Everyone’s favorite member of the Umbrella Academy, Klaus Hargreeves aka Seance, finally gets his own solo series in You Look Like Death: Tales from the Umbrella Academy #1 from writers Gerard Way and Shaun Simon and the (sadly underrated in the United States) artist I.N.J. Culbard. The book also acts as a bit of a prequel to the main Umbrella Academy series and is set after Klaus is expelled from the Academy for drug use and other shenanigans by his exacting adoptive father, Sir Reginald Hargreeves. But it’s an entertaining story in its own right full of, well, drug use, vampire chimpanzee crime lords, a dash of humor, and clean, evocative art and colors from Culbard.
With a varied power set and a charismatic personality in both the Umbrella Academy show and comics, Klaus’ escapades are ripe fodder for a solo spinoff. Way, Simon, and Culbard spend the first small bit of the book establishing why Klaus is so out of place at the Umbrella Academy and establishing his frenemy-ish relationship with his siblings Luther, Allison, and Diego as well as his enmity-filled relationship with Sir Reginald through zippy, humorous vignettes. Culbard uses grid-like layouts to show how Klaus is trapped in the orderly world of the Academy before opening up the page when he hits the road to The City and beyond with a dream and a cardigan. (And a suitcase for accuracy purposes.) His color choices also match this mood going from neutral tones to basically candy with the ever-present green whenever Klaus uses his abilities, such as possessing people or communicating with the dead.
Something I love about Umbrella Academy is how much it embraces the strangeness of superpowers and the folks that wield them starting in the first issue of the series when the young Umbrella Academy fights Zombie-Robot Gustave Eiffel in Paris. Gerard Way, Shaun Simon, and I.N.J. Culbard continue that tradition in You Look Like Death #1 while maintaining laser focus on the character of Klaus and what he does to keep busy/have fun/keep the talking to dead people pain away while being away from his siblings. The miniseries has been advertised to take place in Hollywood, but the lion’s share of You Look Like Death #1 takes place in The City.
Way, Simon, and Culbard dig into the generic superhero city, NPCs, and all aspect of the setting as soon as Klaus packs his bags. I will probably never stop laughing at a place where you can obtain drugs at a shop with a neon sign that says “Drugs” and is probably part of larger 7/11-esque franchise owned by the aforementioned chimpanzee vampire drug lord. This playful approach to setting persists even when Klaus hits the West Coast, and he goes from standing out to being just part of the scenery. And speaking of the scenery, I.N.J. Culbard adds all kind of wonderful background dressing when Klaus goes out and about, like interesting back tattoos or darkly humorous posters in adoption centers, that add to the liveliness of the world that he, Gerard Way, and Shaun Simon have crafted. I am definitely down to follow Klaus down some dark alleys and into buildings with fun graffiti patterns and even more fun denizens inside.
You Look Like Death #1 is a direct hit to the pleasure-feeling parts of your brain. I got the same feeling from reading this comic as I did driving into cop cars and hapless civilians in the Grand Theft Auto games sans all the unnecessary carnage. Klaus uses his powers for pure hedonism, angers authority figures, and has a good time, rinse and repeat. There’s also a bit of void-filled darkness because what else would you expect from a co-writer, who sang lead vocals on “Helena”. However, that’s background radiation. For now, You Look Like Death is the feel-good party comic with queer lead of 2020, but drink plenty of water and get ready for that hangover in subsequent issues…
Story: Gerard Way and Shaun Simon
Art: I.N.J. Culbard Letters: Nate Piekos
Story: 8.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.8 Recommendation: Buy
Dark Horse Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review