April 29th, 2009
|11:34 pm - Give a Cheer for All the Broken|
If you're familiar with comics—and I gather from the response to my posts that not a lot of you are, but I am trying to change that WITH said posts—you, like I, may have heard of The Umbrella Academy. If you're like me, all you knew was that it was written by Gerard Way, lead singer of My Chemical Romance, and so you assumed it was some vanity project or Black Parade spin-off made up of MCR lyrics. You didn't think it was a real comic. I sure didn't.
I was wrong.
Gerard Way actually wanted to be a comic book writer before he started a rock band; he got a BFA from the School of Visual Arts. And he worked at a comic book store. And now he's written a comic that's won an Eisner (the Oscar of the comic book world—unless that's the Harvey...I'm not sure which is the Oscar and which is the Golden Globe). Anyway, this is all to say that I shouldn't have discounted a comic written by a rock star, especially when he's got James Jean doing his covers.
The Umbrella Academy is the most gloriously cracktastic thing I have read in quite a while. The first issue is called "The Day the Eiffel Tower Went Berserk." It features zombie-robot Gustave Eiffel. One of the main characters is a talking chimp named Dr. Pogo. I am not making this up. It comes as no surprise that one of Way's major influences is Grant Morrison.
One day, forty-seven women inexplicably give birth, despite not being pregnant. Seven of these children are recovered and raised by Reginald Hargreeves. They have superpowers! And they're going to save the world! From insane national monuments, killer robots, alien invaders, whatever. While we get a few glimpses of the superkids doing battle, the story actually takes place twenty years later, when they're all adults and separated and basically retired. But then they're forced to be a team again and save the world! There are shades of The Incredibles, except Pixar would not allow this much gore.
Now, the plot is insane, but it works because the characters are so strong, even in the first six issues, which comprise the first trade, The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite. Spaceboy, originally the leader of the group, is trapped in a giant monkey suit (literally) and angsts a lot on the moon. The Kraken has become a hardened vigilante. The Rumor, one of my favorites, is snarky, blue-haired, and not really excited about being pulled back into superherodom. The Séance is kind of a goofball. The Horror has tentacles coming out of his belly. Number Five, another of my favorites, is a badass, time-traveling ten-year-old, so I was bound to love him. And then there's Vanya, who never displayed a superpower, only a talent for the violin. This dysfunctional family of seven brothers and sisters is held together by the mysterious Hargreeves, whose plans for them are not quite clear.
Apocalypse Suite is fabulous. It's exciting and crazy and surprising and hilarious and tragic and affecting, all in the span of a six-issue miniseries. I loved the little touches like the fact that each issue's title was reported as "The Umbrella Academy Featuring X, In," as two of the Xs were particularly awesome. And at the end of the issue, there's a little random fun thing that just adds to the glorious cracktasticness of the whole endeavor. It's a lot of fun.
The Umbrella Academy: Dallas, which has one issue to go, is a sequel miniseries, which surprised me given how the first one ended. But the story follows up on a loose thread from Apocalypse Suite and successfully continues the story of Our Heroes when I thought that would be impossible. I'm glad, though, because there's more story to be mined from the world Way has created, which is weird and wonderful in that it faintly resembles our own but operates on a slightly different set of rules.
The art by Gabriel Bá and colors by Dave Stewart give the book a special look; characters have jagged edges yet evocative facial expressions and the color scheme is constantly shifting to match the tone of the action.
I'd highly recommend The Umbrella Academy to any comic book fan. If you don't read comic books but like weird superhero family adventures, it doesn't require a lot of investment since it's not an ongoing series. I'm excited for the last issue of Dallas to come out (because I want to see how Way writes himself out of, er, [spoiler redacted]), and I hope to see more UA miniseries in the future. Forget your emo rock band, Gerard Way, I need more comics!
Current Mood: stressed
Current Music: Drain STH - Crave
I remember not long ago waxing poetic in a comment to you about my love for Gerard Way when you mentioned Grant Morrison (as that love also extends to him). I'm amazed you hadn't read Umbrella Academy
yet! I thought the same thing, that it would be a vanity project. As much as I like MCR, sometimes I don't like them because they have this "new" sound that I just dislike in general, and I feel like they're good IN SPITE of that, rather than because of that sound.
