Spoilers beyond this point, all ye readers.
Grant Morrison took a struggling X-Men rip-off (or inspiration, depending on who you listen to) and turned Doom Patrol into one of his grandiose epics. Meta-narratives abounded, which attracted Gerard Way to carry on the title after Morrison and Rachel Pollack. So far, this Young Animal version has been pretty clever in its meta jabs. But #5 of Weight of the Worlds is a bit too self-servicing to be anything more than whimsical fluff.
Clark, a young boy, doesn’t want to go to school. Instead, he flips through Doom Patrol issues and isolates panels that can give him advice on dealing with bullies. Suddenly, the comic starts talking to him and he’s cut into the world of Doom Patrol as a character that can comment on everything happening. That will grow old very fast.
Honestly, I’m a little lost as to this issue’s purpose other than Young Animal patting themselves on the back about how clever they are. References to previous Doom Patrol abound and even My Chemical Romance lyrics are peppered through (like “look alive, sunshine”).
As far as the concept of a fan entering a world they love, this is pretty weak-sauce. Clark meets up with the absent Dorothy, but it turns out she’s a Scissor Man, so then Cliff beats it. Cliff is tired of Clark, which I can heavily sympathize with, so he tricks the kid back into the “real world.” Wait, that’s it? Wouldn’t it be more fun for Clark to meet all the other characters and go on a world-bending adventure?
But when Clark gets back, he opens a Doom Patrol comic and it tells him to go to the window. He does, and he’s welcomed with a pink castle and clouds in the sky welcoming him. He proclaims: “I love comics!” Then it ends.
There are a few ways to take this. Maybe I’m dense and missing something obvious, but here are the interpretations I’ve thought up. First, since Clark is still a comic character, he’s realized he’s a creation and the writer/artist have given him a fairy tale ending. Another interpretation is that, like Calvin and Hobbes (which is referenced earlier), his imagination has been kindled, allowing him to get through the day. But since there’s a “D” on a Ferris wheel, which probably stands for Dannyland, I guess Clark has now realized he’s been a part of Doom Patrol all along. Uh, alright?
And can we spend a moment on how derivative Clark’s character is? He’s just a generic, archetypal kid character with boundless energy and optimism. This is especially unforgivable given that Doom Patrol boasts some of the weirdest characters in comics, especially in the DC realm. But I guess he’s mainly here to be a Gerard Way avatar (note the hair and clothing).
It’s nice, in theory, to have Becky Cloonan on this title. Her art is fantastic and is reminiscent of Nick Derington’s work. While the characters are similarly willowy and cartoony, Cloonan has a breezier style than Derington that helps with the more playful, YA tone here. Unfortunately, as for the script itself, Cloonan and Michael Conrad aren’t as wildly innovative and befuddling as Gerard Way and Jeremy Lambert.
Although Weight of the Worlds has kept fresh because of its constant story and creative changes, this issue marks a major backfire in that shambolic strategy. #5 is stiflingly self-indulgent and congratulatory.