Review: Doom Patrol #1

Doom Patrol

Following a failed relaunch five years back from John Byrne, Doom Patrol returns, now with Keith Giffen and Matthew Clark at the helm.  Doom Patrol has always been something of a tough sell – though they begin, much like Marvel’s ultra-successful X-Men franchise, as a group of misunderstood heroes whose powers set them apart from society, the similarity ends there.  While the X-Men were almost all model-gorgeous people with awesome powers, the Doom Patrol’s powers were generally fairly limited, the source of their angst, and their physical appearances were often strange and off-putting to say the least.  And while the Doom Patrol certainly have their own gallery of bizarre supervillains, they’re known as the team who deals with the stranger, far more dangerous issues, ones that no sane team would generally be willing to tackle.

Though the opening issue of the new series is a little mundane, Giffen at least seems to get that.  This exchange…

Father: But what you’ve got here goes way past self-pity.  They’ve stopped caring.

Caulder: Whether they live or die? That’s hardly news, Father. Truth be told, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for them to function effectively were they too concerned with their well-being.

… says a lot about what’s different about this team of heroes.  It is a bit too blunt for my taste, as is the entire issue, which deals largely with the fall-out from a mission that ends badly within the first few pages, but it does a fair job at suggesting a possible mission-statement for the book to new readers.  

The mission itself is displayed in a few action-packed pages, quite ably illustrated by Clark, but the effect of losing a pair of characters we know nothing about mere pages into the book is negligible at best, which in turn makes the emotional fall-out less gut-wrenching than it could have been.  It’s a good way to introduce the team and see them in their element, but those hectic opening pages lacked punch.

Clark does a fine job throughout the issue.  After the early pages, the remainder of the book deals with the fallout, but Clark’s facial expressions and body language throughout the issue does a respectable job of getting us beneath the skin of the Patrol as they are confronted each in turn by a young priest working with Caulder to counsel, and perhaps manipulate, the team.

Though it wasn’t the most exciting opening issue, I’ll stick with it.  Giffen is clearly still in set-up mode and wants to introduce the team to new readers as quickly as possible so we can see what his book will be all about, but the last page set-up for next month’s story is intriguing, bizarre, and has a lot of potential.  We’ll see what he does with it.

Of course, there’s sure to be another pull to the book, this time from the back-up feature.  While the Metal Men have never had that much of a draw in and of themselves, the team that’s working on them – Giffen, DeMatteis and Maguire – bring to the back-up a familiar sensibility, and a cult following, from their days together on a number of books, most notably Justice League International.  The back-up is fast-paced and fun, setting up a dynamic for the team and introducing a new member in the form of Copper.  It’s slight but humorous, and a solid addition to the book.

Grade: B-

– Cal Cleary