Review: Doom Patrol #1
Writer Gerard Way got the blessing of the great Doom Patrol writer Grant Morrison before beginning his run on the title, and the comic definitely shows the great Scottish writer’s influence. But the comics reads more like Invisibles or Flex Mentallo than JLA with its parallel universes in a gyro, brick throwing hobos, keyboard solos from Doom Patrol founder Niles Caulder, and a singing, former roommate exploding space girl named Terry None. It’s safe to say that Doom Patrol is the strangest experience I’ve had reading a comic in 2016.
Even if Way doesn’t do readers any favors by showing clear transitions between most scenes (Except for the masterful cut from a fly on a gyro to Robotman fighting through a post-apocalyptic wasteland.), he, artist Nick Derington, and colorist Tamra Bonvillain deliver on some eye-catching imagery throughout the comic and also begin to develop some basic themes as well as the protagonist Casey and the evil corporate antagonist. Casey has a “normal” job as a hard-driving EMT, but a weird backstory involving aliens and strange beings that her co-worker Samson comments on while on a lunch break at an arcade. The Space Invaders-esque arcade game could very well be a door into another universe, but Way and Derington don’t give us any clear answers yet.
The experience of Doom Patrol #1 is like being dropped into the middle of someone else’s dream or in the middle of a video game where the controller has buttons set up completely foreign to you and is a genre that you don’t even have the words in your personal lexicon to Like you’re some kid from the far future who has just been handed a Sega Dreamcast controller and are playing something archaic (to you) like Tomb Raider or any sports game. And that metaphor is probably too simplistic. Like Morrison in Invisibles with his protagonist Dane, Way and Derington drop you into this explosive, reality bending universe without giving you the rules to figure it out. Hopefully, a John-a-Dreams type fellow shows up in a few issues to show readers nature of this world, but for now, it’s blind flying.
Doom Patrol is a free fall that ends just before the reader turns into street pizza. And along the way, Derington and Bonvillain warp commonplace visuals into something unusual from double page spreads to panel grids and even a run of the mill explosion. (Things do go boom a lot in this comic making Doom Patrol a natural extension of both Invisibles’ and My Chemical Romance’s unfortunate final (for now) album True Lives of the Fabulous Killljoys‘ penchant for using guns to illustrate philosophical ideas.) The scenes featuring Robotman are especially exemplary as Derington uses a different art style and a twelve panel grid to show the intensity of the battle as Bonvillain uses a light brown palette to show the dream-like nature of this fight as Derington zooms out and shows that there’s a whole world stuffed in a gyro in a trash can. Then, there’s a purple explosion from Bonvillain, and this reality enters what seems most like ours. In one bold color, like a Mikey Way bass line, she creates a connection between worlds.
Unlike the (possibly extraterrestrial) Moofgoober Corporation, who are creating a kind of constantly regenerating source of meat and pushing it on the world via franchise tie-ins, subliminal advertising, and just plain giving people what they think they want, Gerard Way, Nick Derington, and Tamra Bonvillain go away from the familiar in Doom Patrol #1 and bombard readers with a flurry of unfamiliar imagery. The final page is nigh incomprehensible even though it does feature a visual refutation of the cliche “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” as the hobo guy can’t stop throwing bricks.
Doom Patrol isn’t nostalgic comfort food for fans of DC Comics, but original almost to a fault and Way, Derington, and Bonvillain use the versatility of the comic book medium to linger or flip through pages and panels to skillfully recreate the falling into an unfamiliar world and decision to press on that artists like Lewis Carroll, Luis Bunuel, Salvador Dali, David Bowie, Grant Morrison, and The Wachowski Sisters or any kind of hallucinogenic drugs have tried to evoke or simulate throughout the years. And Derington’s interplay between the clean lines of his heroine Casey and her new “friend” Terry None and the geometrical corporate toadies creates a feeling of multiple realities without the usual clunky exposition.
Story: Gerard Way Art: Nick Derington Colors: Tamra Bonvillain
Story: 7 Art: 9 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review