There are spoilers below. Characters previously unnamed, named and revealed as being in this comic. Also something with insects and recurrent images. Your call.
We have a new Doom Patrol. By Gerard Way and Nick Derington, there is plenty riding on this. It’s on the front of Diamond Previews, it takes up convention ads, there is plenty of in-house advertising, there’s a cover enhancement, they gave out free towels to everyone but me – but that’s okay, I got the comic instead. The aim is very much to remove the tainted retailer confidence taint the DC Vertigo brand developed for mature reader superhero titles in recent years, by being a completely different brand. Young Animal, curated by Gerard Way who is a proper pop star and everything, with a social media following that dwarfs Jesus.
I checked, Jesus has about 650K followers on Twitter, Gerard Way has 1.5 million. No contest.
So, Doom Patrol. The DC Comics misfits superhero group from the sixties that was published in parallel with the X-Men at Marvel. A reputation for being odd, they skimmed around the DC Comics universe until Richard Case and Grant Morrison transformed them into an exercise in superheroic surrealism, finding a brand new audience and helping cement the Vertigo brand in the process. Hated by many of their peers for breaking the concept of the book, even if admired by the creator of Doom Patrol, Arnold Drake, the series has never escaped from that shadow of Morrison since.
And in Doom Patrol #1, it doesn’t try to. Hell, it embraces all that Grant Morrison achieved before, it integrates it, it worships it. But it ends up feeling closer to Milligan and Allred’s X-Statix by way of Chynna Chugston Flores‘s Blue Monday. Which is no bad thing and is, in part, down to Nick’s clean lines and cartoony visions of people without pulling back from the details and the grossness of day to day living – even when that’s from some very odd invading dimension.
She drives ambulances. This is her new flatmate Terry None.She’s a singing telegram. Freelance. She might not be from around here.
Oh yes, and this is Robotman.
And if you wanted to know what was going on with Professor Niles Caulder…
I’m not saying you get an answer. But you do get a running reference.
The flies are out for issue 1. Whatever is going on – and plenty is, the flies are up to something. Or something is using flies. Or it is a symbol for smell – “let’s really make a stink”. Or for rot.
You see? There is clearly quite an…
So we have the weirdness. But because this is totally a comic book for now, we have the young relateable entry level lead into whom we can put all our hopes and dreams, all our fears and foibles and one who will make the weirdness more palatable. Morrison made that Robotman, a trope of the classic superhero that survived untouched from one version to the other, and a character the audience knew. But here Robotman is The Other – or in this comic book one of the many Others. And Casy Brinke – she is Doctor Who‘s Rose, Matrix‘s Neo, Invisibles‘ Jack Frost, The Force Awakens‘ Rey and, yes, her superpower is driving ambulances really fast without crashing.
It’s a really useful power. And obviously that comes with certain amounts of perkiness.
And quirkiness. Because this is a comic book that wants to have its cake, eat it, and rub frosting into its chest while looking at the camera with an ironic wink.
Note, the garbage truck… the rubbish, the rot, the garbage, the throwaway, is trying to make a comeback. That, basically is the Doom Patrol, the narrative reflecting the meta-narrative behind the scenes. This comic is about removing the taint that commercial concern has transferred upon it. Finding something fresh and new to replace it, which bringing back what really works. Basically DC Rebirth done right.
As for that commercial concern…
We have something from somewhere else that seem to be invading us with meat. But where is this strange foodstuff coming from. Soylent Green? No, but for a comic book that seems to relish in eating its own past… that’s exactly what it does.
…to Danny The Meat. Repackaged, resold, revamped, rebooted and redelivered for you in consumable form. Remember the Painting That Ate Paris? Well, now, Paris can bite back.
Just how I was feeling.
The comic dances the line admirably between what was and what is, between a classic audience and one that has picked up a Gerard Way comic for the first time. It’s fun, engaged and, if a little light, does intrigue.
Much to enjoy, much to unpick, much to anticipate. The Doom Patrol is back. What they are actually up to – that’s yet to be acertained. But then again, wasn’t that always the way?
Doom Patrol #1 is published on September 14th.