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


Review: Wednesday Comics #3


Last week’s Wednesday Comics was the first to really disappoint.  The premise of the project should suggest that the creators compress their stories as much as possible, at least in general – when all’s said and done, they only really have 15 pages to finish the story.  While some creators have risen to the challenge, like Caldwell on Wonder Woman or Pope on Strange Adventures, some strips that started out strong have begun to peter off already.

There is still the seeds of genius that were strongly evident in the first two issues, but there are too many non-starters here.  The flaws remain relatively unfixed, with the weakest pages among the first two issues showing little improvement.  Not all is bleak, of course – a project with this many gifted creators is bound to have some astonishing moments – but I am not sure that a book facing all the challenges that Wednesday Comics faces can afford to have many more issues like this one: Not bad, but not quite worth the trouble.

Grade: B-

– Cal Cleary

Wednesday Comics #2

Wednesday Comics #1

Review: Wednesday Comics #2


Though Wednesday Comics #2 didn’t do much to improve over the flaws of the first one, and certainly won’t change any minds about the project as a whole, it also kept all the charm, wit and creative energy of the first issue, and even improved upon some of the slower stories.  The keyword with Wednesday Comics is variety, and you get a lot of it.

Busiek’s Green Lantern is a wonderfully retro The New Frontier-style sci-fi adventure, while Pope’s Strange Adventures is classic pulp action.  Flash reads like a bizarre blend of romance and super-hero stories, while Baker’s Hawkman offers a dark, fascinating look at a frequently muddled character.  As with the first issue, not every story is a hit, and the two biggest offenders from #1 (Teen Titans and Sgt. Rock and Easy Co.) remain relatively weak, though both show at least some signs of improvement over the previous issue.

Meanwhile, the creators are making full use of the space, sometimes in interesting ways.  The Gaiman/Allred Metamorpho is essentially one enormous panel while Caldwell’s surreal Wonder Woman features roughly fifty panels on its only page.  

The format is definitely bringing out the best in many of these artists, most of whom have admirably risen to the challenge.  The less-glossy pages and creases that come from the folding were a worry to some people when it came to the quality of the art, but rest-assured, this is rarely the case.  Only Caldwell’s Wonder Woman and the Arcudi/Bermejo Superman seem to have been hampered by the fact, each of them a little too dark for their own good.  Despite that, however, both pages remain well-crafted and interesting.

Wednesday Comics is too scattershot to appeal to everyone, but those who try it out will find a selection of interesting stories by star creators that hearken back to the early days of comics and the traditional stories without being lazy or condescending.  Everyone involved seems to be having far too much fun to either.

Grade: A-

– Cal Cleary


Wednesday Comics #1

Review: Wednesday Comics #1


Wednesday Comics is here!  While DC often struggles to stay relevant in the fact of a vastly more trendy Marvel Comics, it’s had a few successes in recent years.  One such success was their year-long event, 52, a weekly with an absolute powerhouse of a writing team that managed to gain both critical and fan acclaim – no small feat for an event comic largely lacking Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman.  After that, of course, DC felt the urge to repeat their success story with the watered down Countdown and then again with Busiek’s Trinity.  Still, three years in and the weekly format, once a fresh revival, had begun to seem stale.

That all changed with the announcement of their next weekly, Wednesday Comics, a 12 week long project, packaged as a newspaper, in which superstar creative teams would be given continuity-free reins on a vasty supply of DC characters to tell their stories… one page each week.  There were a lot of risks, obviously, but the announcement of the creative teams was where they had it: Gaiman, Busiek, Allred, Azzarello, Risso, Gibbons, Pope, Baker and many more, all getting involved in the project.

So, with all that expectations, how does the issue stack up?

Very well.  Very well, indeed.

It’s tough to review due to the grab bag nature of the book – Caldwell’s Wonder Woman, for example, is gorgeous and surreal, while Kubert’s Sgt. Rock and Easy Co. on the very next page is about as bland as can be.   I toyed briefly with the idea of reviewing each story, but the simple fact is this: these stories stand together or fall together, but the strength of an Azzarello/Risso Batman doesn’t necessarily offset the slow start of the Berganza/Galloway Teen Titans.  You buy one, you get ’em all.

And, as a collection, it works.  This, this is traditional super-hero comics done right.  For those yearning for a set of simple, gorgeous stories, Wednesday Comics delivers.  Not every story will be a hit, but #1 offers a number of strong starts and relatively few missteps.  I eagerly await seeing where it will go.

As a note, however, the stand-outs of the issue for me were Batman, Kamandi, Supergirl, Metal Men, and The Demon/Catwoman, with Superman and Wonder Woman having okay starts but gorgeous art.  The only pages I didn’t really appreciate at all were Teen Titans and Sgt. Rock and Easy Co., so the bulk of the issue was, for me, a hit.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary