By Alisha Weinberger
Admittedly I was hesitant when I heard Gerard Way and DC were collaborating for the pop-up imprint Young Animal. This isn’t a jab at Way as a writer, who is quite established, but it was the description of the imprint as a “new mature reader Pop-up” that had me worrying. Way’s track record specializes in the whimsical and insane, albeit sometimes hyper-violent. Simply take a look at The Umbrella Academy or Killjoys. I don’t think it’s far fetched to say, when we see “DC” and “mature” together, we think “dark”, “serious”, or “Batman”. As I said before, Way is a great writer, but to mash him with a preexisting universe with so much depth and history is an awkward choice. Well, I was wrong.
Had it been any other DC super team, this collaboration wouldn’t work. But it’s the Doom Patrol, the weirdos of the DC universe. They are the outliers, popping up only every so often in other titles that aren’t their own. And for the first time, someone has finally captured this team’s signature style. If the Justice League deal with the galactic threats to Earth and Justice League Dark deal with the occult, then the Doom Patrol exist in the chaotic liminal in between.
The first issue of Way’s Doom Patrol has some definite influences from Umbrella Academy, both in visuals and narrative. There is little to no exposition, we are simply forced to accept the bizarre universe EMT Casey Brinke (our featured heroine) lives in. All we know it’s a universe where interdimensional alien meat industrialists and restaurant tycoons hold business meetings in cheap motels, and post-apocalyptic societies exist inside food truck gyros.
The ambiguous story is somewhat frustrating, I can’t tell if this is an origin story or if the Doom Patrol has already been established. And for a single issue, there is already a large cast of characters, mostly new. Although we do get a glimpse at The Chief. Also,
Robotman does appear, until he’s smashed into pieces by a garbage truck. Nick Derrington’s art and Tamra Bonvillain’s colors certainly help carry the reader through the issue. Not to mention there is a short sequence of panels introducing us to Robotman that are gorgeously painted, and worthy enough of a heavy metal album cover. If you’re a fan of Marvel’s current Hellcat series and Image’s Limbo,then you may enjoy Doom Patrol’s cartoonish, neon style.
The “mature” element of Young Animal isn’t found in gritty storytelling but in trippy, psychedelic sci-fi concepts and in Way’s ambiguous style, that would otherwise fly over younger readers’ heads. If one isn’t already accustomed to Way’s work, Doom Patrol #1 may require a second read through. There are at least 1-2 pages where dialogue does drag-on and feels like filler, but the sharp colors, sudden switch between cartoonish line work and painterly panels are visually inviting. What it lacks it in discernible plot, it makes up for in humorously macabre moments and dialogue (like having a your roommate disintegrate via a blast of party confetti). If you’re a fan of Way’s previous work, or enjoy bizarre sci fi like Dr. Who or Rick and Morty then you may want to pick this up, otherwise it may be confusing to DC traditionalists.