DOOM PATROL BROTHERHOOD TP
What did the
Art by MATTHEW CLARK, RON RANDALL and LIVESAY
Cover by MATTHEW CLARK
Size: 168 pages
Every superhero fan has that one character or team that they possess an inexplicable love for. Their books might not sell as well as others and they might not get talked about as often, but there's a small, almost cultish appeal that they have.
For me, it's the Doom Patrol. I know they're not household names and their stories are hardly genre-defining, but that, in a way, is what makes them great. They're like those kids at school who don't fit into any of the usual social groups, and are therefore in a group of their own.
But as much as I love the Patrol, I went into Keith Giffen's latest run with low expectations. The current and much discussed climate in the world of comics publishing is not friendly to a "middle of the road" type book for a start. On a more personal level, I honestly did not think that Giffen could possibly capture the classic spirit of Arnold Drake's original Silver Age stories, nor the pure imagination of Grant Morrison's 1989-1993 run.
And indeed, that first trade confirmed my concerns. It was not disappointing at all, far from it, but it seemed that Giffen was, perhaps appropriately, aiming for the middle. Giffen displayed a perfect handle on the original characters, but I felt that the story was somewhat average, and feared it would continue this way until the series disappeared under the shadow of bigger titles.
Brotherhood has completely destroyed those fears.
This story is jam-packed with old enemies and allies from the start, as a new villain group called the "Front Men" is formed, and Crazy Jane shows up with something of an existential crisis. The former relaxed and casual pace is abandoned in favour of a full-on sprint, and it feels just like old times.
At first I was wary of Giffen bringing in these former characters, as it felt too much like pandering to the nostalgia obsessed fanboy culture, but his grasp of them is just as firm as it is on the main characters, and he isn't afraid to try something fantastically new with them either. Such as Oberon's superhero moving service.
The opening tussle with the Gentrifyers is very much in keeping with the Doom Patrol's classic stories, and an excellent example of how Giffen reinvigorates such concepts. Throughout this universe-threatening fight, he never lets up on the action, bizarre twists, or the spot-on, snappy dialogue, and is one of the few writers who actually makes his characters each sound different; giving them their own voices.
But the real story here is the return of the sinister and worringly collected Mr. Nobody, now in charge of the Front Men and calling himself Mr. Somebody. Although his ultimate goal still remains tantalizingly secret, his plot to slander the Doom Patrol is absolute genius on Giffen's part. He has successfully turned the Patrol into outcasts even in a world populated by much-loved superhumans. This is something only ever accomplished on a much smaller scale in previous runs.
Not only that, but in the aftermath he shows us just why they remain together. The old "all we have is each other" line has never seemed so fresh or meaningful as it does here. The Doom Patrol -- with all their neuroses, personality clashes and constant bickering -- are a more realistic group of friends than any other superteam I've read.
Clark's art, however, has not exceeded the former "aim for the middle" philosophy. It has an appropriately solid and clean look to it, but feels ever so slightly loose to me at times. I do love his designs though, especially the look of Cliff, and he has a good, very sci-fi take on layouts. Aided here by Messrs. Randall and Richards, Brotherhood did look a little bit more shaky than the previous collection, and hardly gasp-worthy, but not terrible either.
I think it's safe to say that this run can be counted among the best of the Doom Patrol, at least to me, and I really hope that the world doesn't turn against these lovable freaks and cancel them too soon.
Art: 3 - Good