I need a gyro (and a stiff drink)
Gerard Way (W), Nick Derington (A), Tamra Bonvillain (C)
Cover by Nick Derginton
Publisher: DC Comics
So, this is a thing that I’ve read. I think. It may have read me. It kind of reads like some piece of alien technology made to emulate the indie and quirky side of nerd culture. It reads like it was made to infiltrate Earth society and learn our ways before it invades and/or seizes all of our bubble tea, Frappuccino, and Mumford and Sons albums (that last one might be a little dated, are they still around?)
This felt like one of those comics that will probably be critically acclaimed to some degree. I know a lot of people my age will certainly like it. If Snot Girl is something people enjoy, this will certainly get a following. In fact, there are already a number of glowing reviews out there for this comic. It’s trying to mimic indie darlings that came before, and many comic reviewers are easy sales for that.
I didn’t really have any expectations for this comic or this whole Young Animals line of comics DC is pushing. I was hopeful for a return of the Doom Patrol. I liked the team that was depicted in the Justice League. I liked this idea of a team of outcasts and put-upon abnormals that were gathered together by a manipulative and vindictive man whom was using them to enforce is ideology on others. That’s a good set-up for a team book and some really good stories.
That being said, I did have my suspicions as to what the Young Animals comics were going to be like. I pictured Vertigo comics aimed at a teen and twenty-something audience. After reading Doom Patrol #1, I can say that my suspicions were correct.
I am still intrigued by Mother Panic, though.
As one last bit of preamble, I want to say that my dad is the biggest Doom Patrol fan there is, and he hasn’t read this comic yet at the time of me writing this. I know that he is going to genuinely hate it. He loves the Doom Patrol, and he was cautiously excited for this series. He didn’t like the Vertigo Doom Patrol stuff, because he is a fan of the old-fashioned heroics. He loves Robot Man. He loves Negative Man. He loves Elastigirl. He can name you every hero who has ever been on the Doom Patrol and tell you about a lot of their past stories. The Doom Patrol hasn’t had their own comics in years, and he’s been chomping at the bit to get them back. It kind of breaks my heart knowing that he has gotten this comic. It’s not to his tastes, but, even in terms of “out there” comics, this is not a good one.
Alright, onto the plot, such as it is.
It starts off with a series of unrelated images with a bit of narration, presumably related to the story it’s about to tell. It then cuts to pair of EMT’s taking an old man to the hospital. Upon arrival, there is a dialogue between the EMTs while one eats a gyro and the other plays an old arcade game. They chat a bit about life, and then it’s revealed that Robot Man is in a microscopic world upon the gyro. He fires off a few missiles that is large enough that the trash can in which the gyro was tossed detonates visibly in front of the EMTs. They then get called to pick up a pedestrian victim of a hit and run.
It then cuts to an old man calling out for a “Danny” while sifting through bricks and talking to an unseen and unheard individual. Then it shows Niles Caulder aka the Chief recording music (I guess?).
It returns to the EMTs responding to the scene and finding no victim. Then they see Robot Man stumbling from an alley. He wanders into the road, is hit by a car, and falls apart. One of the EMTS, Casey Brinke, begins gathering the pieces of Robot Man.
The comic cuts to a boardroom meeting between aliens talking about space meat products.
We then see Brinke entering her apartment with the pieces of Robot Man. She is being chastised by her roommate until they open their door to a masked woman dressed a like a show girl. She dances, wishes Brinke a happy birthday while implying she is an alien, and then blows the roommate to pieces. The woman then asks to become Brinke’s roommate, whom oddly acquiesces. The woman starts tinkering with Robot Man’s head and the two find out he has a human brain. The woman reveals her name to be Terry None (pun?).
The comic then turns to an Olympus-like landscape where a slaughter has just occurred, with a lion-like creature killed with light arrows and a blue-blooded man just brained to death by a brick with the words “I’m sorry” carved into it.
Have you ever known someone who really wants to convince you that they are quirky and interesting, but, as you get to know them, you realize there isn’t really any more to them? That is the best way to describe this comic. The story is weird, loosely tied together, and is just begging you to get the next few issues, so it can explain all the weird things it’s showing you.
The pacing is nonexistent. There is really no arc or structure to the plot. Things just happen without explanation, but there is the grating promise that, at some point, this will all make sense.
I have a rule that a #1 has to either intrigue or excite. This tried its heart out to do both, but all of its effort just fell flat. And I know that effort was put into this, but it does not show up on the page. It feels like the autopilot version of weird and quirky storytelling. I can get behind weird and quirky. I like Squirrel Girl, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, and I like the current comic book trend towards offbeat and awkward humor (in the right setting, tone, and context of course). I like Gilmore Girls, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog. I just don’t like this.
Casey Brinke and Terry None represent everything I don’t like about weird, quirky, and awkward humor. Maybe they’ll be fleshed out somewhere down the line. Maybe there is more to these characters, but you have to win me over on issue one to get me to keep reading. These two individuals give me nothing to cling onto beyond the fact that they’re “quirky.” That is not an entire personality, and that doesn’t automatically make a character or story deep. It’s a quality to the character, and it has to be backed up by substance. Otherwise, with the current cultural and storytelling trends being what they are, it is going to seem derivative and boring. None and Brinke are not charming, and they are not entertaining. They just feel contrived and uninteresting.
When Brinke has no response to None blowing her roommate apart and being covered by the viscera, my eye rolling really hit its crescendo. I don’t care how unlikeable the guy was for the four panels he had, everyone is going to have some reaction to watching a person blow up in front of them. I get Brinke being able to wrap her mind around Robot Man given this world (presumably) also has the Justice League in it, but death is still death.
The very token feeling appearance by the Chief felt a bit patronizing and like a very cloying attempt at humor. “Here’s the Chief, and he’s making music for some reason. Isn’t that zany?”
The art is good, and it is by far the best thing about the comic. It’s expressive and stylistic, and it does match the tone of the comic very well. That’s not enough to sell a comic, though. At least, it’s not enough for me, and it couldn’t make up for the sinking ship of a story.
Common defenses of a bad first issue are, “it gets better later” and “you can’t judge a comic by a single issue.” I’m going to tell you why those defenses are invalid. That first issue is made to sell the series to you. It should show the reader what the comic is going to be like down the line. If it isn’t doing that, it’s failing for completely different reasons. Assuming it’s doing at least that thing right, there is a decent chance the person who dislikes the first issue is going to dislike the other comics too, barring a creative team and/or directional change.
On top of that, collecting comics gets expensive, and choosing the comics to keep reading is an economic decision too. A single comic is not the priciest investment. However, add that with nine or ten other comics, some of which are published bi-weekly, that can amount to 50 or 60-dollars a month in addition to whatever other entertainment and hobby expenses that person has. So, if a single issue cannot sale the comic to them, it simply didn’t earn any more of their money.
That being said, I am sympathetic to the fact that every comic series has a weak issue. But a bad issue is still a bad issue, and the first issue may be the worst issue to come out weak and bad.
Admittedly, this review became about a lot more things than just this issue of Doom Patrol, but the topics were related. Bottom line, I do not recommend this comic to anyone. It feels shallow and self-important. It wants you to think it has a lot going on thematically, but, if you peel back the gyro sticker, you’ll find that it has nothing going on underneath. The story is odd and scattershot. The characters are grating and flat. The comic is ultimately not an enriching or entertaining read.
Final Score: 2/10