By Gerard Way, Nick Derington, Tamra Bonvilliain, Todd Klein
Can you quantify “weird”? Like is there degrees of weirdness or is weird just an absolute concept that defines something?
Whichever, Doom Patrol is weird.
That’s by design, their original tagline in the 1960’s was “The World’s Strangest Heroes”. They stretched the definition of strange, from their headquarters, to their team dynamic (barely held together by their various insecurities), to their powers. Larry Trainer had a radioactive being inside him that could fly around the World dozens of times in seconds, Cliff Steel was a man inside a robot, Rita Farr can elongate her body and Niles Caulder was a paralyzed genius.
The concept of the Doom Patrol, strange heroes who fight threats no one else can and can die at any time, is a good one. However, once you find yourself behind the pen the question becomes “What can YOU do with them?” It’s a question Gerard Way seems very capable of answering. I made no qualms that I didn’t care for issue one, with the rampant cut-aways and the lack of narrative cohesion. Issue two improves on all of that by having a more-or-less straight-forward plot and minimizing the tangent scenes.
Larry Trainer is trying to recover his Negative Man energy, which we see is traveling in another dimension right now. He feeds on negativity from others in order to access his powers, which explains why he tried to start a street brawl between two strangers:
We see other familiar faces this issue, who I won’t spoil for you, but needless to say, it shows us a little bit more of the series’ scope and how deep Way is digging into its history. Although every page is dealing with some odd occurrence, it’s easy enough to follow because it leads to the next one and the next one. What bothered me about issue one was a lack of clarity for most of the book’s events; it’s not the strangeness but not knowing what is happening on the page. Slowly the pieces are coming into position, and I’m getting more intrigued.
Derington’s art has a mix of Nick Pitarra and Mike Allred to it. It’s flat, but somehow pops, and his anatomy is so naturally strange it draws your eye continuously over his lines. In a way his style here does resemble Bruno Premiani who was the original artist on Doom Patrol in 1963. Both favor a thin and soft line, expressive figures, a similar approach to character’s in a dialog. With Bonvilliain’s colors, the book has a definable Silver Age look to it instead of the dark and muddy lines we saw in the late 1980’s.
We still know so little about this iteration of the Doom Patrol and what they’re facing, or how much of their history is intact. Way is teasing things out and it’s working well as this book takes several steps away from normal and the characters are left to roll with the punches in the hopes they’ll learn what’s going on themselves.
I’m sure someday we’ll be able to look back at this book and say “Of course, it all made perfect sense!”.
Right now, it’s colorful and weird. In a way that’s unlike many of DC’s other offerings but also fitting to the title on the cover.
I had my doubts before but now I’m thinking we’re seeing the beginning of another memorable take on the World’s Strangest Heroes, a feat many thought nigh impossible.
Who would have thought there were any more ways for these characters to take weird to whole new levels?