Andy’s Read Pile: Doom Patrol, Volume 1, Brick by Brick

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IMG_5290Howdy Gents and Gals of the Comic Book World! Andy Larson, the host with the most of GotS, back again for another weekly installment of “No need to retake the SATs, I know I’m a good reader”. And yes, I realize the proper way to say that was that I read well, but who am I but just someone that loves getting under the skin of those that think they are better than me because they are grammar sticklers.

Take that, you Grammar Nazis! I thumb my nose in your general direction as I help usher in the downfall of Western Civilization by ignoring all the rules of proper English.

In any case, if there’s one thing I am in addition to being a poor sport when it comes to taking criticism on my English, it’s that I’m also a huge comic bandwagoner. Yeah, I admit it, sometimes the mainstream success of a certain comic book character in some other media will spur me on to read more and more about those characters. However, in that regard, I feel like that’s a pretty common human trait, so the only thing I’m admitting to is being a pretty typical guy at the end of the day.

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And thus, as a typical guy, I found myself hooked on a TV show about a bunch of not so typical superheroes, with the DC streaming service’s Doom Patrol series. Now I know what you are asking, if I love it so damn much, why haven’t I written a review of the series just yet. Well, the simple reason is that the season has wrapped up yet! There’s still a couple more episodes to go before the climatic season finale hopefully wrapping up the Doom Patrol’s season long battle against the reality warping Mr. Nobody. So that review of Season 1 is just gonna have to wait for a couple more weeks…

But given I’m a bandwagoner and my new found interest in Doom Patrol as spurred me into reading more about this team of super freaks, I decided to take a page out of the read pile assignment we had for this week’s podcast, and read the Doom Patrol that was recently written by Gerard Way (of Umbrella Academy fame…boy we’ve been talking about him A LOT this week!).

So without further ado, here comes a review of the first trade of the recent Doom Patrol series put out by DC comics Young Animal line entitled “Brick by Brick“.


Synopsis:

Things were pretty normal for ambulance driver, Cassie Brinke. Well, that is if you consider mysterious memories of fighting aliens in outer space and other strange adventures normal. But things really start getting bizarre when evil robotic businessmen from Vectra steal her ambulance, which actually ends up being another manifestation of the sentient location and Doom Patrol supporting character, Danny the Street.

Vectra wants to use Danny’s power of creating matter in order to create cheap meat for an intergalactic fast food chain, and in his quest to escape from their evil clutches, Danny asks Cassie to find his friends in the Doom Patrol. It turns out that Cassie is actually one of Danny’s creations, a former comic book super heroine that Danny turned real in order to help him communicate with regular people.

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With this new knowledge, Cassie helps to find both Robot Man and the recently reformed Negative Man, as well as former Doom Patrol associate, Flex Mentallo, and together they do indeed save Danny from Vectra.

In gratitude, Danny transports the team to a secret compound where Doom Patrol member, Crazy Jane, was about to remove her multiple personalities by transferring them to other helpless people before then killing them. Robot Man convinces her this is obviously bad idea formed by one of her more terrible alternate personalities in Dr. Harrison.

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After reconciliation with her mechanical boyfriend, Jane helps ensure that the bomb actually removes the Harrison personality instead, thus ending the threat and subsequently completing the reunification of one of the strangest super hero teams on the planet!


Things I Liked:

I really can’t say enough good thing about Nick Derington as an artist. I know my fellow ghostie, Chad Smith, has been singing his praises for a while now, but this was really my first experience reading an entire series by him, and color me impressed!

I really don’t know how to describe his art and why I like it. It’s crisp, clean cartooning. It’s got one foot in that photo realistic style yet it never goes all the way there. Instead it keeps the other foot firmly planted in that pop bubblegummy funny pages look that I love from other artists like Mike Allred. It’s a perfect marriage of the two, and I’m sincerely over the moon with it. It’s pretty picture perfect for the wacky tone and irrelevancy mixed with near horror like aspects of Doom Patrol.

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Speaking of that wonderful mix which now highlights what I feel is the best that this series has to offer comic readers, Gerard Way really does excel at throwing all kinds of zany concepts into a blender, adding a dash or two of really gruesome terror, and just the right about of heart and character development to create a Doom Patrol soup which is both satisfying to the mind and pleasing to the soul.

I won’t lie. As someone that has not read a lot of Grant Morrison’s run on the title (saving that for a future read pile on the show), I was a bit lost at first jumping into the deep end that is this crazy world. This was especially true in regards to the character of Danny the Street aka World aka Ambulance, and his importance as a sentient world capable of creating real people such as Casey “Space Case” Brinke. However, after I finally started connecting the dots and equated him to characters I was already familiar with such as Ego the Living Planet from Marvel, things started falling in line.

However, what I will say helped tremendously though even in those moments of uncertainty was the character of Cliff Steele aka Robot Man.

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But far the closest thing the DC universe has to a Ben Grimm, Cliff’s take no guff/working man’s attitude helps ground the reader in some semblance of normalcy especially in his very human interactions with his friends such as Negative Man and Crazy Jane. A true protagonist, Robot Man can be your compass in this book if you ever get lost, and I highly recommend searching for him if you are a new reader of Doom Patrol’s somewhat chaotic narrative.


Things I Didn’t Like:

I’m just going to say it. This book is probably not for everybody. It’s out there. I mean really out there. And that’s going to be off-putting to some that like more grounded, realistic story telling.

Plus it relies a lot on the reader being somewhat well versed in previous Doom Patrol lore, borrowing heavily from the Grant Morrison run as I pointed out. Now this isn’t really new for comics. Many comics have a significant “buy in” from the reader in that they rely on the past stories to build new ones. However, when you have a book that borders on the avant garde as much as this one does, well, it really becomes a determent when you find yourself scratching your head about your main characters more often then just emoting through them.

