DOOM PATROL #1
DC’s Doom Patrol has been weird since before being weird was cool. I mean, just because you’re a “super hero” doesn’t automatically mean you’re cool. Let’s face it: if you and Superman were both on the scene to stop Brainiac, or clear the Golden Gate Bridge of cars before a bomb went off, who do you think the press would want to talk to? Chances are, you’re awkward, and never really know where to put your hands. Superman? Effortlessly cool. Always knows where to put his hands. Right. Big Blue every time.
The same holds true with fans of the Doom Patrol comic. Readers who tend to feel like they are on the outside looking in have always found a home with the Chief, Cliff Steele (Robotman), Negative Man, and Elasti-Girl. The team has gone through many, many different iterations since they debuted in My Greatest Adventure #80 in 1963. Grant Morrison and artist Richard Case caught lightning in a bottle when they took over the book with Doom Patrol #18 in 1989. Morrison used DC’s adult Vertigo imprint to experiment with just what a super-hero book could be. Reality bending, thought provoking storylines that challenged readers month in and month out made Morrison and Case’s run a high-water mark in comic book history.
Since then, the Doom Patrol has had a history of short-lived relaunches that have been met with varying amounts of success. But one thing has been clear: fans want their weird back. And as it turns out, Gerard Way wants to give it to them.
Yes, the lead singer of My Chemical Romance has a long-running love affair with comics. But Way is more than just a celebrity playing at being a “comic book guy,” he’s got the chops. His multiple UMBRELLA ACADEMY mini-series for Dark Horse Comics are exceptional stories. Even then, Way was showing what he could accomplish while playing in the Doom Patrol-esque sandbox. Way loves comics. You bet DC took notice. Way loves weird. And after a long negotiation, DC was ready to get Way Weird.
2016 brought big changes to DC Comics. After finally waving the white flag on their failed “New52” continuity experiment, DC struck gold with the resulting “Rebirth” initiative. Fans young and old are enjoying the books in record numbers, as DC is putting a renewed emphasis on legacy and the long running relationships in their books. But, if you look in the corner over there, readers will start to see a group of DC books that don’t have the huge REBIRTH banner across the top of the covers. They’re still DC books. But these have a different masthead. These are tagged with YOUNG ANIMAL. These are the books that DC has given Gerard Way. These are the books that interest me greatly.
DOOM PATROL is the flagship book of Way’s Young Animal imprint, since it is by far DC’s most recognizable “weird book.” The other three titles in the line are CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE, SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL, and MOTHER PANIC. So after giving a celebrity like Way, who actually has the comic book chops to warrant his own line, the keys to his own imprint… how’s the flagship book?
This is a very solid book.
The important thing here is the tone. Comics are first and foremost a visual medium. Vertigo books in the ‘90’s tended to have the lush, painted look of the Sandman books, or the cold, sterile look of Hellblazer and Preacher. Here, artist Nick Derington and colorist Tamra Bonvillain give us a deceptively simple look, very reminiscent of the earlier works of Doc Shanner.
In DOOM PATROL #1 we meet ambulance driver Casey Brinke and her partner Sam. Casey is different. No one drives like she does. And by her own narration, we know she “only wants to do good things.” But, she’s weird. Her prom was attacked by Phantahawks and her date turned into a pool of lavender membrane. That’s… not normal. From there, we get a very surreal monologue by Sam on the nature of reality as it compares to his lunchtime gyro. This leads to the welcome reintroduction of everyone’s favorite human brain in a robot body: Cliff Steele. (And, I’m pretty sure that was Crazy Jane in that sequence, too.) Yes, I smiled when Cliff’s first bit of dialog turned out to be “One side, jerk-sauce!” Cliff and Casey meet under shattering circumstances, and our story is now underway. With Way intercutting different plot-points to his ongoing story, we see bits from the past Doom Patrol iterations, like the inclusion of Oolong Island, from the Keith Giffen run. I point this out, because I really dig the fact that Way isn’t ignoring the past versions of the team. Use the good stuff. Ignore the bad stuff. That’s good comics.
I have to tip my hat to Way for the very clever hook that ties the villains into this story. Without saying too much, it involves the very nature of past Doom Patrol member, and headquarters, Danny the Street. Danny the Street of course being the sentient, transvestite street that the Doom Patrol used to live on. Yes. I said “sentient, transvestite street.” Those words do actually go together when you are talking about the Doom Patrol. No one is expecting anyone else to be Grant Morrison. Morrison is one of the most gifted writers in all of comics. But, if Way can keep tapping into that vein of weirdness that he has throughout his music and burgeoning comics career, then we may just be in good hands here. Needless to say, I am as excited after reading DOOM PATROL #1 as I was when I first heard the announcement of the launch of the Young Animals line. And yes, I will absolutely be picking those up as well.
So. Meet the new Doom Patrol. It’s the same as the old Doom Patrol. And that is a very, very good thing.