Friday, October 9, 2009

Must-Read Books*: Doom Patrol

*The Must-Read nature of these books is determined by Duskdog, who is probably not actually qualified to reliably recommend anything more complicated than dog shampoo. Take this advice at your own risk.

With so many Green Lantern comics coming out right now, you'd think that the last thing I'd want to do would be pick up a brand new title to get interested in. But I did, and I can't remember why I did. And I'm glad.

I had heard hopeful things about Doom Patrol, sure. They have a lot of closet fans, apparently, and the creative team seemed like a good match. But I had never really cared much for them before. They were... eh, well, I didn't dislike them, but I wasn't overly interested in their adventures, either. Similarly, while I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the Metal Men, I wasn't prepared to pay for a brand new title just so I could read the backup story -- particularly considering that the quality of the backup stories in other titles thus far as been pretty... meh.

But OH MY GOD. Only three issues into the series, and I am hooked. Doom Patrol has always had this "we're a family/team of freaks, woe is us" vibe going on, which I always thought was a little whiny considering how many other heroes are out there who are similarly afflicted at various times, but it's very, very well-done here. They can't/don't really live normal lives, and now they've been doing these missions for so long that they're starting not to care about anything, anymore. We're told this overtly by the Chief, but it's shown throughout the story in ways that seem to even surprise the characters. Robotman tries to lead the team, with only moderate success. Elasti-Woman (as she's apparently calling herself now -- finally!) has whole bucketloads of issues that I can't even begin to touch on here. Bumblebee is stuck at tiny size, living in a dollhouse. Negative Man injects humor into every situation... cold, macabre, completely inappropriate humor that makes you wonder what the hell is wrong with him. Mento, well... I won't spoil the latest issue for you if you're interested in what his problem is.

It probably doesn't help, of course, that the Chief is a complete, unrepentant bastard. He has a long, long history of manipulating these people, and while they said back in Teen Titans that they forgave him, it appears to be more of a case of "kick us, beat us, use us -- we just don't care anymore". He uses them, he talks down to them, he even hacks into their personal files (Rita's journal, for one) and one can't help but wonder why they don't just kill him (again) and get it over with. He's definitely getting some points towards "characters I love to hate", and it's really amazing when you think about it, because how often do we get to read about someone who is consistently allied with the good guys, and yet is so obviously a bad guy? Usually the "evil mentor" concept character suddenly gets revealed as evil and goes to the Dark Side, never to be fully redeemed... well, except possibly for at the very last second when the hero needs it most. But for the most part, they're still considered a major villain. The Chief is... neither hero nor villain. The result is an arrogant SOB that you just want to see punched in the face repeatedly, yet you know the characters probably won't.

The villain of this first story arc hasn't really interested me all that much, but it's fine, because I'm far more interested in the psychological developments of the team. I'm sure they're going somewhere with it, and looks like we're going to be seeing more of the creepy Black Hole guy, but I felt more like the mission was just a vehicle by which to show what's going on with the team... and I'm perfectly fine with that. I just hope that the upcoming Blackest Night tie-in issue doesn't ruin the momentum of the book too much. If it keeps the same tone as previous issues, I think it'll be just fine.

Aaaaand, as if Doom Patrol weren't enough, we also have Metal Men as a second feature! Keith Giffen writes both halves of this book, and the completely opposite tones of the two really showcase his talent. While Doom Patrol is dark and psychological (with wonderful pencils by Matthew Clark), Metal Men is light-hearted and downright hilarious. For those of you who are JLI fans, you should know that it's got J.M. DeMatteis, and pencils by Kevin Maguire! His rubbery facial expressions are perfect for the tone of the book, and for the Metal Men themselves, who all have distinct, very pronounced personalities. The government has moved Doc Magnus and his robots to a qiuet suburban town in Illinois, and their neighbors are not too happy about it. Even when the Metal Men aren't busy getting into wacky adventures and try to help out the neighbors to win them over, nothing quite goes as planned. In this book, we learn some important things: The Metal Men are (probably) not toxic to your lawn, robots should never be allowed to drive, and actors are apparently only one electrical shock away from snapping completely.

And the robots' favorite show, "Douglas, Robot-Hunter" has been cancelled! Oh no! (Except every time I see Leonard Ruttman as drawn by Maguire, I can't help but think "Maxwell Lord". It's even funnier if you imagine that it's Max running around in that little skirt firing a blinky toy gun at people. Try it.)

In conclusion: Doom Patrol is currently my favorite non-GL-related book. Yes, even more favorite than Booster Gold at the moment. So give it a try, if you have the budget to try something new!


SallyP said...

I have to admit that I mostly like the Metal Men part of this book the best.

However, the Chief does have a certain sort of wicked charm. He's a bit like the male version of Amanda Waller. Wouldn't those two make for a titanic team-up!

I still think that the best Doom Patrol story I can remember reading...(and I really haven't read too many) was the one a year or so ago, when Wally takes his wife and the twins to meet with the Chief, and wackiness ensues!

Oh, and Happy Birthday!

Duskdog said...

Hah, the Chief and Amanda Waller! They'd deserve each other!

SallyP said...

That would be an epic tussle of the titans, that's for sure.