2016 has been a strange, vibrant year for DC Comics. When last year’s DC You initiative, which brought unique and offbeat titles such as Prez, Omega Men, and Bat-Mite to the forefront of the line failed to translate into financial success, the company responded with DC Rebirth. This latter movement has largely proven to be a return to DC’s core characters and values, aiming to appeal to their enfranchised core audience rather than the world at large. The work has been good, but it’s also been safe.
Luckily, for readers who look down from the open doors of a plane at 30,000 feet and spit at the notion of a parachute, Umbrella Academy writer and former My Chemical Romance lead singer Gerard Way has created the Young Animal imprint at DC Comics. While all the series launched as part of the imprint are in continuity and are largely inspired by previously existing DC properties, the goal behind these projects is to experiment and reinvent the wheel. 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 review below contains **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.
Writer: Gerard Way
Artist: Nick Derington
Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain
Letter: Todd Klein
Kyle Pinion: With issue #2 of Doom Patrol, we turn our focus on another member of the team as it looks like we’re heading towards a slow build of the membership on an issue to issue basis. Last month, we were introduced to Casey Brinke, with the first foray into the adventures of Robotman. This time around, our attentions shift over to Larry Trainor aka Negative Man. A character that I haven’t kept up with since Larry had merged with Eleanor Poole to become Rebis. But now Larry is a bit of a lost soul having been separated from the Negative Spirit. After being attacked by a strange set of gang members pulled right out of an 80’s action film, Casey and Samuel are called to take him to the hospital, or at least that’s what they think until Casey learns there’s more to her ambulance than it seems. At the same time, Robotman has been rebuilt by Terry None, and just as he’s regaining sentience, he comes face to face with the aliens that are behind the “Danny Burgers” corporate meeting we saw last issue who are seeking the ambulance.
It all comes to a head inside that very vehicle, as Casey gets her first introduction to Danny the Street/World and is transported into a meeting with the next member of the team, who looks to be the focus of next month’s go-round.
What strikes me most about THIS month’s entry is that it’s just a bit more pulled together narratively than the last issue, which I loved, but I know a few found it a bit hard to penetrate (or that old chestnut ‘weird for weirdness’ sake). While this issue had its odd little hitches, such as Larry hallucinating about a Matryoshka doll during his origin flight – in a nicely pulled together nine paneler from Derington, or Casey finding an inexplicable note inside a tooth she’s pulled out of her mouth, it’s a story that’s starting to congeal a bit more formally as the team is being rebuilt “brick by brick”. Last month, one of my worries about subsequent issues was how Way would pace the book so he wouldn’t lose focus on the very intriguing and well-voiced lead character (Casey) in lieu of having to re-establish each team member and restore them to some semblance of characterization after a fairly extended absence (beyond a cursory New 52 appearance as part of a crossover). Instead, he does some really deft work splitting the narrative in three, allowing Casey to dive into both Robotman and Negative Man’s appearances gracefully, keeping her front and center as the reader stand-in but giving someone who is wholly unfamiliar with this roster some grounding in who they are, and what they’re capable of.
It’s a great issue and probably the very follow-up that I feel like some were missing with the first issue, with enough action to satisfy those looking for slightly more superhero-y hijinx, though keeping the weirdness that long-time fans expect. Striking that balance is an admirable effort and it makes the series still one of the strongest, if not THE strongest book, in DC’s entire line right now.
I left off my thoughts on Derington and Bonvillain here, which is a critical mistake, but in short, everything they did right last issue, they do well again here. I know everyone continues to talk about another great artist like Otto Schmidt as the big find of the DC relaunch, but I’m amazed at Derington’s beautiful figure work and how smooth his approach to action is. Nothing ever looks posed in that sort of Greek statue way that often drags superhero comics down. This remains a gorgeously drawn and colored book, and the the constant visual wrenches he packs into every other page makes Doom Patrol such a delight to read.
