Niles Caulder is a terrible, manipulative human being, and writer Gerard Way, artist Mike Allred, and colorist Laura Allred make readers, both new and veteran, aware of that fact in the standalone Doom Patrol #7. The comic might start with Robotman and Negative Man (Larry Trainor) hanging out at the mall and getting away from the general strangeness of the first arc, but this is no slice of life story. Robotman, Negative Man, and new team member Casey Brinke end up following Niles Caulder on a wild goose chase of a mission where they receive “upgrades” without their consent, travel in a cube to a world where bad ideas are jelly, and even transform into werewolves. Just another day in the life of the new look Doom Patrol.
Mike and Laura Allred are the perfect art choice for the adventurous tone of Doom Patrol #7. The one constant is the matching red uniforms that Niles forces Casey, Robotman, and Larry to wear, but their plaid patterned journey to the world of Scantaria provides an opportunity for Laura Allred to go wild with all kinds of reds, brown, and finally a downright disgusting blue when the team fights a monster that decided to ingest all of humanity’s bad ideas in one gulp. For his layouts, Mike Allred sticks mainly to grids and fills them up with all kinds of wobbling, viscous images because everything falls apart when Niles Caulder gets involved. In most of the action scenes, Niles is barking orders and turning the Doom Patrol into putty in his hands, but Allred goes for a iconic, superpower pose towards the end of the issue when Robotman whacks the aforementioned monster with his severed arm. It shows that the Doom Patrol doesn’t need Miles and are find chilling in Dannyland and looking for Casey’s missing cat.
Doom Patrol #7 is a clever book because it deconstructs superhero comics without going the usual Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns route, having a postapocalyptic setting, or doubling down on the grim dark. It shows that superhero teams don’t have to have a clear leader, go on missions for the hell of it, wear spandex uniforms, or unquestionably follow the old white guy like the Doom Patrol of old. They can wander around the mall and find themselves or look for lost cats named Lotion. They can wear bandages on their faces, clank like a robot, or have a missing leg and still be happy. In the main Doom Patrol, Gerard Way and Nick Derington have taken a fluid, open ended approach to stories and took their time reassembling a “team”, which is the complete opposite of the rigidness that Niles immediately imposes on them. And he’s not a good guy just one on a power trip that tells people what’s good for them instead of asking them like when he gives Robotman a new body that emotions of its own to go with his mind’s emotions. (Being violent is awkward in this case.)
Sure, he has kooky gadgets, serums, and vehicles that match the surrealistic tone of the comic, but Niles is entirely self-serving. There is savage irony in a man, who makes so many terrible decisions in this story on the behalf of some kind of greater good, looking for a substance that puts bad ideas that you think are good in your head. And the reason he wants this jelly to rectify one of his personal bad decisions, and the cycle continues like Mike Allred’s drawing of the rapid evolution process the “final boss” of this issue undergoes when he straight up ingests the jelly. Of course, Niles gives Casey and Larry the jelly in granola bar form to fight him off. This rapid sequence of events shows that he is willing to play god at a moment’s notice so the outcome favors him.
Doom Patrol #7 is a statement of this comic’s freedom from ordinary superhero storytelling using Niles Caulder as a metaphor with vibrant wit and an idea a minute plot from Gerard Way and transformative art from Mike Allred and Laura Allred. Old white guys usually don’t know best even if they can regrow limbs in a jiffy or travel between dimensions, and sometimes trying some weird and creative can be more fun than reading the same, “To me *insert old superhero team name here*” over and over again.
Story: Gerard Way Art: Mike Allred with Nick Derington Colors: Laura Allred
Story: 9 Art: 10 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics/Young Animal provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review