Fellow comic book reviewer Patrick Hellen here at AiPT! said of Doom Patrol, “I am not smart enough for this book.” Sounds like a challenge to me! I take a look at the very next issue that stumped Hellen; regardless of it being difficult to understand, is it good?
Doom Patrol #4 (DC Comics)
So what’s it about? The summary reads:
Everything is getting stranger and stranger for Casey Brinke. The secrets she’s learned about her true origin do a little to explain the bizarre new surroundings she finds herself in, but not why she’s attracting the members of Doom Patrol like so many flies. Also, find out the secret ingredient that makes Danny Burgers so delicious!
Why does this book matter?
It’s a remake of one of the classics that comic diehards and lovers of complex reading experiences adore. So far, Gerard Way has delivered a series that’s both complex and deeply weird, which you can’t find on comic shelves as often as you might like. A team is forming and strange alien threats are everywhere. If that sounds good to you, you’ll love this book.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
God damn kids.
Though Hellen may say he’s not smart enough for it, I think that’s part of the allure of a book like this. It doesn’t give you all the details, it’s not hand feeding you a linear story, but instead giving clues and ripe half details so that once things begin to congeal it’ll all make sense. It’s the type of read that’s rewarding if you’re willing to put effort in. This issue is no different; from heroes getting a call to action from a cassette tape played in an alien stomach, to young boys attempting to master witchcraft, there’s a lot going on in this book.
With all that going on, there are a lot of interesting ideas and clever, imaginative concepts. Way for instance, has a strange alien force explain how a soon-to-be-hero’s powers work, which involves their body lying dormant but their mind experiencing an entire lifetime of love and hardship. Imagine that hero depowering and realizing they lived an entire life. That’s a wicked idea, and one that’ll make you think.
The story is also rife with 80’s nostalgia. From the cassette tape, to giant tube looking televisions spying on a character (don’t ask), to a flying broken down rainbow ambulance (seriously, don’t ask). Currently there are four or so storylines running in this issue and while they may not connect directly, it’s clear each journey matters and will eventually intersect. All of these characters share a similar story–discovering themselves and the powers they’ll soon master.
Artist Nick Derington and colorist Tamra Bonvillain deliver an eclectic mix of aliens, relatable humans, and interesting environments. Derington should be given all the credit in the world for giving each panel and page a sense of depth that helps solidify the characters within space. Nothing is flat, which helps give depth to every single panel. Letters by Todd Klein help ramp up the weird when it comes to the Negative Entity, an orb that juts out of a giant rock, as it speaks in bold yellow text. Also, as a bonus this issue comes with coloring book pinups of Bane in unlikely scenarios that are at once hilarious and meta.
It can’t be perfect can it?
This isn’t the most accessible comic on the market. It doesn’t need to be, but it’s the type of comic you need to reread back issues before delving into the next. More than likely this will be even more rewarding and enjoyable when it’s all collected. Unfortunately, this is not the case right now, which makes the experience of reading the book sometimes awkward, many times confusing, and forcing the reader to be at a loss for what is going on at times. Surely that’s part of the appeal though and if you’re one who can enjoy the journey rather than answers or explanations, you should dig the hell out of this. Just as long as you have the patience.
Is It Good?
You don’t have to be smart to read a comic like this, you simply need to know it’s all about the journey and never about answers. Gerard Way and Nick Derington are paving the way for a complex comic series that’s hard to put down because there’s so much discovery.