But I really believe Way is a far better comic book writer than rock star, and that's really a compliment because he does the rock star thing very well. (He's amazing live, and I like his lyrics quite a bit, too - it's just the actual music that sometimes I'm not crazy about.)
He's basically a great art director and writer and that makes his band interesting when they otherwise might not be, and then you put him in charge of a comic and VOILA, he's really great at it.
I really have nothing to add to what you said, except that I haven't read series two yet, really, so I don't know what spoiler you're referring to. (We have the issues IN THE HOUSE. I just am really lazy about getting around to reading comics.)
Oh, and I also wanted to add that even though it sounds like Way only worked at a comic book store in some of the stuff you might read, he was also an intern at DC comics, which is a pretty big deal. I believe he was still a teenager at the time, and he said he would watch Grant Morrison walk around in character as [some character I don't know the name of] because he was writing him at the time, and he was just in awe of it. So it's really awesome they're friends now.
Actually, Way technically released a comic when he was only 15, the bastard. XD This article talks a little about it and links to a YouTube of Gerard as a chubby teenager in the audience at a Sally Jesse Raphael taping. I'm basically obligated to like Gerard Way for being an ex-chubber, as I hope to be one myself someday. ;Phttp://www.rollingstone.com/rockdaily/index.php/2008/02/26/my-chemical-romances-gerard-way-embroiled-in-comic-controversy/
I remember you waxing poetic as well! And someone did mention the bit about interning at DC, but I was surprised that it didn't show up in his Wikipedia entry. Wikipedia, you have failed me.
I know and love about three MCR songs.
Are they, "Welcome to the Black Parade," "Helena" and "Desolation Row"? ;)
"Mama" is a frigging awesome song, and also "Blood" (hidden track). Both are on Black Parade. I also really like "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)," even though in some ways it seems like something I wouldn't like. Way is a huge Smashing Pumpkins fan, which was totally my band growing up, so he references sometimes things like how he wanted Black Parade to be his Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, and so then Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge was their Siamese Dream. So with that in mind, "I'm Not Okay" totally reminds me of their "Cherub Rock."
But that's just my opinion. :D
Oh, Littlest Sister is a big fan of Umbrella Academy. She wanted a collection for her birthday, but the comic book store I checked had none, so she got Young Avengers and Blue Beetle instead. (Sorry, Littlest Sister.) I will send her along your way.
Oh, but a friend of mine loves Blue Beetle, so I think she came out okay.
Middlest Sister, I cannot in all good conscience say that I mind the lack of an Umbrella Academy trade when its place was taken by both Young Avengers and
Also, hello, spectralbovine
keeps linking me here, so it seems politic to say hi. As is probably obvious, I agree with you on the matter of Umbrella Academy except for that I would prefer Gerard Way to keep musicianning it up while writing comics, as while his band is an emo rock one, it is also highly enjoyable.
|Date:||April 30th, 2009 01:54 pm (UTC)|| |
You want something cracktastic, try NEXTWAVE: Agents of H.A.T.E.
If you already have, I'unno, try it again.
(I agree about The Umbrella Academy, as I read it day before yesterday and enjoyed myself greatly.)
Yeah, I've been recommended Nextwave over the years. It does look fun.
And look at us, reading a comic around the same time.
|Date:||April 30th, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC)|| |
I loved Umbrella Academy. SO CRACKTASTIC. I love it so. It's so weird and ridiculous and yet it works. I kept flipping back through it to see how it all fits together. So much love.
Yes! As I was writing this post, I kept flipping through the trade and loving it all over again.
I wish we were neighbors so I could borrow books from you.
You could not borrow this from me since I got it from the library and the Internet, but I wish we were neighbors anyway.
I really love it! Even though the plot isn't always fully satisfying, I can forgive it because it still works so well the way it's set up. He gives himself a lot of leeway in the world and the style.
I remember thinking it looked interesting when it first came out, but didn't read it then and it kinda dropped out of my memory. The way so many things do lately.
thanks for the review and reminder!