Reviews: the return of the world’s strangest heroes – Doom Patrol
Doom Patrol Volume 1: Brick by Brick,
Gerard Way, Nick Derington,
DC Comics/Young Animal
Since the 1960s, the Doom Patrol has entertained readers with some of the weirdest and most distinctive characters in comic book history. For years, the series has featured a variety of established creators within the industry, and they have all left their mark on the super-powered misfits.
Originally dubbed the ‘World’s Strangest Heroes’, the comic has often explored themes of alienation, trauma and of course, the downright bizarre. Doom Patrol is renowned for some of the strangest creations in comic book history, having featured such oddities as a sentient street, and a murderer simply named the Beard Hunter.
Despite boasting a number of varied creative teams, it was writer Grant Morrison who provided some of the finest stories in Doom Patrol history. Morrison injected the comic book with the craziest ideas that the book had ever seen since its original publication, and his seminal run has influenced many artists today.
Since then, the series has been relaunched numerous times, but last year witnessed the triumphant return of Doom Patrol, with writer Gerard Way (Umbrella Academy) and illustrator Nick Derington (X-Statix). Acting as the flagship title of DC’s Young Animal imprint, Doom Patrol has managed to establish itself as one of the best comics available now.
It’s a pleasant surprise, as the first collected volume of Doom Patrol showcases Way’s clear talents as a writer. Here, the co-founder of My Chemical Romance has accomplished a grand re-imagining of the superhero team, which is just as entertaining and as totally bizarre as previous entries.
Way’s Doom Patrol introduces some fresh faces into the mix, in the form of ambulance driver Casey Brinke and her unconventional, melodic roommate Terry None. Thrown into an unfamiliar territory, Casey meets members of the Doom Patrol, whilst discovering a rather cryptic past.
For seasoned readers of the series, they’ll be happy to know that Way treats old favourites with the utmost care, providing an exceptional return to form with original Doom Patrol member, Robotman (Cliff Steele). Danny the living street also makes a splendid return, as he undergoes some shocking changes throughout the story.
It’s an extremely strong introduction, and Morrison’s influence on Gerard Way is evident throughout. His script is strong, sharp and full of interesting ideas. Characters are established brilliantly, and Way pushes the boundaries even further than ever before.
Some new readers may be a little confused by some of the more random elements of the book, such as the brief excursions that the story takes to observe whatever Doom Patrol’s founding member, Niles Caulder, is currently doing. Still, being in the unknown has always been part of the charm, as standard storytelling structure isn’t a thing Doom Patrol is famous for.
Way’s writing is brought to life with some truly magnificent artwork, and it goes without saying that Nick Derington might just be one of the best artists to have ever worked on a Doom Patrol title yet. His style fits perfectly into this unique little universe, and it’s refreshing to see such a vibrant colour palette in the series.
Derington uses panels effectively, managing to capture the action of Way’s script brilliantly within each border. There are some small touches that readers will probably miss at first, so it’s rewarding to go back and examine in detail some of Derington’s finer touches to his work.
Robotman has never looked better, as Derington adds some much-needed flash to his standard costume. The main character, Casey Brinke, also ends up with a unique getup that will undoubtedly appear as cosplay in the near future. Derington certainly adds some much-needed pizazz to these characters.
Nick Derington’s art is accentuated by its strong colour palette, which is thanks to Tamra Bonvillain’s talents. Colourists often don’t get enough credit, and Bonvillain’s use of colour helps Doom Patrol stand out as being one of DC’s more eye-appealing titles on the shelves. To put it simply, the artwork in Doom Patrol is superb.
In addition to the interiors, Derington also provides the comic with some of the nicest covers that the series has seen yet. Visually striking and experimental, Derington’s covers help make the series stand out from the rest.
Whilst echoing Morrison’s definitive run on Doom Patrol, Gerard Way and Nick Derington manage to brilliantly establish a series with its very own unique flavour. Once Way finds his footing with the story, it soon skyrockets away and leaves readers dazzled, craving more of this weird and wonderful universe.
It’s a must-read for anyone in need of something different, and for anyone who simply wants to witness the rebirth of something special. Doom Patrol is unlike many titles published today, and it should be lauded for the risks it takes.
If Way continues to strengthen the title with his fantastic ideas, then this new Doom Patrol might just be as important as Morrison’s take on the super-powered oddballs. Since entering the comic book scene with Umbrella Academy (reviewed way back here by Richard), Gerard Way has proved again and again that he is a force to be reckoned with.
If you haven’t managed to experience Doom Patrol Volume One: Brick by Brick yet, then do so. It’s colourful, totally bizarre and a breath of fresh air. Here’s to the next story arc, and who knows where Gerard Way and Nick Derington will take readers next.