Saturday, May 01, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 87 (5/1) -- The Umbrella Academy: Dallas by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba

This will be quick and possibly desultory; I want to get done so I can watch Sherlock Holmes with The Wife. Apologies in advance.

I discovered The Umbrella Academy about a year after everyone else, with the reprint trade paperback -- and even that, I had to practically be forced to read during the big Eisner read-until-your-eyeballs-fall-out weekend last year. (This was almost certainly because Umbrella Academy looks like a superhero book, and I had my fill of superheroes a long time ago.) But (in more or less the words of The Onion's A.V. Club), Umbrella Academy is like The X-Men played by the cast of The Royal Tenenbaums -- these aren't '60s "relevant" heroes, or '80 "gritty" heroes, they're modern indy-movie types, with neuroses and powers that could have come from the mind of Spike Jonez or Wes Anderson.

Dallas is the second Umbrella Academy story, picking up right after the first, Apocalypse Suite. (Though I was pretty sure at least one of the superpowered siblings was dead at this point.) There's a complicated backstory that writer Gerard Way doesn't bother to explain -- this is a superhero comic, after all, and one must always assume that the readers are continuity-porn fetishists -- but it doesn't particularly matter. There were once seven young superheroes, but Stuff Happened, and now they're all damaged in one way or another, and The Horror is completely missing (probably dead -- though I won't bet on it). They all have real names (rarely used) and current code names (distinctive and recognizable) and numbers (from their child-hero days, primarily for flashbacks), which would make for confusion if this wasn't a comic book with a bunch of very visually distinctive characters.

This is a time-travel story, though it doesn't really bother with paradoxes -- it's comic-book time-travel, so you just go, and do what you have to do, and the universe deals with the consequences as best it can. (Much like any other manifestation of superhero powers -- the universe in a superhero comic is endlessly malleable and impossible to break.) Everyone runs around entertainingly for six issues -- with some danger, more than a little violence, and loads of style -- until the plot to assassinate JFK comes to its inevitable end. It's just serious enough, but knows not to try to be too serious -- Way knows that this is "just comics," and both how much and how little that can mean. The end result is a slick entertainment that's just that bit hipper than the usual comic fan is used to, something close enough to regular superheroes to be palatable to the comic-shop masses but different enough to seem entirely new.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: Killola - This Is How The World Ends
via FoxyTunes

No comments:

Post a Comment