Strap yourselves in, gang – this week, we’re gettin’ weird. That’s right – we’re heading for classic Pulp territory right here, deep into the realm of madness that masquerades as the mind of one Gerard Way, better known as the author of The Umbrella Academy or that dude that sang for My Chemical Romance. I’ve been a fan of his brand of weirdness for a while – definitely recommend The Umbrella Academy, FYI – and it made sense to have a gander at the first volume of his run on the home of DC’s favourite band of misfits – the Doom Patrol.
Casey Brinke is your run-of-the-mill EMT. She drives an ambulance, has a weird past, works the graveyard shift with her partner, Sam Reynolds, and she’s about to be neck-deep in the weirdest adventure of a lifetime. She lives for the darkest parts of the night, and the blackest alleyways of her city, but that level of strangeness is about to be taken to the next level. With the revelation that her ambulance is actually a sentient former-street-and-sort-of-god named Danny (yes, you read that right), Casey is dragged into an adventure to reunite the team of misfits known as the Doom Patrol and save Danny from the clutches of an intergalactic empire, who want to turn the inhabitants/creations of Danny’s dimension into fast food.
Yep, told you it’d be weird. Doom Patrol is like the weirdness of Doctor Strange’s astral plane meets the sheer fluidity and malleability of the Dreaming from Sandman, blended together and frozen in superhero-themed ice blocks. Each member of the Doom Patrol has their own bizarre origins – including Casey – and their own little stories going forward. Robotman is hit by a truck and broken into pieces almost as soon as he’s introduced and has to be rebuilt. Negative Man loses his connection to the Negative Force and has to work to restore it. Flex Mentallo is in hiding, recovering from his loss to the Men from N.O.W.H.E.R.E. Crazy Jane is straight up missing, having disappeared after a traumatic experience somewhere in space. Each little story line helps establish the preexisting characters, mesh them with the new ones – i.e. Casey and Sam – and turn an otherwise fractured set of circumstances into a (relatively) coherent story.
Gerard Way says himself in the afterword that Doom Patrol is a hard book to review – and it is, trust me – and rather is a book to experience for yourself. That’s absolutely true, as long as you bear in mind that sometimes, it’s OK to have absolutely no freakin’ clue what’s going on. Doom Patrol has always thrived on being abstract, and features characters that are deliberately off-kilter. If you like your heroes with a few screws loose, Doom Patrol will tick those boxes. There’s a surprising amount of history to the team – they’ve been around since ’63, after all – but there’s enough content for relative newbies like myself to get on board. If you’re a fan of other Young Animals titles – especially Shade, The Changing Girl – or other bizarre titles a la the more abstract sections of Sandman, you’ll definitely appreciate this one – check it out!
Written by Alastair McGibbon