In “Doom Patrol” #1, the kickoff to Gerard Way’s Young Animals imprint at DC Comics, Way and artist Nick Derington re-introduced readers to Robotman Cliff Steele, Niles “Chief” Calder, along with new characters Terry None, Sam Reynolds and Casey Brinke. In issue #2, we get to see Way and Derington’s incarnation of three more classic “Doom Patrol” teammates: Negative Man, Flex Mentallo and Danny the Street. In fact, of the Morrison-era Doom Patrol characters promised in the solicits, only Crazy Jane has yet to appear.
But even though old friends continue to return to the team’s latest incarnation, they’re doing so with some expectedly unexpected twists.
What’s Up with Negative Man’s Powers?
Way seems to be taking Larry Trainor back to basics in this new series. In issue #2, he seems a bit overwhelmed by his “powers,” and the negative energy he’s wielded in past incarnations comes out as vomit in this issue. He tries to instigate a street fight to generate negative energy, and Sam and Casey find him lying on the ground, disturbed by matryoshka dolls and crying, “I’m a negative space in a negative world!” to the cops. (At least he’s free of the bandages, though.)
Meanwhile, an alien “joined with the spirit that is nothing” is heading straight for Larry. It remains to be seen what will happen once they’re reunited, but for now Larry is a bit undone. His sputtering, mischief-meets-madness persona fits with the full-on weird vibe this latest “Doom Patrol” seems to be going for.
Danny the Street Is Now… A Voice on the Radio?
In the first issue, Danny the Street was referenced a number of times. Someone searched for him brick-by-brick, and an intergalactic corporation planned to torture a “sentient organic generator sprawl” into producing meat for their “Danny Burgers.”
In this issue, it’s revealed that Danny is the mysterious “Em” on Casey’s ambulance radio. The big hint in issue #1 came when Em referred to “cackle in the break-room,” using the Polari slang for “gossip” like Danny. In issue #2, there’s even more Polari from Em/Danny, as he calls Casey a “dolly little hoofer” before revealing himself outright. “Now that we’ve gotten all chummy, you can call me Danny.”
Interestingly, Way and Derington seem to be setting Danny up as their team’s mastermind. Chief, the traditional leader of the Doom Patrol, is off riding hot air balloons and practicing on the keyboard, while Danny is pulling all the strings. Given the corporation that wants to torture him, I’d assume Danny’s end game is self-preservation, but it’ll be interesting to see what he’s after.
Flex Mentallo is… Flex Mentallo
At the end of the issue, Danny teleports Casey to meet Flex Mentallo, the Man of Muscle Mystery. Flex looks pretty much as he always has, and his memory seems to be fully intact. Of course, he only appears for a few pages, so it’s tough to say too much about the new series’ take on him, but there’s no denying it’s a bit of a thrill for longtime fans to see Derington and colorist Tamra Bonvillain’s classic, colorful take on the cult-favorite character.
Perhaps most importantly, Flex introduces Casey to “Dannyland,” which looks like the new incarnation of Danny the Street’s landscape. In the past, Danny’s street has reflected his “cross-dressing”: for example, shops selling traditionally masculine wares, but with ‘feminine’ frills in the windows. In Way and Derington’s “Doom Patrol,” however, it looks like Danny may be going full carnival. Given how his powers have otherwise expanded – speaking through the dynamic radio rather than static signage, operating the mobile ambulance – “Dannyland” could also represent a step up in his powers. Has Danny the Street evolved into Danny the alternate dimension? Or Danny the Theater? Only the coming issues will tell, but given the cabaret-and-curtains introduction, I hope that “Doom Patrol” #2 will use this staging to play with the performativity of gender, rather than rainbow-wash Danny’s queerness by removing its challenge to the heteronormative binary.
This introduction also raises the question: why is Casey the most celebrated citizen of “Dannyland”? Sam can only testify to three weeks of their working together, but Casey believes she’s “been [driving the ambulance] as long as I can remember – which I think is a very long time.” Is she a long-lost resident returning home? And if so, what separated her from the rest of the cabaret? Whatever answers the creative team provides, they’re sure to be strange, bright – and more than a little wacky.
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