Publisher: DC/Young Animal
Writer: Gerard Way
Artist: Nick Derington
Colours: Tamra Bonvillain
Letterer: Todd Klein
DC’s Doom Patrol were always a bunch of misfits who stood apart from more conventional superhero teams, but it wasn’t until Grant Morrison’s iconic run beginning in 1989 that they truly made their unique mark. Combining dadaist absurdity with psychedelic symbolism, Morrison managed to tease out Doom Patrol‘s singular, glorious weirdness while still treating the characters as emotional, three-dimensional beings.
Subsequent attempts to resurrect the series have been disappointingly generic superhero stories (Rachel Pollack’s post-Morrison run aside), but in the hands of musician-turned-writer (and hardcore Morrison fan) Gerard Way, the Doom Patrol have gained a new and suitably surreal lease on life. Arguably the flagship title for Way’s bold new Young Animal imprint, Doom Patrol #1 represents a return to the bizarre yet beautiful stylings which once made the series great, while just about managing to step out of Grant Morrison’s shadow.
In Doom Patrol #1, ambulance driver Casey Brinke is having a very odd night. After witnessing a robotic man being smashed to pieces by a garbage truck, her commitment to helping others compels her to try and put him back together. But little does Casey know that she’s just taken her first step into a strange and terrifying world, where interdimensional executives hatch disturbing plans for their fast food empire and an entire universe can exist inside a burrito. Sounds like a job for the Doom Patrol.
Gerard Way’s obvious love of Morrison’s classic run could have proved a mixed blessing for Doom Patrol #1, returning the series to its surreal glory days but in the form of an all-too-reverent retread. Fortunately, though, Way manages to walk a fine line well, and for the moment at least his take on this venerable property echoes the best moments of past incarnations whilst exhibiting a 21st century freshness all its own. This is doubly impressive with the majority of the Doom Patrol themselves conspicuously absent from this first issue…or so it seems. Instead, Way focuses on establishing a number of apparently disparate storylines – elements of which may be familiar to longtime Doom Patrol readers – and whimsical interludes, story fragments which will surely coalesce into an uncanny mosaic as the series progresses. This scattergun approach might frustrate monthly readers, but Way’s story snapshots in Doom Patrol #1 are just too fascinating in their own right for that to become much of a issue.
Just as Morrison’s unique visions were vividly rendered by the artwork of Richard Case, so Way has found a gifted collaborator to bring the weird and wonderful world of Doom Patrol #1 to life. Nick Derington finds the perfect balance of styles here, lulling us into a false sense of security with his lush linework before unleashing scenes of nightmarish weirdness along with some genuinely arresting panels. Tamra Bonvillain’s colour work is also a triumph, contrasting the drab background of everyday life with the brain-melting psychedelia which heralds our heroes’ return.
Way has described his run on the comic as a “spiritual successor” to Morrison’s, and long-term fans will indeed find plenty to love in Doom Patrol #1, but even readers completely new to the series should enjoy this well-written and beautifully-drawn introduction, provided they’ve a high tolerance for weirdness! It remains to be seen whether Way’s beguiling story pieces will form a satisfying whole, and if he’s truly managed to avoid simply rehashing ideas from the series’ iconic past, but for the time being at least this is the Doom Patrol comic we’ve been waiting more than twenty years for.