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I mean, I had to read several sections of this book over and over again to make sure I understood what was going on, and even then I had to Wikipedia up old characters like Danny Street I wasn’t familiar with. And I only really did that because I was invested in reading the book for this read pile as well as the characters of the Doom Patrol in general.

Heaven help a more causal reader that doesn’t have the patience or ambition or whatever you want to call it to stick with this book after they see Robot Man fight an army of evil doers on what basically amounts to a secret world hidden on a discarded Gyro.

The other thing I really didn’t like was that one of the key members of the Doom Patrol in Elasta Girl, was nowhere in sight. Now I don’t how much the character factored into the Grant Morrison run, to which this series seems like a spiritual successor.

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However, with as much time as they give to reestablishing Negative Man and his backstory, as well as making Robot Man pretty much the foundation of the team, it really does feel off that Elasta Girl is largely forgotten about and instead replaced by a younger hipper woman in Casey Brike. I mean even the Chief makes quite a lot of cameo appearances throughout the story, but the founding female of the team…dumped by the wayside.


Fun Facts:

Well, now that I’m officially on the Doom Patrol band wagon, thanks to the excellent DC Streaming Service show and fine comic books like this, I guess it’s time to start looking for some merch with this world famous collection of super powered rejects and misfits.

Of course, that means the first thing I’ll need is a t shirt, as what self respecting nerd would I be without that. I’ve seen some from Hot Topic with more of the current Nick Derrington design work, but to be honest, if you know how I roll, this stuff really it’s my bag in terms of clothing.

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I’m more of a “Retro” man myself, liking more simple, old skool designs. This is all too urban and busy for me. Besides look at this shmuck and the way he’s wearing this. What with his red pants and his enormous nose. Yeah, if that’s what Hot Topic thinks will entice me into snagging up this shirt for my pretty exclusive collection, they got another thing coming.

What I’m looking for is something more like this when it comes to my T shirt design.

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Well…minus the weird black lines and such, but that classic line up. That Classic art work. Something that makes me look like a man of my age…of wealth and sophistication…wearing…a comic book t shirt. Whatever. That’s just more my look and I’ll scour the interwebs until I find it.

I guess after I get a t shirt, I’ll have to start looking for action figures to pose in the ensuing battles the Doom Patrol shall have with the other denizens of my office shelving. Ah yes, the eternal battle of Negative man vs. MOTU’s Stinkor, that’s gonna put those fannies in their seats!

In any case, the best I could find were these figures put out by Mattel as a part of the DC Universe line. And when I say “best” what I should say is “goddamn perfect”

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I mean, look at that Robot Man figure! How Fresh and So Clean…CLEAN! That’s the type of Robot Man spoiling for a fight with my Vision and Machine Man figures, in a battle for artificial life supremacy. Well…I guess actually Robot Man brain is still human so it’s not artificial, but again whatever. You see where I’m going with this!

And to have the forethought to make Elasta Girl’s figure twice as big to show off her world famous growing ability. NATCH, BABY! Simply Natch!

Oh these are totally going to get bought. How much are they on eBay???

70 bucks!! Are you kidding me? Arrghh…stupid DC streaming service. I’m sure these are now it high demand thanks to other band-wagoners like me.

Sheesh…it’s hard being a nerd sometimes…I tell you what.


Final Thoughts:

All through my life, I’ve been somewhat unfair to the Doom Patrol. Although I’ve always thought they were some of the more interesting characters in the DC pantheon, I’ve still always thought of them as a poor man’s  X-men. A bunch of super powered misfits shunned and misunderstood by normal people despite struggling to protect them from even more strange and bizarre monsters then they.

Maybe its because I’ve heard stories that the original creators of the Doom Patrol, Arnold Drake, Bob Haney, and artist Bruno Premiani, were instead attempting to recreate the success of Marvel’s Fantastic Four, and that’s always influenced me into thinking they were dime store versions of the Marvel characters I’ve loved all my life.

I won’t lie. Again I was brought to the Doom Patrol table in earnest because of the DC Comics TV series, not because I was hungry to reevaluate my position on the team as a whole. But now that I’ve read this entire series, I’m very glad I did.

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As I said in my comments above, this book is definitely NOT for everyone. There’s a huge buy in to the crazy off the wall world which sometimes comes across as being weird for the sake of being weird. But at the same time, I never thought it came across as forced or campy or uncomfortable. You can tell that Gerard Way genuinely loves these characters and the world he built for them to live in, and that says a lot. When you have that kind of heart, the last thing you can call any of this is fake, which is in some ways the book’s biggest saving grace.

In a series about sentient ambulances that create people, Teddy Ruxpin type creatures that contain the instructions on using superpowers, and cults based on taking on multiple personalities of a schizophrenic, Way does tie a sense of realism to the proceedings which is hard to ignore.

Characters feel and react in ways that filled with genuine emotion and that stands in stark contrast to the subject material at times. I feel like the only way you can write something like that is to care, and compared to some other series I’ve read about “kooky” superheroes which in the end fail because they are trying too hard to be “different”and end of coming off fake, this one succeeds because there’s a passion inherent in the story line which makes all the difference.

I guess that’s a great lesson for anyone writing Doom Patrol or any other strange or unusual book. Just stick to your guns! If you are gonna go for, go for it with Gusto! Gerard Way did that here, and it made a fan out of me. Sure, there are plenty that will balk, but there are just as many that will applaud that commitment and find the story so much more rewarding as a result!

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Andy’s Read Pile Grade: A


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