Alex, how did you find this second installment of your most anticipated comic? And what is up with Niles Caulder anyway? Also…FLEX FUCKING MENTALLO…I apologize for my vulgar language.
Alex Lu: Short answer? I loved Doom Patrol #2.
I can’t type clapping emojis using my computer keyboard, but if I could I would say something like “:clap:DERINGTON:clap:AND:clap:BONVILLAIN:clap:ARE:clap:THE:clap:BEST!:clap:” Together, they anchor Doom Patrol and make it one of the most entertaining and inviting books in DC’s stable. Derington’s linework is flawlessly smooth and detailed. Casey Brinke’s bedroom has a worn feeling and is full of detail, giving us a look at her personal aesthetic without any exposition. His usage of the moment-to-moment transition during this week’s “What are you doing, Niles Caulder?,” as the scientist rolls his way into a hot air balloon and up the face of a mountain that literally starts looking at him as he floats away from it, is hilariously weird and fun.
Derington’s zany energy is echoed and pushed further by Bonvillain’s colors which continue to give the book a bright neon aesthetic echoing that of a Saturday morning cartoon. Her usage of the color palette to distinguish between locations and scenes is excellent and gives the book a strong sense of place. The scenes where Larry meets the two gang members on the street corner are filled with warm reds and yellows predominately made by the early morning sun. Stitched between those moments are scenes set in Casey Brinke’s and Terry None’s apartment. The building interiors are rendered in cooler shades of purple and blue, simultaneously providing a contrast between the scenes while also providing an opportunity for Casey’s fiery orange hair to stand out on the page. It’s expert work and makes the book worth picking up on aesthetic value alone.
However, not to be outdone, Gerard Way continues to impress me with his scripting on Doom Patrol #2. I didn’t have any issues with the somewhat spotty plotting of this series’ first outing, but it looks like amateur work compared to the tightly knit plot running through this issue. It’s clear that Casey Brinke is our eyes into the wild world the Doom Patrol team inhabits, but rather than shoving us straight into the madness like Grant Morrison did in his run on the series, Way has wisely elected to introduce the characters at a slow burn. This allows new readers to get acquainted with characters like Larry Trainor or Cliff Steele without getting overwhelmed. It also gives returning series readers ample time to understand the new status quo their old friends find themselves in.
We first spend time with Larry Trainor, a character I am also not very familiar with outside his stint being one half of Rebis during the Grant Morrison and Richard Case run on Doom Patrol. He comes off as wild-eyed and lost without the Negative Spirit, an extradimensional force that normally inhabits his body. Even though we spend a lot of time with him in this issue, we don’t actually get to learn much about him– instead, we get a surprisingly revealing moment with the Negative Spirit, who is revealed to have had a sad past before it became a spiritual force. It’s a great moment because it assuages my worry that assembling so much of the old Morrison/Case Doom Patrol team might cause Way’s and Derington’s run to feel like a retread of it. Instead, through a single panel, Way and Derington further the development of a character from the Morrison and Case Doom Patrol run without contradicting it or serving as a retread of it.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Doom Patrol’s gratuitous usage of sound effects is an aesthetic choice that I absolutely adore. Noises are worked into the book at every possible moment. We hear the quiet moments like when one gang member takes the shoulder of another with a “bump” and when Casey pulls out her tooth with a “snap!” We hear the loud moments when Cliff kicks the cannon of one of his digital-Danny-Burgers-capitalistic captors with a “KRAK!” followed by a “WAAA” and two “BOOM”s as it misfires into the face of another kidnapper. Later, when Cliff gets thrown out the side of Casey’s apartment’s wall along with her cat Lotion, we see bricks falling alongside a crumbling “BA-BOOM!” sound effect. All of this word art helps further draw us into the Doom Patrol world and emphasizes just how noisy it is. It’s an extension of the book’s defiant mantra, standing tall in opposition to most big two comics in its embrace of the weird and the strange.
Must we say more? I mean, we could, but then we’d be wasting time you could be spending buying and reading Doom Patrol #2.
Final Verdict: Buy