If you are like me and have read the Doom Patrol religiously since Grant Morrison took over writing duties with his opus ‘Crawling from the Wreckage’ beginning in issue #19 way back in 1988, you use that as the proverbial yardstick by which all other work on the title is measured. I was just wrapping up high school in those heady days of the early post-Reagan era and it was a great time to be a teenager, the music was amazing, the political climate was changing from Ian Fleming to Tom Clancy as espionage and terrorism leapt from the nightly news to the spy novels of the day. That same climate also gave birth to a new generation of comic book readers, a group of left-leaning, often times radical thinking, open-minded youngsters dubbed by the media, generation or Gen X. These voracious readers clamored for stories to satiate their hunger for darker, more cerebral subject matter and DC was listening. The Vertigo imprint was the answer to that not-so quiet voice in the wilderness; writers like Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Jamie Delano and Garth Ennis now had an outlet for those stories that just didn’t fit into the mainstream of the DCU. While many of these narratives did take place in the DC continuity, whether they were just too dark, geared for a more mature audience due to violence, sexual themes or just plain complexity of plot these tales needed a place to be told. The audience was already waiting.
Fast forward to the present day; our political climate is more like a nuclear winter and the music is far less imaginative but, that same cry wet up for a publisher to give us what we just weren’t getting anywhere and again it was DC who answered; this time with the Young Animal imprint. Although Grant Morrison has been on the scene ever since his words first opened all three of our eyes every generation needs a voice and this time around that task fell upon the apt pupil of Morrison’s Gerard Way.
Most Gen Xers are in their later 40’s now and while many of us have cut ranks and made an exodus into the relative safety of the 9 to 5 work-a-day world, there is yet a pretty large minority of forty-something tattooed non-conformists still wearing Chuck Taylor Converse and The Smiths t-shirts instilling our children with the same views that defined our youth.
Way’s take on the Doom Patrol is not quite as dense as Morrison’s, however it is imbued with much of the same psychedelic tone as its predecessor. Way has a certain kinetic energy that can be found in his comic book work as well as in his musical endeavors. He has a sharp wit and edginess that Morrison didn’t necessarily use in his run of Doom Patrol, but its like comparing apples and Clockwork Oranges; although a true comparison isn’t possible or fair at this time since one run has made history and the other, while extremely imaginative and creative, is still in its infancy with only seven issues on the racks as of writing this.
The current issue brings to mind the recent Twin Peaks series in that both have us waiting for the return of a major character; in Twin Peaks its FBI special agent Dale Cooper, who has yet to make his return in the true sense while in Doom Patrol the wait is over as Niles Caulder, the chief ,makes his illustrious return in this issue. Caulder wastes no time in getting back to his manipulative ways despite his promises to the contrary. Robotman, Negative Man and Space Case all fall in line relatively quickly as Caulder dangles rewards both metaphysical and otherwise before their eyes, all they have to do is whatever he says, not such a bad deal, right? Not so fast, the team finds themselves faced with the Scants, other-dimensional creatures capable of planting horrible ideas in the head of an unsuspecting target, once accepted by the brain these ideas, as bad as they are, are perceived as good thus causing the brain to secrete the substance known as Idyat which then flows from the ears to be harvested by the Scants who then take the substance back to their home dimension. Are you with me so far? Good, but that’s just the beginning, hold on as things are about to get crazy.
Gerard Way does a fantastic job of channeling Morrison through his writing. He has adapted and adopted a kind of Morrisonian Lite, by that I mean Way has taken the heavier narrative and plot concepts that Morrison would present in his work and somehow made them more digestible and new reader friendly, particularly with this issue which is a great jumping on spot. Way keeps the tone and plot eccentric while always keeping it at least loosely tethered to reality, hence an explanation is never far off. There is a similar style at work here as in Way’s Umbrella Academy and Killjoys. This would be the main difference I see between his work and Morrison’s, it almost feels like Way is still a bit unsure of himself where Morrison would just dive in head first and bring us all along with him, I perceive Way to have a need for a safety net. Perhaps that will change over time, I for one certainly hope it does because Way is a damn good writer in his own right.
The visual look of this issue is perfection, Michael Allred kills it in a way we haven’t seen since his work on Madman. His style is perfectly suited for Way’s narrative and the Doom Patrol characters in general. Allred is an original in every definition of the word. He doesn’t have to alter his approach to the projects he choses because he choses them so well; Silver Surfer, Batman ’66 and his other Young Animal title Bug. Allred is the David Bowie of comic books there is no one else like him. Series artist extraordinaire, Nick Derington did contribute two pages to the issue, however the transition from one artist to the other is virtually invisible, in fact I challenge anyone to spot it without knowing the page numbers. The overall look of this issue just screams cool in a way that doesn’t have to try to be cool.
This might not be Morrison’s Doom Patrol, but its darn close, it’s the differences that make this series uniquely Gerard Way’s Doom Patrol. It still has the same eclectic tone and chaotic magic that captured this Gen Xer’s imagination 29 years ago. Way takes the big chances that, when they pay off, define not just a comic book, but an era. I will be the first to admit Doom Patrol is not for everyone, it may not be for most, but I have to believe that if you pick it up and give it a chance you will be changed, on some level you will begin to question the boundaries that you have placed on your comic book reading choices and maybe you will widen that field of potential pull list pick ups. Issue seven of Doom Patrol is on the racks now, why not try opening your third eye. 5/5
Artists-Michael Allred, Nick Derington