Today, Michael and Mark are discussing Doom Patrol 1, originally released September 14th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Michael: When it comes to science fiction and fantasy, I’m shocked at how shocked characters are in their supernatural circumstances. Haven’t they seen movies before? I like my characters to be a little more well-versed in the genre that they are a part of – in 2016 I think that any encounter with an alien, wizard or monster should lend comparisons to similar stories from pop culture. In a way Doom Patrol 1 fulfilled that wish of mine. The characters within had little to no shock when it came to robots, exploding gyros and roommates popping like piñatas.
Doom Patrol 1, wild and weird it may be, is a book that doesn’t really require you to have any pre-existing knowledge of the Doom Patrol. Though it features Doom Patrol staples Robotman and Dr. Niles Caulder, the star of the issue is Casey Brinke. Brinke is a plucky EMT who’s passionate about her duty and is not averse to the bizarre – she tells us some inspiring words her mother gave her before she flew into the sun. Through the course of the issue Casey sees Robotman get smashed to pieces, takes his jacket and remains home with her and barely bats an eye when her uptight roommate gets blasted into confetti.
Casey’s roommate was just blown up by a masked singing telegrammer and the first thing she does – perhaps out of shock – is correct this stranger on the fact that it isn’t her birthday. Consequently this stranger – named Terry None – just presumes that she’s going to move in with Casey and she pretty much does just that. Perhaps writer Gerard Way is trying to make a statement about the impermanence and constant changes in a young person’s life, with shifting roommates etc. Then again it’s more likely that this is just the world that Doom Patrol resides in; the world of DC’s “Young Animal.” I’m still not clear on the distinction between “Young Animal” and the rest of the DCU. I guess Young Animal is just weirder in general, with the occasional “shit” and “fuck” thrown in every now and then.
One of those “weirder, fuckier” examples comes in the form of a meeting of fast food corporate leaders at the “Rondo Inn.” These fast food big wigs (I think their company name is Umata Kalabra?) are revealed to be aliens in disguise, pledging allegiance to their meat: “tender cuts fine and sweet.” It’s not clear whether or not these various alien races are trying to conquer Earth or just conquer the market, but either way I think it’s a great plot point that Way uses to attack our collective commercial gluttony. Every company – alien or otherwise – tries to get a leg up on the competition. The big intergalactic competition is “Goobfoobers,” who are marketing an “all-new mentally healthy meat menu” that has various tie-ins to the film and music industries as well as donating to charity. To combat this, Umata Kalabra reveals that they have discovered a “sentient organic generator sprawl” that will give them all the stress free meat they need. The name for this wonder product? Danny Burgers.A little bit of Doom Patrol research lead me to the discovery of Grant Morrison creation “Danny the Street, the sentient roadway.” Danny appears or is mentioned several times in Doom Patrol 1: during the aforementioned fast food meeting, in a abandoned building where a man with the nametag “Ricardo” is tossing bricks around looking for Danny and on the final page of the book where one of Danny’s bricks has been chucked through a window in heaven and kills what appears to be a superhero god/angel. Besides that stray brick that was one of artist Nick Derington’s that I couldn’t yet make any sense of. Also, someone shot up a lion with 13 arrows:
Doom Patrol 1 is a mind boggle of a comic book and it’s too early for me to tell if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. If you sift through the weird and the zany however it seems to be the beginnings of a fairly standard “Call to Adventure.” Though it sounds like Casey has already seen some weird shit in her day, finding the remains of Robotman will surely lead to the assemblage of the new Doom Patrol team down the line. In those same terms I’d wager that our strange group of heroes will eventually come to blows with the intergalactic fast food villains as well.
Mark I’d love to hear what you possibly have divined from Doom Patrol 1 – there’s so much material to scratch your head at so I think I left plenty for you to ponder on. Any insights into the world of a gyro and the land of fly-fear? Did you know that you can tell the sex of a robot by looking at its brain? And “What’s going on with Niles Caulder?”
Mark: I have no idea what to make of Doom Patrol 1, and I honestly found most of it exhausting. But I didn’t hate it. The issue is so purposefully disorienting and off putting that it can only be judged on its execution of that craziness, and by that measure I think Way acquits himself okay.
Still, I found the issue rather frustrating to read. It’s made clear Casey that is an empathetic individual, so it felt wrong to see her lack of response to her roommate being blown to smithereens. I think maybe the intention is that she’s acting out of shock, but nothing that happens to her in this issue seems to affect her, so I’m not entirely sure.
Many of the vignettes are so devoid of context or connective tissue that they leave no impression—I completely forgot about/don’t care at all at this point about “What’s going on with Niles Caulder.” But there are three moments that I left me interested in following Doom Patrol for at least a little while; there’s the basically-an-improv-scene “Danny Burgers” meeting and brick-through-the-window-of-a-god vignittes that you already mentioned, Michael, but I was also intrigued by the change in art style employed by Derington when we see Robotman’s gyro life as a freedom fighter (?).
I’m not super familiar with Doom Patrol‘s past books, so I have no idea it’s an homage to a previous artists’ work, but it’s dramatically different from the rest of the issue’s art. Whether it’s an homage or a storytelling choice by Derington to make clear the events are not happening in the main reality, I like the contrast a lot.
This is clearly (hopefully) the kind of book that will be best experienced once a few more issues have been released, and you don’t have to wait an entire month for the many, many disparate pieces to (again, hopefully) come together. Way makes a bold choice here by having basically nothing make sense, and while I’m not sure it really works (and the chaos definitely doesn’t feel sustainable over multiple issues), it’s certainly not boring. And you can do a lot worse than “not boring.”
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