The Doom Patrol relaunch from Gerard Way, Nick Derington & Tamra Bonvillain has been consistently delightful and reverent from the outset, with a level of craft and imagination that beget’s it’s continued improvement with each new issue. In this week’s installment, the teams approach to story is further refined while the addition of Tom Fowler as inker takes the already excellent visual element of the series to a whole new stratosphere.
While writer Gerard Way isn’t the first famous artist or entertainer to come into comics partially as a byproduct of their notoriety, he’s certainly the most successful creatively by any conceivable measure. This is true almost purely off the strength of his excellent Umbrella Academy, but it’s overwhelmingly apparent based on what he’s done with Doom Patrol. Playing directly off Grant Morrison’s late 80’s interpretation of the character’s while being mildly retrofitted for today, Way has an easy naturalism and charm in his writing for the cast amongst the abundance of surrealism that’s wholly endearing. The one rub against the current incarnation of The Doom Patrol was how much it adhered to the iconic Grant Morrison run. Part of that is a matter of function, as Morrison has written arguably the only Doom Patrol comic that’s had any kind of lasting resonance beyond it’s initial relase in addition to the writers profound influence on Way, an influence that was evident for Way in his comics writing long before his current work on the title. Being inspired by Morrison is hardly a notable trait for modern comics creators; I can think of four additional issue’s released this week where the Morrison’s DNA is clearly embedded to the titles writers. But because Morrison’s influence on Doom Patrol is so profound and all encompassing, there are moments when the new series similarities could feel slightly jarring in past installments. What’s impressive about issue #6 is how Way and co utilize call backs to the Morrison run as a springboard for the comic in the present, specifically Morrison and artists Richard Case’s iconic issue #30. In this issue, the book revisits Crazy Jane’s “underground”, the subway system that encompasses the multiple personalities in her subconscious. But what makes it usage work so well here, is that the underground doesn’t become something that needs to be explored again or re-configured, it’s not a red herring, it’s just a setting within the larger tapestry of the Doom Patrol universe. And by using it as such, it allows for the story within the comic to be singular and innate to the plot itself without having to serve any continuity or fan service beyond that. So the underground becomes a place where Cliff and Crazy Jane can have a conversation in private, and that allows the book to advance the story while having a beautiful exchange about mental health between the two characters. That kind of adherence to the Morrison run, where it’s part of the comic but never the driving force, let’s the current creative team establish their own vision and let’s Doom Patrol be one of the most imaginative titles every week it’s released.
The art in Doom Patrol by illustrator Nick Derington and colorist Tamra Bonvillain is consistently mind blowing for it’s scope of imagination and technical aptitude. Derrington is of the highly detailed cartoonish strain of modern illustrators with an astute design sense that ultimately makes Doom Patrol’s constant surrealism palpable. His storytelling and composition is intuitively seamless from panel to panel and beyond. This is accentuated from Tamra Bonvillain’s bright and eye catching color palette contrast that leans on the brighter side, but with a notable distinction between the spectrum of blue and red. Across the comics she works on, there is a certain level of consistent naturalism in her coloring that accentuates the books atmosphere and subtlety dictates the mood. Yet what set’s issue #6 of Doom Patrol from what proceeded it in terms of the art is the inking of Tom Fowler, whose understated contributions to the arts dimensions and geometry bring the whole issue to another level. Fowler’s an accomplished comics illustrator in his own right who had elevated a single issue with his ink work in the recent past on Squirrel Girl. Like before, his contribution provides an additional depth to the interior art, but in the open spaces and cosmic traversing of Doom Patrol, his contribution expands the visual narration in a uniquely stunning way. Based on past issues, Doom Patrol’s main art team has been great from a visual perspective; but with Fowler, it transforms into something outstanding.
Doom Patrol #6 is simply excellent. It’s wild and high minded with no pretension, it adhere’s to its past influence’s without wallowing in them, and it’s unequivocally stunning in its visuals. More than the sum of it’s iconic past and current creative talents, Doom Patrol #6 is another unreal installment for the singular series that continues to expand the scope of it’s own internal dynamics, with the minds of it’s awe inspired readers in tow.