DC’s Young Animal imprint rises again to bring us the continuing adventures of the Doom Patrol! It’s hard to fully gush about this issue without giving you at least a bare bones idea of the plot, so here’s the official synopsis from DC:
“Gerard Way and the World’s Strangest Superheroes return in an all-new series that takes them beyond the borders of time and space! Featuring artwork by acclaimed cartoonist James Harvey, this issue finds the Doom Patrol facing off against the fanatical fitness fiends of planet Orbius and the Marathon Eternal! Meanwhile, Cliff Steele, formerly known as Robotman, must come to terms with his new body of flesh and bone…yet the real test turns out to be something far more frightening: his mom.”
It’s been a hot minute since Milk Wars (ew, hot milk) changed reality around for our beloved Doom Patrol, so it’s natural that even hardcore fans might need a refresher on the World’s Strangest Heroes. Luckily for readers new and old, the first chunk of the issue serves as something of a roll call, reintroducing us to our team and giving us a taste of what they’ve been up to since the end of their last series. Luckily for us, the captions filling us in on everyone and their whole deal are filled with the trademark offbeat humor that the series is known for, particularly since Gerard Way took the reins.
Without a war at home to fight and with their lives re-approaching some form of normalcy, the Doom Patrol seek a new way to help out, by searching the cosmos for misfits and people in distress. This is a great way to not only re-focus the characters and give them a mission, but to bring in folks who may be most familiar with these characters from their DC Universe television show (which I reviewed every episode of, so enjoy my not-so-subtle plug). It’s a really smart narrative move on the part of co-writers Gerard Way and Jeremy Lambert.
In the previous Doom Patrol ongoing from Young Animal, the characters tackled extremely relatable issues through a cosmic and surrealistic lens. That series dealt with depression, anxiety, fear of abandonment, PTSD, gambling, and other very human feelings and failings. That it managed to do this while also featuring a robot and a sentient ambulance as two of its lead characters and still felt legitimate in its emotional content is a testament to the book’s creative team.
That level of quality very much continues here, as we see our characters trying to essentially adjust to living lives that are as close to normal as possible. The thread of exploring relatable issues continues as well, with this issue tackling body shaming and fears of inadequacy (among other things), doing so with the same kind of flair for the irreverent that made the previous Doom Patrol series so much fun. It’s fitting then, that this story is titled “Issue Thirteen.”
While most of our heroes realize they’re probably happier and better off doing what they’ve always done (saving the day against all odds or logic), it appears that Cliff Steele is beginning to understand a truth that too many of us have figured out: being a human kind of … sucks?
This difference in tone between the two main plot threads is further sold by James Harvey’s exquisite, occasionally psychedelic artwork. The outer space sequences have a playfully cartoonish feel to them, which is really emphasized by the smart coloring choices from Harvey and Sajan Rai. The villains are appropriately smug and slimy, while the heroes get to look equal parts confused and imposing, perfectly suiting this gang of misfits.
The Doom Patrol are heroes because that’s all they know how to be at this point, so there’s a delicate balance that has to be struck between duty and a sense of enjoyment in their work. The body language illustrated by Harvey really sells that dichotomy perfectly. There a bounciness to the more heroic scenes that makes them very fun to read.
In stark contrast, Cliff’s scenes feel almost like a different book. The shadowy corners of his mother’s room and the cold, almost washed-out color palette of these scenes stand in stark contrast to the colorful life of heroism he left behind. As Cliff reconnects to living in the “real world,” he may find it’s not nearly as rewarding, fun, or inviting as even the most dangerous mission in space. This comes across very clearly in these more somber sections.
The dialogue hits hard for anyone who has ever worried that they’ll never measure up to the expectations of others. Even someone who has saved the world as many times as Cliff Steele has doesn’t know quite how to handle rejection, making him almost more human than any of us could stand. Cliff is trying to be a hero in smaller ways and to reconnect with the world in a more physical sense, but it’s clear that the world is much less colorful and whole lot more heartbreaking when he’s not mixing it up with the team. These sequences don’t remove one from the story, because they’re still handling the kind of deep-seated human concerns that Doom Patrol is known for exploring. It also helps that Cliff’s personality is the same, regardless of whether he’s a big ol’ robot or a “soft” human.
All in all, the new mission and sense of direction (both for the team and the series itself) paves the way for a more straightforward narrative. While the metafictional aspects are still definitely there and very much appreciated, there’s a sense that this is what the team really wants to be doing. They’ve earned this working vacation among the stars and it’s already a blast and a half to watch them get to it!
Doom Patrol: Weight of the Worlds #1 is in shops July 3, 2019.