For the life of me I cannot explain it, but when Duke Byron Boswick III and the Duchess are bantering about (and loosely with) Cliff in the opening pages of this issue, I get a mental image of Keith Giffen explaining this script out loud. It slides between a board room table and story time, with Giffen then turning the book artwork out to show the gathered masses he is reading to. This part of the story is just so refreshingly Giffen that it rings on every absurd level. With this scene, Giffen makes his mark upon Cliff Steele. Or one of his marks. It's a disturbingly fun scene that immediately connects reader and Robotman. Of course blood-spattered adversaries might do that more often than not.
Matthew Clark's and Ron Randall's timeshare works nicely in this issue with Clark taking the opening scene and Randall handling the Negative Man pages. The two swap scenes throughout the book, but by focusing in on character arcs, the art transition is not as jarring as it sometimes can be. Still, Clark's art is stunning and does leave me wanting to see more of his work filling this book. With the story page count dropping to twenty pages ("Holding the line at $2.99!"), maybe I'll get my wish soon.
Still, the story that is here from Giffen's quirky opening page pseudo-recap in the form of magnets on a fridge (complete with a shopping list that includes "sugar-coated gore whammies") to the text-stuffed final page is pure Doom Patrol. The wrap-up for this issue is rather anticlimactic, but the Patrol is less a team of heroes than a family of misfits watching out for each other. Giffen and crew continue to build the world around the Doom Patrol, leaving subplots and new characters to be mined later.
Giffen's voices for the characters herein are rocksteady, and as always, Larry Trainor is present with a few chuckle-worthy lines. Thinking about this a bit more, "Doom Patrol" is the one book, month in and month out, that I can count on for a chuckle or two. With stories like this, Giffen certainly would be changing storytime everywhere if he were allowed to huddle readers together to hear about the adventures of Rita Farr, Larry Trainor, Cliff Steele, and Karen Duncan. It's a shame the President of Oolong Island has other plans for Giffen's stories. At least we can buy them and pretend to read them at circle time.