Saturday, January 2, 2010

Prove Me Wrong: The Doom Patrol (2009)

The New Year is here and with that comes change. Out with the old, in with the new and all that.

No one believes in this more than DC Comics. (Or is it "Universe," now?)

Each year seems to bring out a new crop of hopefuls ready to rock the universe down to its foundations, promising the "All-NEW, All-DIFFERENT!" Unfortunately, the hyperbole is usually built upon the detritus of an old fave, each time hoping from the breaking down of old shit, something new will take hold and bloom.

The last decade saw not one but THREE Doom Patrol re-launches and two Doom Patrol cancellations. In 2009, we saw the last and final re-launch of the decade with writer Keith Giffen's shot at avoiding the mistakes of the previous.

Has he succeeded. Only time and sales numbers will tell but if you could get by on "f**k it" alone, this book would and could be a top-seller.

This is, and this is only my opinion, one of the more interesting books of 2009 and that saying a lot when books like Blackest Night, The Unwritten and Scott Pilgrim Versus The Universe were out there. In it you find the three main founding members, Rita Farr, Elasti-Girl Robotman and Negative Man, all harboring defeatist complexes, banding together, not so much out of heroism but an understanding of one another's isolation. Add to this, one Dr. Niles Caulder, Machiavellian founder of the team and they've one more reason to want to stay; someone needs to keep an eye on this guy and with every opportunity, he proves them right.

It's the little touches of pure "Why, Keith, why" moments that keep this book on the top of my "must read" pile; from the revelation that Robotman nonchalantly keeps a graveyard of his "dead" bodies in the back of the DP headquarters, to Giffen's not particularly wanting to deal with and unceremoniously dismissing John Byrne's DP cast, (Giffen simply has one member run off into the forest, never to be seen again,) to the sick and twisted way in which Niles Caulder continues to manipulate Rita Farr, a woman who can physically grow but is emotionally stunted, you have one of the more intriguing books on the stands on any given month.

And let's not forget the brilliance of adding Challengers of The Unknown's Rocky Davis, now priest as spiritual advisor/Job to a team of broken spirits who pay him no mind and it all becomes just that much more awesome.

And that is why it may not see the end of 2010. It is an intriguing book with little to no connection to Superman, Batman, The Justice League or Geoff Johns and that nowadays is what keeps a book at the top of the "must read" and sales pile.

Adding the eventual loss of critically lauded Metal Men feature by The Justice League team of Giffen, DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire and the climb seems just that much more uphill for the future of Doom Patrol.

Doom Patrol is truly is one of the wittier books out there, sharing a sensibility with Marvel's Guardians of The Galaxy and their recently cancelled Captain Britain and MI-13 series that fans of either may enjoy.

Much like CBMI13, which relied on pacing and storytelling, it just may be too clever for its own good or better yet, the greater comics reading public. It is my sincere hope The Doom Patrol finds the audience (you) it deserves but I have little hope in its being able to do so.

But you could always prove me wrong...


Jason Langlois said...

You might actually have sold me on giving it a try.

ChrisM said...

Honestly, I found the Giffen/Maguire Metal Men backup to be FAR more interesting...

Devon Sanders said...

@ Jason

Mission accomplished. :)

Jeff said...

I've found the Metal Men to be the best part of this book also.

Devon Sanders said...

I like the Metal Men feature as well but I do have to say it's more nostalgia for the Giffen/Dematteis/Maguire League days.

Peter said...

I've liked the Doom Patrol so far. Any book with a guy who has a black hole for a face is ok by me. I skipped last issue due to the Blackest Night tie-in but I'm pretty sure I'll picking up next issue. I hope it gains more readers with the price drop down to 3 bucks.

KENT! said...

Honestly, I've been somewhat disappointed with Doom Patrol so far, to the point that I'm giving it one more issue (#7, coincidentally the last issue with a Metal Men back-up) to win me over.

Giffen's had some great ideas but the execution has been murky and disjointed at best. Giffen came in stating in all interviews that with Doom Patrol he'd be making it new-reader friendly with every issue and that he wouldn't get bogged down in Doom Patrol continuity/history... and yet that's all he's done.

"Every issue is potentially a springboard issue for a new reader. I'm going back to that idea that every issue of a comic is someone's first."

And yet I don't think any of the issues, not even the first, really would work as a jump-on issue for a never-been-exposed-to-Doom-Patrol new reader.

Now, to be clear, I don't hate it, but as I said, it's a muddled read and usually less than satisfying, and had I, you know, not dropped $4 x 6 issues I could almost bought, say, Asterios Polyp by now.

Ricardo said...

I had never read Doom Patrol before and found it completely reader friendly. It requires double reading? Yes, but so does Legion and I really find it more engaging than hard to follow. Moreover, the card-cues on each page are very helpful. And let's be honest: there is no way to please Doom Patrol readers by being too friendly. See Paul Kupperberg's run.