• James Jean The Umbrella Academy Columns 

    Don’t Miss This: “The Umbrella Academy” by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá

    By | November 7th, 2018
    Posted in Columns | % Comments

    There are a lot of comics out there, but some just stand out head and shoulders above the pack. With “Don’t Miss This” we want to spotlight those series we think need to be on your pull list. This week, one of Dark Horse’s most acclaimed series of the past few years “The Umbrella Academy” is in the limelight.

    Who Is This By?

    “The Umbrella Academy” is written by rockstar Gerard Way (“Doom Patrol”) with pencils from Gabriel Bá (“Daytripper”), colors by Nick Filardi (“Deadpool”) and letters from Nate Piekos (“Runaways”).

    What’s It All About?

    “The Umbrella Academy” is all about the family drama behind a group of orphaned teens and their tenuous relationship with their father, Reginald Hargreaves. Despite his untimely death taking place before the series began, Reginald’s presence looms large over the heroes. Due to Reginald’s questionable parenting abilities, the children grew into sad, bitter adults who all have an extremely quirky nature. “The Umbrella Academy” is all about the heroes in the story coming together after a long absence. The superheroes reform as a unit to take on threats while coming to terms with the realities of everyday life. The series also serves as an excuse to get a young child interacting with a hyper-intelligent chimpanzee so the probability of you liking the comic is probably fairly high.

    (warning: contains spoilers)

    What Makes It So Great?

    Since day one of both ‘The Apocalypse Suite’ and ‘Dallas,’ “The Umbrella Academy” has often made a point of being weird but not for weirdness sake. Way does an excellent job making sure each cast member has a fleshed out, believable backstory before introducing them into the series. The subdued comic book style of the work gives the issue a playful, but proper disposition from interior artist Gabriel Ba. “The Umbrella Academy” carries an undeniable aesthetic and vibe but still manages to be lots of fun while also exploring some pretty heavy topics like violence and divorce. The title is hard to boil into one singular genre. The first mini featured a really personal exploration into the family dynamics between all the Hargreaves cast members. Seeing the interpersonal drama of that series develop and create a spine of conflict around the title made “The Umbrella Academy” feel both personal and real. The ensuing mini-series, “Dallas” was a wondrously creative exploration into the world of “The Umbrella Academy.” Readers were introduced to all sorts of genre-bending ideas in a story that was less focused and well-defined than what came before.

    The initial title ‘Apocalypse Suite’ did a great job setting up the cast members for the series while subtly weaving a plot with an antagonist integral to the series. Getting to know Vanya and seeing some of her flawed relationships with the rest of the cast allows for a nuanced portrayal of family. Sometimes, the title can be manic and filled with energy that it can forget to tell a story, yet so many aspects of ‘The Apocalypse Suite’ feel so measured surreal with an intriguing, grounded tone. The Rumor and Spaceboy develop a fascinating relationship that takes a dark turn early on in the series adding lots of interesting context. The title is loaded with small moments of characterization that add a lot to the overall narrative.

    “The Umbrella Academy: Dallas” is definitely the weaker of the two series but is still loaded with great issues and solid ideas. The villains introduced into the story known as Hazel and Cha-Cha are both fascinating with great dialogue and electrifying personalities. The title does a great job fleshing out the fractured psyche of The Kraken and No. 5 as well during this story. The last few issues of the do a great job pointing out small strange things like the trademark inverted take on the Kennedy assassination. While not all of the ideas in the story come together for a cohesive narrative from start-to-finish, the sheer ambition of the title is worth celebrating. The mini-series also has the same level of strong characterization and artwork “The Umbrella Academy” is known for.

    Continued below

    I would be remiss if I didn’t shout out the particularly fantastic artwork from Gabriel Bá throughout the comic. The artist’s work is brisk and well-defined. Bá streamlines his more simplistic style with the deep, captivating world of “The Umbrella Academy.” Bá is great at framing the artwork for each sequence and evoking the down-trodden vibe of the “The Umbrella Academy” as a whole. Nick Filardi’s colors add a lot of personality and depth to the issue. He makes the palette brighter than you would expect for such a bleak title. Seeing the strange hues of orange set against the dark clothing each cast members is particularly noteworthy. Bá’s artwork captures the setting and script of Way’s creativity incredibly well. The creativity and page layouts paired with expressive character work makes title genuinely feel special. With Bá drawing every issue of the series to date, the comic has a solid creator-owned feeling making it stand out among a sea of crowded superhero titles.

    This title has now amassed a cult following by delivering on a strange blend of tension and humor. Bá’s illustration work captures the emotion from each character so harmoniously with the situation. The action sequences in the issue are also drawn extremely with and retain a sense of fluid movement scene even when characters are standing still. “The Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion” shipped two excellent chapters so far, but the best for the new story-arc is likely still to come.

    How can you read it?

    I would highly suggest reading “The Umbrella Academy” starting with the inaugural miniseries, “The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite” IDW hardcover collections“The Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion” #2 is both really fantastic and on store shelves starting today. Whatever you do, just don’t miss “The Umbrella Academy.” Here’s Klaus with some shades to close us out.


    //TAGS | Don't Miss This

    Alexander Jones

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