Most of these four-dollar DC comics give you a “second feature” that isn’t anything more than a mere diversion. A too-short underdeveloped snippet of a story that just doesn’t work. But in “Doom Patrol” you get more than a mere diversion, you get a worthwhile diversion in the form of the Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire “Metal Men.” This is BY FAR the best of the “second features” and this month’s installment is the best of the “Metal Men” stories so far. It’s not just the Maguire art, though it is mostly the Maguire art, but it’s also the ridiculousness that is “Douglas, Robot Hunter,” who may or may not be a method actor gone mad.
If you’re a fan of the classic Russ Manning “Magnus, Robot Fighter” (and who isn’t?) then you’ll enjoy the goofy parody here, complete with the chainmail skirt. But even if you don’t get the allusion, the story is still a lot of fun, and Maguire gets to ham it up on every page.
But you probably wouldn’t buy a “Doom Patrol” comic just for the back-up feature, though in this case it might be worth it. You’ll be expecting a good story involving Rita Farr, Larry Trainor, and Cliff Steele, and you’ll get one of those here as well.
Listen, any Doom Patrol story is going to have to live in the twin shadows of Arnold Drake and Grant Morrison, but this comic is a pretty good follow-up to those two definitive incarnations. It’s much more traditional than those two, but Keith Giffen adds enough subtext, and twists that subtext hard, so that the story in “Doom Patrol” #3 isn’t just a watch-the-slightly-weird-heroes-defeat-the-bad-guy tale. It’s that and a story about a man and his mental helmet. It’s about the devious things that can be done with superpowers, and the things that you might get caught doing if you’re hanging around with Niles Caulder. The issue raises some uncomfortable questions about superhero relationships in the DCU, and it relishes those questions because it’s a comic about strange conflict. It works.
Matthew Clark has done some nice work in the past — his first (and only) issue of “Tangent: Superman’s Reign” was an evocative, detailed piece of comic book illustration, and some not-so-nice work as well — his “Final Crisis: Submit” issue looked like it had been drawn on the way to work that morning, maybe in the back of a van, on a gravel road. But “Doom Patrol” #3 is somewhere in the middle. The Robotman design looks terrible (why does he have a fishnet belly and bicycle shorts?) but the panel to panel storytelling is crisp, and the figure drawing is solid.
Next to Kevin Maguire it looks inelegant, but that could probably be said about anyone else’s art.
“Doom Patrol” #3 is a good little comic, a twisted psychosexual tale of weird superheroics from the first feature to the last. It’s better than you probably expect.