Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Doom Patrol #1 – A Review

Doom Patrol #1

Publisher DC Comics

Doom Patrol
Writer Keith Giffen
Pencils Matthew Clark
Inks Livesay
Colors Guy Major

Metal Men
Writers Keith Giffen and JM DeMatteis
Art Kevin Maguire
Colors Guy Major

So I was hoping for more, what I got was Oolong Island, Rocky Davis as a Priest, Bumblebee living in a doll house, Nudge being killed, Grunt running off into the jungle, my head hurts. My head hurt so bad I used Wikipedia (the made up encyclopedia) to refresh my memory and then realized my memory is just fine the Doom Patrol continuity is all over the map and confused as heck.

I have to admit that in re-reading some of the history of the Doom Patrol, after reading this first issue, it made me realize that perhaps the only way to make this series work is to jump in feel first and go forward and try to resolve some things as you go. The other method would be to start off from scratch. I don’t mean remake the team, I mean just start over. Open up with a scene where Robotman is in a restaurant and a car wreck happens and he just walks away and you wonder why, cut to next member and continue to move forward. Keith Giffen took the jump in with both feet approach and move forward. Apparently he had even used the group in the Four Horsemen mini-series that I read and still forgot they had appeared there. So I have to brush all the continuity issues aside and just try and judge the book for what it is now. Again I was hoping for more, but the end of the book left me looking forward to the next issue, so I have to say the issue worked if you read it until the end.

We open in the middle of a mission with the original three members Robotman, Elasti-Girl and Negative Man along with Nudge, Grunt and their pilot on a mission to stop some mad scientist alien bee creature from making monsters. The mission goes badly and a fight ensures. The DP is fighting the alien bee thing and her creatures. What the battle does for us is to give us a good baseline on what Robotman, Negative Man and Elasti-Girl can do. As they are escaping from that situation they run into attack helicopters as they are escaping in their own copter. Nudge gets unceremoniously killed and Grunt runs off into the jungle. We see the DP take out the attacking copters and get a great shoot of Rita using her powers to take out the last copter that is after them. This scene eliminates that last trace of the Byrne run and also establishes that the DP is not the “will not kill” type of group.

The rest of the book serves to establish the basic characteristics of each character. I thought it was a little heavy handed to use text boxes of someone’s files on each member to tell us those characteristics. The reason it was heavy handed is because it was done so well within the context of the visit from the Priest to each member. There reaction or lack of reaction to Nudge’s death, what they are doing while talking to the Priest, the actual pictures all did what the text book was telling us. When writing a comic let the pictures do most of the work and don’t over explain. I’m still confused if this is the Rocky Davis of Challengers of the Unknown fame who is the Priest and why it would need to be him.

So we establish that the Chief is running the group that consists of the core group from back in the sixties. We are given a good snapshot of each of the characters and who they are and we see where the group is established. We end with the Chief finding out that a miniature black hole was created by a scientific experiment (right out of the headlines) and it did not destroy Earth because it wants to negotiate terms. This is what sold me on the book for the short term as these are the offbeat type of missions I want to see for this group. Also I liked the personalities that were established for each one of the main three characters. What I guess holds me back from liking it more is that it is such a confused morass of prior continuity that they are still sort of tied into. If you are going to have that prior continuity you need to explain how we got from there to here and with utilizing both John Byrne’s and Geoff John’s versions of the group I’m not sure a reconciliation exists.

On the plus side was Matthew Clark and Livesay’s art. Matt’s pencils were solid and Livesay’s inks did the job. Now with Giffen writing it usually means he does thumbnails of the pages so that the layout and page design may rest more with Giffen, but the art was very nice without any problems, but was not blow me away type of stuff either.

The real treat in this book was the back up. Metal Men was a whole lot of fun and shows the potential to perhaps outshine the Doom Patrol. The old JLA team of Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire are together again, so you know the humor is going to be a strong part of this feature. In many ways the Metal Men concept was almost built for this type of story telling.

Kevin Maguire’s art was outstanding. His brilliant and fluid work is a match made in heaven for the Metal Men and his ability to convey so many expressions was in full use here. The Metal Men are on an Indiana Jones type mission fighting an ancient Aztec type giant size idol that has come to life. We get to see Tin get stepped on, Lead be his slow ponderous self, egotistic Gold, the new girl Copper be ignored by the group. When they get home we see Tina (Platinum) as her sexpot self always trying to get into Doc Magnus’ heart (and pants). The back up really feels like the boys have their groove back and I can only seeing this Metal Men series getting better and better. Hopefully with only 10 pages a month Maguire will be able to maintain being the artist all the time.

Overall Grade - B. It was not the strongest start, but it made me want to come back for more.

Metal Men Back Up Grade – A – Pure unadulterated fun and amusement. This is a formula for the Metal Men that should work, telling sort of straight stories, but having fun with all the wacky concepts that is the Metal Men. Wonderful dialogue, excellent characterizations, good humor and outstanding art.

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