Saturday, December 03, 2005

REVIEWING: "Doom Patrol" (2004 Series)

Doom Patrol (4th. Series/2004-2005; total of 18 issues published monthly). Written and illustrated by John Byrne; published by DC Comics. (NOTE:This review will probably contain some spoilers of the series, so for those who haven't read this title and want to read it fresh in the future, I suggest to quietly exit stage right.)

When I first read that John Byrne would be doing the current series of Doom Patrol, I must admit that I had mixed feelings about it. I was thrilled to learn that the original team would somehow return, but I also recalled all the other things that Bryne had previously worked on, and some of those never suited me.

Such as his Man of Steel limited series where he pretty much re-wrote Superman's history "in his own image". Can't say I was ever crazy about his issues of Wonder Woman either, although I thought he handled She-Hulk okay as long as one took it as purely a satirical title.

I think I liked his work the best on Fantastic Four , and Alpha Flight, and his issues of Namor weren't that bad. (It was nice to see him draw "Iron Fist" again after several years.)

But...The Doom Patrol. Now there's a title I'm VERY picky about. It was always the odder titles that DC produced in the 1960's that were my favorites over the mainstream super-heroes. My favorites were: Blackhawk, and The Easy Co., Challengers of the Unknown, and my VERY favorite was (you guessed it) The Doom Patrol.

So I was afraid from the get go that Byrne would try to re-create this team along what he thought it should be.

Now that this current series has come to a close with issue #18, I can't say that it's been even my second favorite of the four that's been produced; not even my third favorite. My very favorite is and will always be the original run which started in My Greatest Adventure #80 which title changed eventually to the team's name and ran until #121, with a brief revivial in the 1970's of three reprint issues finally ending with #124.

My second favorite is, perhaps surprizing to many, NOT the Vertigo series, but the one produced in 2001 which ran 22 issues, by John Arcudo & (most of the time)Tan Eng Huat. Towards the latter issues in this run, the title became pretty interesting, and most issues are both witty and cleaver (there's even a great fill-in issue "art-wise" by Rick Geary). And the reason that the second/Vertigo series isn't my 2nd. favorite is because after Morrison began on the title, it ceased to actually BE the Doom Patrol, but more the mystical and metaphysical adventures of "Cliff" (aka: Robotman). They were well written, but it just wasn't DP, and "why' they even kept that as the title is beyond me as it had little of nothing to do with Arnold Drake's original creation.

So, the DC, and later, Vertigo title is my third favorite, leaving Byrne's run on the far end of my picks.

And the reasons "why" to me are obvious. He started out fine, with the original team characters, but for unknown reasons to me added new members as if the original crew wasn't enough to support the title. And the original cast of DP should have been enough. We had Elastic Girl (Rita), Robotman (Cliff), Negative Man (Larry) and The Chief, all fine players and far beyond needing any extra members to distract from the stories they all held and were part of their origins. We didn't need some teenage girl added to the mix which just reminded me of another "Kitty Pride" from The X-men, nor any 4-armed ape which had the mind of one of her friends, or some energy being thrown into this mix. This only made what glimpses were saw of the original members weak.

We then saw Byrne try to formulate a romance between Rita and Cliff, and stating that Rita was a teenager when Cliff had his original accident destroying his human form. That this was the reason Rita sought out The Chief, just to be near Cliff because she was just such a fan. That the "crush" she had on a race car driver as a teenager has blosomed into a true love. How convenient. So she was just in "the right time at the right place" when she herself was exposed to "strange" gases giving her powers she could join up with the team? (I don't think so. Just a bit too contrived, there.) This romance continued right thru the final issue, with the Chief finally giving Cliff an android form which could feel temperatures, or the touch on his skin. He really needs a name change now to Android Man.

And Byrne starts Negative Man out as this weird skeleton-like being, (which I never liked), which he never corrected until the final issue bringing back the more conventional form. In fact, he had to build up all of this plot from several previously published issues of JLA just to get to the point of the series. By the time the actual title was released, this team already had a history, and had he began the team fresh from issue No.1 and gradually built the personalities of the characters, perhaps now it wouldn't be getting cancelled.

Of course, Byrne did have a LOT of trash he had to get out of the way before he could begin the title. In the original series, the last original team story in #121, all the members were killed, except we discover later on that Robotman's mind survived, and he went thru various incarnations for a good twenty years off and on of stories, from three issues of Showcase to misc. guest-app's over the years and was the only original team member to appear in what I would call a real story instead of some flashback sequence or one-shot deal or off-the-wall version (like DC's Silver Age, or Tangent experiments).

But, after such corruption by DC of the original team, perhaps it would have just been best to have ended it with the last issue of the Vertigo title and "let it be".

Modern writers can not capture the feel of comics that were produced in the silver-age without updating them to be realtive to today's reading audience. And because of that, such an effort proves to be just a futile gesture no matter how well it's written. So, I don't blame John Byrne entirely. He gave it the ol' college try, and since it WAS Byrne, the readers (including myself) knew what we were getting into by reading them.

(And, it was good, at least, to see Metamorpho in various guest-appearances.)

So... "for a while" (all in all), it was nice to see these characters back in action once again. But, I sincerely hope, that now DC will let them rest in peace.

P.S.: (A Special Thanks and "tip o' de hat" to "Johnny Bacardi" for picking up several issues of this run for me at the comic shop so I could finish reading the run!)


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home