Do Good Things: Way, Derington And Bonvillain’s ‘Doom Patrol’ #1 Marks A Strong Debut For Young Animal
This week saw the debut of DC Comics’ new “pop-up imprint” Young Animal, spearheaded by The Umbrella Academy’s Gerard Way. Described as “Comics For Dangerous Humans”, Young Animal seeks to recapture the spark of the Golden Age of Vertigo, while updating it for the 21st century.
Way himself has led the charge as the writer of this week’s Doom Patrol #1, along with Nick Derington on art, Tamra Bonvillain on colors and Todd Klein on letters and while occasionally --- and seemingly intentionally --- confusing, it’s a strong start for DC’s newest imprint.
It’s hard to read Doom Patrol without comparisons to Grant Morrison and Richard Case’s legendary run from the late 80s. Way himself has described Morrison as somewhat of a mentor, and his debut comic The Umbrella Academy also drew many comparisons to the Morrison/Case Doom Patrol when it was first published.
There’s more than just Morrison’s Doom Patrol in here though; there are elements of Seaguy in the scene with the alien executives, and there’s even some Scott Pilgrim DNA in the lead character of Casey Brinke. That’s not to say that Way and company are cribbing from other influences, as the comic contains the wild abandon he’s become known for in both his comics and in his music.
The big departure is how grounded this first issue of Doom Patrol feels, as most incarnations don’t have what you could call a “viewpoint” character, a la X-Men’s Kitty Pryde. The team is historically made up of outcasts, weirdos and oddballs, so structuring the first issue around a seemingly normal paramedic is almost a life raft to those unfamiliar with the franchise, and makes this first issue a lot less alienating than it could have been.
The first issue of Doom Patrol feels scattershot, but not in a bad way. There are a lot of ideas being presented page-after-page, each of them strong enough to focus in and explore further, but that’s not the nature of Doom Patrol as a franchise. Recent revivals of the team have tried too hard to make the team traditional superheroes again, but there was never anything traditional about the team, evident by the fact that at the end of this issue there’s no team to be seen.
Nick Derington’s art pops off the page and matches the breakneck pace of Way’s story beat-for-beat, almost as if the two collaborators are in a race against each other. While Young Animal is often described as harkening back to early Vertigo, Derington’s art establishes that this new endeavour is going to be its own beast, and not only establishes a tone for this volume of Doom Patrol, but one that may become associated with the imprint as a whole.
This would all be impossible without the colors of Tamra Bonvillain, whose work on titles such as Nighthawk and Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur has already marked her as one of the fastest rising stars of this year. Bonvillain’s colors help ground each scene and vignette in their own space in the comic, and there’s a scene at the end where the colors especially bring the action up an extra level to establish a sense of unearthly foreboding.
As a first issue of a new line, Doom Patrol has to not only represent itself, but represent all of Young Animal, and so far it feels like a success.
There will be some people who don’t like it, or some people put off by the first issue’s erratic story structure, but it’s a comic that’s rewarding for long-time fans, and excitingly new for first time readers.