“Doom Patrol” has been an odd book of late, with Matthew Clark and Ron Randall sharing the penciling chores for the title. Unfortunately, the two artists’ styles are different enough to not blend well should they be left to their own devices. Heck, as seen in previous issues, they even draw a brick differently! Unfortunately, this puts Livesay in a pinch as he tries to equalize the two styles in the inking process. The end result is a book that is visually less than stellar and only slightly more than average.
The story, however, plays up the odd and bizarre history of the Doom Patrol, right down to the final page, which Matthew Clark steps up to deliver with panache. This issue hits the notes that many Doom Patrol (and even Ambush Bug) fans have been waiting for when the team finally does something pro-active and adventurous. Giffen reaches back to the first issue of this series — and even farther back into previous “Doom Patrol” volumes — and brings elements forward to now. Almost a year in, this title feels like it is finally figuring out what it should be.
Ambush Bug was a bit of a surprise in this issue, but he was a surprise that served a purpose and fit a very specific need for the story and the team. I like the character, but I hope Giffen exercises discretion in using Bug going forward. Too much of Ambush Bug can quickly become way too much, especially when the main characters of the DP don’t seem very deep or thoroughly developed yet. The play between Ambush Bug and Negative Man is chuckle-worthy, but I think many readers would share Cliff’s sentiment towards the duo if they stick together for too long.
I’ve been pulling for this title since the original announcement in New York what feels like a decade ago, but was really only early 2009. Since then, Giffen has taken the full eleven months to start showing where he’s going with this series. Along the way, they’ve had a “Blackest Night” brush-up and Matthew Clark’s had some health issues. At this point it seems as though the series has gotten its sea legs under itself. I just hope Clark comes back soon to even out the inconsistent art.
One final art comment, and then I’ll let it go. When I worked for an advertising agency that handled the print media for a major retailer made infamous by “Rain Man,” we had an edict to never, under penalty of death, use purple backgrounds for any product shots. I’d like to offer DC some advice regarding purple backgrounds: a purple dinosaur on a purple background gets muddy and lost real fast. This issue was one of the best in this series to date, but the cover was less than eye-catching.
Luckily, all of the problems with this issue are correctable. Giffen and company just need to work on it a little.