In June 2016, DC Comics kicked off the start of its Rebirth initiative. After a wave of criticism surrounding the way they have treated their characters’ rich histories since 2011’s New 52 relaunch, DC has decided to rebrand. They hope that by restoring their characters’ pasts, they will restore readers’ faith in them as well. Do they succeed? That’s what the Comics Beat managing editor Alex Lu and entertainment editor Kyle Pinion are here to discuss. Book by book. Panel by panel.
Note: the reviews below contain **spoilers**. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Doom Patrol #7
Writer: Gerard Way
Artist: Michael Allred
Colorist: Laura Allred
Letterer: Todd Klein
Hey folks! I’m still in San Diego as I write this, though by the time you read it, I’ll be back in the skies headed to Tampa for a work engagement. And so, much like the beginning of SDCC cramped our style in getting a full article out last week, the wrap-up from that show does the same for us this week. As I’ve been running around San Diego and transcribing a couple of really cool interviews (working up a really fun one with the Hernandez Bros from Saturday afternoon), my reading has been cut all too short. It is my great shame to tell you that I have only read ONE DC Comic so far…but it was the one that I’ll never turn down an opportunity to take a peek at: the latest issue of Doom Patrol, which I read during the show in one of my all too few hotel room breaks.
Bar none, I loved the previous arc of Gerard Way and Nick Derington’s take on one of my favorite DC teams – now of course, the caveat on that being that I couldn’t completely recall everything that had happened in the previous issues when the new ones were coming out, the hazards of irregular publication schedules. But taken as a whole, the journey of Space Case, and the resurrection of the Doom Patrol, with her at its center, was one of the joys of my comic reading in the past year.
With this week’s long-delayed issue #7, we find the team moving into a new phase, not quite the start of the next arc, but more of an interlude between the first six issues and the next. As such, Nick Derrington is stepping aside to make way for his Young Animal compatriots Michael and Laura Allred. Now, if you ask me, and if you clicked on this article, I assume that means you did to some degree; Michael Allred is one of the finest cartoonists in the business – not exactly a controversial statement. But, I’m often amazed by the fact that he and Laura continue to produce work for the Big Two, where so many of their contemporaries like Mike Mignola, or Geof Darrow, and others more or less work exclusively on their own projects. The long and the short of what I’m trying to say is this, every mainstream superhero work they publish is really a gift, and I’m so glad we live in an era where I can pick up an Allred drawn tale of the Silver Surfer or Forager. And to see them both jump on board this week for the Doom Patrol is extra enticing, and Way, I think makes the most of their neo-60’s type approach
This is the issue where Way finally addresses whatever it is that Dr. Niles Caulder has been up to in the previous arc, even to the point where the opening page utilizes the exact same title card beat that accompanies his previous appearances, before he’s discovered almost instantly by Robotman and finally pulled into the narrative proper. His aim? To return the Doom Patrol to its former glory as the world’s strangest heroes, and of course given his insidious past (that whole engineering the accidents that caused both Cliff and Larry such pain, and then spearheading a plot to take over the world), Robotman can’t help but be a little suspicious, while Negative Man is much more open to the idea. After a little bit of absurdist humor here and there, including a great bit with Larry bringing a Hula Cow to Danny, and we get to the meat of the story – Dr. Caulder sending the core trio on a very Drake-Premiani style adventure even down to the very threat they face.
I think that’s surely the aspect of the book that sticks with me the most on the storytelling side, so much of Way and Derington’s previous six issues were very much in the vein of “let’s pick up from where the Morrison and Pollack issues left off”, which is a fine place to take off from, it’s still my favorite run of Morrison’s particularly…but there’s a handful of eras that you end up ignoring if you only focus on the pre-Vertigo/Vertigo era. Not that I expect many callbacks to the Kupperberg or Giffen days (but a little reference to the Arcudi run isn’t something I’d turn down), it’s nice to get an issue that is an outright tribute to the team’s beginnings, which for my money, is the probably the closest DC came to doing something as interesting as what Stan and Jack were up to in the 60’s…I mean, there’s a reason Drake got recruited for a quick cup of coffee on the X-Men, the very book he always suspected was a lift of his creation.
It’s a blast to get to see the team take up their old outfits and appearances, even Casey gets in on the act, dressing up like Elasti-Girl to a t. And within this sort of pop-art inflected adventure, it really becomes a showcase for what the Allreds can do best – in this case, providing a sense of zaniness that’s typically often present in their work, but imbued through the lens of Way’s attempt to codify all the different eras of the Doom Patrol into one definitive take. I think the story especially takes off right around the time the Life with Honey (the series that Loma Shade is obsessed with in Shade the Changing Girl) cameo introduces the Scants and their Scantoverse, which is where the book really starts to play with its high concept qualities, while also never quite forgetting its goofier aspects. The bit where Caulder freezes his face mid-sentence to teach the team how to find the Scants brought to mind the kind of humor that Allred often makes his trademark in Madman.
