Friday, February 08, 2008

Spotlight: Umbrella Academy

One of the comics I'm anticipating this month is the conclusion to Umbrella Academy. This was easily, no pun intended, a dark horse in the US comics field. There have usually been two ways to market a comic: either you talk about the actual content of the comic or you talk about the creators. In this case, unfortunately, most of the talk revolves around its creator, some guy named Gerard Way. Some fans have typically been skeptical about celebrities doing comics (even if they are, -gasp-, actual writers) but in the past five issues that's been released so far, Umbrella Academy is a great title irregardless if you're a fan of My Chemical Romance or not. And let us not forget the artistic talents of Gabriel Ba which gives this comic a unique aesthetic, especially with what kind of art style is prevalent in today's comics.

If I were to market (i.e. use existing concepts) this comic, my pitch would be it's a cross between Alan Moore's attention to detail, the group dynamic of Gatchaman (a.k.a. Battle of the Planets a.k.a. G-Force a.k.a. Eagle Riders... God I so hate enumerating all those English adaptations of a single show), and the insane creativity of Grant Morrison. Let me elaborate:

If you've read Alan Moore's Watchmen graphic novel, you'll notice that a lot of the cosmology happens off-panel, in the notes and faux newspaper clippings and gives us a history of the setting. Way utilizes the same technique to show us the bigger picture without interrupting the actual narrative. In addition, there's lots of details in the actual narrative that gives you hints to the history of the characters as well--a synthesis of text and art.

It's so Gatchaman for me because well, it's a team comic and a lot of those teen anime/manga and sentai shows usually draw from the archetypes that Tatsunoko established in. You have the usual archetypes such as the honest leader, the rebel, the token child and female heroine, etc.

Except Way infuses them with new elements that Ba showcases thanks to his art. There's lots of fascinating twists and concepts (a world where humans and monkeys co-exist for example) that it reminds me of Morrison's early work. It also helps that Morrison recently worked on some Batman comics and Way's Kraken character resembles the caped crusader.

Overall the series has been a treat that's emotionally charged and actually keeps getting better and better. True, Way could possibly give us a disappointing ending since the last issue hasn't come out yet but even then, it's been a great five issues so far. I do recommend anyone to give this series a try but admittedly, the biggest difficulty right now is finding back issues... (at least until the trade paperback comes out).

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