The much-anticipated debut of “Doom Patrol” and with it, DC Comics’ Young Animal line overseen by former My Chemical Romance frontman and “True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys” creator Gerard Way. Way writes the inaugural series himself, with Nick Derington on art. The energy and poetry of this book will likely be poured over in the coming days and months — years? — but what’s in “Doom Patrol’s” debut issue provides the clearest picture yet of what the book will be and what to expect from Young Animal.
This is a very Gerard Way comic
Readers of “Umbrella Academy” and “Fabulous Killjoys” will be on familiar ground. Way writes in lyrics, his dialogues are adventures, he makes astonishing narrative leaps. He expects readers to keep up, and gives them the caffeine jolt to help them do it. His characters have depths accessed by hidden angles.
This is a very “Doom Patrol” comic
Grant Morrison, Way’s mentor in comics, penned the definitive take on “The World’s Strangest Heroes,” but Morrison does not have a monopoly on the weird. Way’s “Doom Patrol” is not Morrison’s, and they are far enough apart that it is not at all safe to assume that fans of the Vertigo classic will enjoy the Young Animal version. But a lot of them will. The inventiveness is there, the intricate abstraction that resolves into something stellar.
So what happens?
Lots. The most straightforward bits involve a young woman named Casey Brinke, ambulance driver extraordinaire and champion of 1980s arcade games. She and her new EMT partner Sam Reynolds are called to the scene of a hit and run, only to find nothing and nobody there at the scene. Their new dispatcher “Em”, who may remind MCR fans of Dr. Death Defying, seems to have steered them here just in time to watch Robotman stumble out of an alley and get hit by a garbage truck.
Casey takes the box of ruined robot pieces back to her apartment, where her roommate yells at her before he is blown up and replaced by singing telegram Terry None. Then, when Robotman’s head starts to show signs of life, Casey and Terry team up to nurse him back to health.
Plenty! A corporate alien cabal is bringing a new meat product to market, though their supply chain depends on finding Danny the Street and torturing him into an endless cycle of production. But Danny, a “sentient sprawl” who speaks in polari on signs posted throughout the city block that is his body, is currently MIA.
Robotman fights his way out of the tiny universe within Sam’s gyro.
Classic “Doom Patrol” leader Niles Caulder may have an inkling what’s going on with the flies, who seem to be everywhere this issue.
Oh yes, and someone (Danny?) seems to have assassinated a superhero and his lion, but feels bad about it.
And there’s swearing! It looks like Young Animal will be the line going forward where DC’s superheroes can cut loose with a filthy tirade.
What does it all mean?
Way clearly has a plan, one that draws on both well-established Doom Patrol members as well as new characters, which is in keeping with the spirit of the series. This team has a rather high mortality rate, and with the exception of Robotman Cliff Steele and Niles “Chief” Calder, there have been few constants. There is a density of references — Danny is named twice, though readers unfamiliar with Morrison’s work won’t see why this is significant — though even Way’s originals feel like they have a deep history aching to be recognized. The stylization, especially Derington’s visual language, from the silent Caulder scene to the altered art in the gyro universe, hints at much, and it’s difficult to know at this point what if anything can be taken at face value.
The A-plots of Casey’s new friends and the alien meat merchants give Way and Derington a scaffolding on which to hang their more obscure imaginings, and whether or not these all turn out to be pieces of the same whole of facets of some structure with a more complex geometry remains to be seen.
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