Volume 5 of “Doom Patrol” sets out to build worlds. Dealt a handful of characters as members of the Doom Patrol, Giffen treats some of them more kindly than others. When the big bad of the issue confronts the DP, she only concerns herself with Negative Man, Elasti-Woman (Giffen gave the name an upgrade, here’s hoping it sticks), and Robotman, choosing not to concern herself with “incidentals.” Giffen puts the team immediately in harm’s way, and not everyone returns home to Oolong Island.
The fact that Giffen has chosen to set the base of operations for the Doom Patrol on Oolong Island speaks volumes to the direction and intent Giffen has for this series. An island that is recognized by North Korea, Iran, and China — but not by the United Nations — and populated with mad scientists just seems like a natural fit for a team of freaks. Our portal character is the Reverend Leslie “Rocky” Davis, who has been set upon with the task of debriefing the team. Through him, Giffen lets us get to know the characters. He also gives the readers a chance to understand why the team does what it does. Yes, longtime DC readers, THAT Rocky Davis.
Matthew Clark’s art is well-suited to this team of misfits and the trouble they encounter. Equally adept at drawing the lush landscapes that cover Oolong Island and the atrocities the team faces on Buena Suerte, Clark is a good choice to draw this team once rendered by Bruno Premiani, Steve Lightle, and Tan Eng Huat. There are a couple inferred scenes in the book, such as when Grunt bites Rita and the death scene of the Doom Patroller. In the latter sequence, the inference makes the scene and the follow-up more impactful. My only real gripe with Clark’s art is the laptop and video camera the Chief employs. He’s one of the smartest men in the world. He cloned a woman from a chip of her skull and encased a man’s brain in a robot body. Shouldn’t his tech be a little bit sleeker?
This issue is far from perfect, but it shows promise. The characters are far from lovable, but entirely relatable. I have no doubt Giffen puts more than a little of himself in the voice he uses for Larry Trainor. Snippets from emails and entries from Omnipedia as well as Oolong Island classified files help Giffen tell his tale more effectively. The action is interspersed with this information, not stopped by it. Some of the entries border on being too long, while others are rather difficult to read given the coloring, font, and background, but the intent is clear. There is a lot of information in this story.
Giffen quickly establishes that this team is a strike force of sorts, not a bunch of pals chumming around. They operate from Oolong Island under the auspices of Niles Caulder, who has manipulated them in the past and most likely won’t hesitate to do so again. This Doom Patrol seems to have a purpose, at least moreso than some of the teams that ran under the “Doom Patrol” brand in the past. I look forward to what Giffen’s going to put these characters through and how Clark renders it. The world Giffen is building isn’t going to forget where the Doom Patrol came from, nor is it going to lose what makes the DC Universe special, and that gives me great hope for what is to come.
Giffen hangs around for the backup story, bringing his “Justice League International” cohorts. J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire. Featuring another Oolong scientist in the form of Wil Magnus, the adventures of the Metal Men offer up some humor in a “Bwah-Ha-Ha” manner. Complete with running gags, this story is seemingly done in one, but could potentially have long-range ramifications. Maguire’s trademark mugs make this part of the issue look a lot different from Clark’s “Doom Patrol” story, but the two are sewn together through the coloring employed by Guy Major.
This issue, like several others this week, also features a sneak peek into “Magog” #1, effectively giving us readers even more Keith Giffen-penned stories to enjoy. This tale is rather harsh, as it dives into the brutal underbelly of war in a world inhabited by superheroes.
A twenty-page Doom Patrol tale, ten pages of Metal Men mayhem and four pages from “Magog” make this issue a solid buy for this week. Let’s see what Giffen does to top this next month.