Doom Patrol (DC Comics) has always been about pushing the boundaries of superheroics. Even in the ’60s, they were more likely to fight Animal-Mineral-Vegetable Man or Monsieur Mallah, the talking hyper-intelligent arms-dealing ape, and his companion The Brain, who was a brain in a can. And this was before the famously weird and brilliant Grant Morrison got his hands on it and threw in cross-dressing sentient streets and a supervillain so obsessed with his crotch he became the dreaded Codpiece. So Gerard Way has inherited a weird legacy, and he lives up to it in the first issue.
Way’s take on the Doom Patrol is a bit hard to describe, especially since it’s the kind of book where team stalwart Robotman is introduced escaping from the universe hiding in a half-eaten gyro. So, yeah, it’s weird, and, at first, it seems a bit disjointed. What keeps it together, to some degree, is Nick Derington’s wildly creative and yet disciplined art, which shifts from clean lines to scratchy pencils and from a mundane apartment to a celestial throne chamber while still making sense, and the undercurrent that as out there and random as Way seems to be, there’s definitely a plan for how this book will come together. Anchoring it around the wildly optimistic ambulance driver Casey helps matters: She’s instantly inspiring and endearing, and completely unaware of even her own secrets.
Doom Patrol is unlikely to be like any comic you read this year, and honestly, that’s a point in both Way and DC’s favor. So it’s off to a great start: Now to see what Way and Derington have in store going forward.
Hadrian’s Wall #1, Image Comics
Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel and Rod Reis, formerly of the superb city hall drama/superhero story C.O.W.L., switch to science fiction noir here with a pain pill-riddled investigator called in to rubber-stamp an accident on the exploration ship Hadrian’s Wall, in 2085. It’s clever because while the setting is engaging, it takes a backseat to the story while being crucial to it. Reis, in particular, enjoys the shift, delivering art with a detailed style and muted palette that will trigger memories of ’80s movies and their used futures. It’s a clever riff on the genre, especially for noir fans looking for something different.
Faith #3, Valiant
Jody Houser and Pere Perez take Faith and her boyfriend Archer, a superhero and superninja respectively, to their natural environment: A comic book convention. Perez packs the frame with jokes ranging from the lighthearted — namely an artist’s alley packed with a who’s who of comics, including a very tired Perez — to the satiric, like Faith in a steampunk version of her own costume. Yes, it’s all a bit inside baseball, but if you’ve ever been to a con, this issue is very funny, and Houser gives the story a hard twist at the end that’s simultaneously funny and witty. There’s not a breezier book on the stands, and it’s always worth reading.
Black Panther #6, Marvel
Ta’Nehisi Coates and Chris Sprouse have, with this issue especially, have questioned a serious contradiction T’Challa carries with him. He’s a hero who fights for freedom, but he’s also a monarch, chosen not by the people but by tradition. So if Wakandans want democracy, does he stand in the way or does he step aside?
Coates isn’t afraid to make T’Challa a villain in some respects; one of the harsher aspects of this book is Coates contrasting the lofty decisions T’Challa makes with Sprouse’s unsparing depiction of the messy way they’re executed on the ground. They wrap this around the traditional superheroics, of course, and there’s even a funny aside where he chats with Tony about supervillains, but the underlying thoughtfulness is what will keep you coming back.
Resident Alien: The Man with No Name #1, Dark Horse
Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse’s quiet SF story, about a stranded alien serving as the doctor for a small town and solving a few mysteries on the way, has always had a quiet sort of humanity to contrast Parkhouse’s ability to stick a bizarre alien right in the middle of an otherwise normal scene, and that’s in full effect here. While the story develops some arcs from the previous Resident Alien miniseries, it mostly lingers on the small town our hero calls home, emphasizing Parkhouse’s skill with drawing everyday people and Hogan’s ability to pack a lot of meaning into a brief series of words. This collection of minis hasn’t generally had a lightning pace, but its thoughtful warmth is always welcome back on the stands.
Wrath of the Eternal Warrior #11, Valiant: This book, heavy with mythology, goes to a surprisingly human place as Gilad tries to reunite with his son, only to discover that, well, needless to say it won’t be as easy as he hoped, in any sense.
Scooby Apocalypse #5, DC Comics: Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Howard Porter have some clever twists up their sleeves in this strange, but highly entertaining, take on the Hanna-Barbera classic. Porter in particular has a flair for goopy monsters that really can’t be missed.
Lady Killer 2 #2, Dark Horse: Joelle Jones’ dark comedy about a lady hitman gets somehow even darker and more hilarious in its second issue.
Mockingbird #7, Marvel: Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk take their seemingly whimsical attempt to get away from the troubles of Civil War II to a surprisingly dark place.
The Black Monday Murders #2, Image: This dense mashup of old-school conspiracy theories, Lovecraftian nightmares, and modern money gets more fascinating, and much weirder, in its second issue.
This Week’s Collected Editions
The Violent: Blood Like Tar, Image (Softcover, $10): Ed Brisson and Adam Gorham’s genuinely tremendous noir comics in a collected edition. The Violent is a classic noir in the sense that a few small, dumb decisions made for the best of reasons rapidly spiral out of control. Nobody in this comic is a genuinely bad person, but as this book underscores, society doesn’t forgive mistakes.
Harrow County Vol. 3: Snake Doctor, Dark Horse (Softcover, $15): Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook’s mix of folklore and Faulkner is consistently one of the best books on the stands, and this volume contains what are, so far, some of the best stories.
The Fix, Vol. 1, Image Comics (Softcover, $10): Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber deliver a crime caper with a lighthearted, if very much Cinemax, tone that has some darker elements, underneath. Come for the affable corrupt cops who are our “heroes,” stay for the vegan hipster mobsters.