted tones, those colors come to represent hope.

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As detailed as the action sequences are, some of them are ultimately unbelievable. We know that the main character, Clandestino, is a good fighter, but Nahuelpan takes that a bit too far. In one scene, he jumps out of a car while fighting three assailants and winds up shooting each of them in the head—perhaps a bit too much hyperbole even for a story like this.

Image courtesy of Black Mask Studios

Behold the Verdict

CLANDESTINO is a complex book, with a lot to like and lot to criticize. Ultimately, unbelievable fight sequences, inadequate characterization, and the poor representation of women detract from strong artwork and narration. This mini-series has a lot of potential, but a few tweaks would have gone a long way to improve it.

CLANDESTINO by Amancay Nahuelpan
Though this mini-series has an interesting premise and beautiful art, it's not the best-executed, with characterization problems plaguing it throughout.
60 %
Uphill Battle

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