If you aren’t familiar with the recent-ish drama at DC Comics, the Vertigo imprint is no more. Karen Berger, who spearheaded Vertigo, left DC a while ago. Without her, you wouldn’t have SANDMAN. You wouldn’t have Y: THE LAST MAN. You wouldn’t have Alan Moore’s SWAMP THING, and you certainly wouldn’t have Morrison or Pollack’s DOOM PATROL.
Yes, all great things must end, but sometimes they’re resurrected. Gerard Way — of the band MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE and the writer of THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY — revived DOOM PATROL with his ‘Young Animals’ imprint, which is essentially a modern reboot of Vertigo; it’s all about the weird, all about the misfit ‘superheroes’ that don’t quite fit into the normal DC universe, but still have a rabid following.
According to the DC Database, ‘Young Animal’ is still active, but nothing has been published under the imprint in a number of years, so I’ll consider it defunct which is a shame, as those working under the imprint did a fantastic job but I guess the market for weird comic books just isn’t there nowadays.
However, Gerard Way did give us two new volumes of DOOM PATROL weird. (Three, if you count DOOM PATROL: WEIGHT OF THE WORLDS, which will not be covered in this write-up as it’s technically not part of the sixth volume.)
As with every new DOOM PATROL volume, this is a different DOOM PATROL, one that resembles the one of Morrison’s run, but a bit twisted. (Apologies, I have not read each and every DOOM PATROL book — I just found out there’s an entire Keith Giffen run — so I might get some facts wrong here.) Robotman Cliff Steele is here, obviously. Danny the Street is back, but in a far smaller way. Larry Trainor is …kind of back. A sort-of-Rita pops up for a bit. Jane has returned. Nowhere Man is taunting them and then turns into a sort of Max Headroom for some reason. Niles continues to be the narrator of his own creations.
So, essentially: it’s Gerard Way getting his vision of the band back together again.
It mostly works! Way also introduces a slew of new characters, such as Casey Brinke, the other side of the Cliff Steele coin; she loves to drive fast and her interests include: women, robots, her apartment, and her cat named ‘Lotion’. Way maneuvers Casey from outsider narrative commentator to one of the Doom Patrol gang so expertly, I barely even noticed.
There’s also the exuberant Terry None, one hell of a tap-dancing chaotic influence on the team. (I’ll note that her costume? Immaculately designed. Watch it as you read!)
Volume Six also includes the Reynolds family — husband Sam, wife Valerie, and teen son Lucius — which I am far less keen on. Doom Patrol has always been about found families and to shoehorn an actual family there feels incongruent to me, especially considering the closing issue of the second collection, which boils down to: the Reynolds play D&D but with real-life consequences.
Nonetheless, Way managed to keep the Doom Patrol weird candle alight, and with such an amazing team!
I do wish that DC had allotted ‘Young Animal’ more time than they were given. Unconventional comics are what contributes to visual narrative progress. You can see it not only in comics, but in film and TV and video games as well. Vertigo, and Young Animal, helped to nurture that experimentation, and apparently now … no one is willing to make that very small investment.
(Lastly: Yes, I know I said Vol. 6 and the cover says Vol. 2. It’s comics, so it’s essentially Vol. 6.1 and 6.2. No need to overthink it!)