Doom Patrol #20

With just three issues to go before the series fades behind the clamor of "Flashpoint," this issue gives us a preview as to what that might be like for the heroes themselves. Tossed off of their Oolong Island home, the Doom Patrol wander through the superhero community, trying to find somewhere to hang their hats (if they wore any hats) and call home. My first question was, "Why didn't Ambush Bug go with them?" That gets asked and answered very quickly in this issue. Left to their own devices, Cliff realizes it is time to call in a favor.

That leads to some quick interludes drawn by interludenal (I'm riffing here) artists. Scott Clark and Dave Beaty deliver a haunting two-page conversation between Congorilla and Robotman that goes, well, nowhere fast. Jose Luis and Art Thibert give us a heart-to-heart between Beast Boy and his mother. This is a long-awaited Beast Boy cameo that goes nowhere near where I expected it to, but given the situation and Keith Giffen's obvious attempt to move this story along, I understand. For now. The final coupling of Patroller and hero is Negative Man having a conversation with the Dark Knight, drawn by Scoot McDaniel and Art Thibert. That conversation leaves Larry with a mystery to ponder for the remainder of the issue and, unfortunately, leaves the Doom Patrol without a home.

The art is a jumble in this book, with Matthew Clark and Ron Randall also onboard. It's good to see Clark put pencil to paper again, if only for a few pages. Still, the problem remains - or in this issue is enhanced - that dissimilar art styles can stall the story. Or give it hiccups. I like Randall's work when there are characters talking, or trying to fit in to a "normal" setting, and his Bumblebee pages are well-crafted, but his reveal of Mister Somebody just doesn't carry a great deal of emotion and excitement, relying on motion lines to power through. The variant art styles work better when they track across a spread rather than butt up to one another from facing pages. This issue gives a nice sampler of artists currently working for DC, and in some cases, I'd like to see a little more Doom Patrol from them. Scott Clark, for one, has a nice, moody style that speaks to both Richard Case's work and Bruno Premiani's while remembering Matthew Clark's redesigns.

Giffen jams a lot into this book, from an appearance by the long-forgotten Arnold Drake and Bob Oksner creation, Super-Hip to a return of one of the Doom Patrol's oldest foes. At the same time, M.S.E. lurks in the background, seizing the opportunity to claim Oolong as their own and using that as a launchpad to further denigrate the Doom Patrol's image.

I'm not sure how the hammer comes down when a comic is slated for cancellation, but I do know when it happens, many comics quickly flutter about trying to wrap up loose ends and tie down plot threads. That certainly feels like the motion this book is going through. In this case, however, that wrap-up is doing some good to expedite struggles, conflicts, and other interactions dedicated "Doom Patrol" readers have been waiting for. It's a shame it had to come down to the last three issues to try to jam in the rest of the ideas Giffen has been masterfully (and sometimes painstakingly) seeding throughout the series, but I'm sure there will be a few notions left open-ended or undone. This team has been cancelled - hell, they've been killed! - before. For now, though, I'm enjoying the ride and the wild, crazy salute to the creators that have come before and contributed to the legend of the Doom Patrol.

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