Every now and then, a comic book comes along that makes you ask the question, “are we living in someone else’s gyro?” You know, one life’s most important questions.
If you have a taste for the peculiar, then Doom Patrol #1 by writer Gerard Way (Umbrella Academy, front man for My Chemical Romance) and artist Nick Derington should be on your radar. This premier issue, featuring the world’s strangest heroes, is the flagship title of Way’s new DC Comics mature reader pop-up imprint Young Animal.
In a nutshell, Doom Patrol, along with titles like Shade, The Changing Girl and Mother Panic, are “comics for dangerous humans.”
There’s no way for me to tell if you’re dangerous enough for Doom Patrol #1 (unless you leave a deadly comment down below, I guess), so let’s just get right into the review.
Doom Patrol #1 (DC Comics)
With an action-packed, double-page spread, Way and Derington introduce us to EMT Casey Brinke – this rendition of the Doom Patrol’s presumed lead character. Sometimes spacey, totally determined and always a bright light in a black hole, Casey is a very likable lead through which to view the weird world Way is building. It’s not clear yet if Casey has superpowers, but she manages to handle an ambulance like a boogie board.
It’s through conversation with fellow EMT Sam that the gyro question comes up. It’s quite a beautiful scene that showcases more thought than has ever gone into the consistency of the Greek dish. But it also highlights what Way is reaching for with this series. It’s no secret writer Grant Morrison and his subversive ideas have been a huge influence on Way, so it’s hard not to read Doom Patrol #1 and think about how Way will work to set his work apart from Morrison’s own acclaimed run on Doom Patrol (which began in 1989).
In addition to introducing a likable character in Casey, Way successfully reintroduces classic Doom Patrol characters like Cliff Steele, Robotman (who utters my favorite bit of dialogue, “One side, jerk-sauce!”) and Niles Caulder (in a scene that would feel right at home in a Wes Anderson movie). Who is Niles and where does Robotman come from? These mysteries will likely be at the center of the series’ first arc.
Oh yeah, and there’s something about aliens and their fast food burger chains. Like I said, we’re in the weird world of Way – hold onto your gyros.
It’s criminal that I’m this far into the review and haven’t mentioned Doom Patrol’s gorgeous art, courtesy of Nick Derington. Fans of Paper Girls’ Cliff Chiang or Mike Allred’s pencils in X-Statix should fall for Derington’s smooth line work. The artist excels throughout the book, from rendering Casey and Sam’s expressive human emotions to the alien landscape where we meet Robotman. He’s also not afraid to get ridiculously gross (hence the X-Statix comparison) later in the book when we’re introduced to the possibly batty Terry None. I won’t spoil this moment, because it’s pretty great.
My main beef with this issue is something only a lifelong comic book fan would get bent out of shape over. I just wonder where this series is supposed to fit in the grand scheme of things. Are these characters in the same universe as the one we’re seeing in DC’s Rebirth titles? Is this a complete revamp of the Doom Patrol, ignoring all previous iterations of the characters? Because I feel like we just met a “new” take on the Doom Patrol in the New 52. Though, considering that relaunch’s Superman is already dead, that’s not saying much.
Again, I know, such a Wednesday Warrior complaint. If good storytelling trumps continuity in your eyes, you should do fine with this debut issue.
Overall, this is a solid introduction to not just Way and Derington’s take on the Doom Patrol, but the untamed world of Young Animal as well. If the imprint’s other titles have the same striking art, fresh ideas and sense of whimsy, DC’s mature reader titles may just be experiencing their own rebirth.