It’s worth noting that while Bug!: The Adventures of Forager is the Allred’s outright Kirby tribute book, there’s quite a bit of homage that seems to be creeping in these pages as well, once we’re inside the Scantoverse, readers are treated to the sort of photo collage that The King used to be rather enamored with during the peak of his powers. And later in the story, Allred designs an evolved version of man that would make any fan of giant monsters proud.
The issue also features Psychic Werewolves. I’m not sure I can think of a better selling point.
Look, it’s the Allreds on Doom Patrol, which basically says it all. Way crafts his most approachable tale for a book that some have complained is a bit too insular and in love with its own continuity, and we get to see some building blocks for the next phase of the series. I can’t imagine you’ll find a more purely fun mainstream comic this week, so do yourself a favor and add this one to the top of your pile. Or don’t I guess, we all make mistakes now and again, it’s your life.
This week for the round-up, I thought I’d pop in with some thoughts about the news DC broke over the course of SDCC. While a number of publishers brought forth some very exciting developments of note (Black Crown’s lineup, more Mignolaverse books, Ed Piskor on an X-Men comic), I couldn’t help but notice almost every day seemed to give way to something coming on the DC front, let’s see what all I can remember on this plane ride with no internet:
- Jeff Lemire returns to DC with The Fantastic…I mean, The Terrifics, a team composed of Mr. Terrific, Plastic Man, Metamorpho, and Phantom Girl (but not the one you’re thinking of). He’ll be teaming with Ivan Reis for what looks to be their big book of the Fall. Everyone has already talked about the similarities to Marvel’s first family…I did it myself right here when the news was first revealed at the panel, but hey, if Marvel isn’t going to put out a Fantastic Four comic, I applaud DC for having the brass to run with a similar concept. Bringing Lemire back is also a welcome bit of news, particularly in a time when I think he’s doing career best work between the just completed Moon Knight, Descender, Royal City, and of course Black Hammer – one of the best comics on the market.
- It’s also worth noting that both that book, and the rest of the Dark Matter line (not my favorite branding, by the way) are all being written Marvel-style, which underscores their public commitment to promoting artists as key storytellers in their comics, while also perhaps being a not too subtle tweak at their biggest competitor, who is ailing rather fiercely right now.
- Lots and lots of Metal-related tidbits, though the one that sticks out with me the most is the Lemire-written Hawkman: Found, which sounds like the counter-point to October’s Batman: Lost, written by Metal co-mastermind Scott Snyder. As I alluded to a couple of weeks ago, Hawkman is a fave, and I’d like to see this perhaps lead to another ongoing series. If that’s something Lemire might also tackle, I would not turn that down (though I do continue to hope for the day that fate gives us the one true pairing of Carter Hall and Jason Aaron).
- I was also present at the Meet the Publishers panel, where both Dan DiDio and Jim Lee unveiled that DC would be producing two different new reader initiatives, one aimed at a younger audience ala DC Super Hero Girls, and another for Mature Readers in the European oversized format. Both are exciting developments. I don’t personally have much a reason to go grab anything from the former, but I have many friends that are parents, and those sorts of comic reading options are very welcome in their homes. As for the Mature Reader side of things, I’ll admit, it sounded a bit like a re-do of the old All-Star line, particularly with its emphasis on getting big name creators on their properties to tell one particular story that isn’t necessarily tied to continuity. But, I love the oversized format, and given that I thought that the All-Star imprint was killed off before really reaching its potential, I’m interested to see where this goes.
- There wasn’t a specific announcement on a title, but given the proximity of his appearance in that same panel with that unveiling, it wouldn’t be hard to assume that Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham’s Arkham Asylum 2 will be among the first of this new series of titles. As it stands, I’m not sure I’d have much use for a bog-standard sequel to Arkham Asylum, whatever that means, but once you introduce both the 666 version of Damian and Chris Burnham into the mix, you can go ahead a put that directly into my veins.
- The Young Animal/DC Universe crossover news didn’t really light my fire much, though I understand the need to juice sales however they can. Though at least the revealed Frank Quitely drawn cover featuring “Milkman Man” and parodying his All-Star Superman work was a nice laugh to end my Friday with. I’ll hold off on whatever this new status quo change that’s being promised is before I get too invested/worked-up one way or the other.
- Frank Miller’s Superman: Year One drawn by John Romita, Jr., not an altogether unpleasant bit of news for me personally, provided Miller is actually scripting the thing. Regular visitors here know that I’m a big fan of JRjr, and thought his art on the recent “Last Crusade” one-shot was some of his best work in years. If this is set in the continuity of TDKR and plays as a sort of counter-point to that Batman’s origins in Batman: Year One, consider me very interested.
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Entertainment Editor for The Beat covering film, television and the occasional comic book. His work can also be found at GeekRex.com and can be heard on the GeekRex podcast. Also, your go-to Grant Morrison/Love & Rockets/Hellboy/Legion of Super-Heroes expert.