Friday, 13 November 2015

Doom Patrol, Volume 1: Crawling from the Wreckage Review (Grant Morrison, Richard Case)

A depressed human brain in a robot’s body; a woman with 64 different personalities, each with their own superpower; a hermaphrodite spirit; an ape-faced girl with powerful imaginary friends; a guy who shoots energy beams from his arms but prefers to be an office admin rather than a superhero; and a guy in a wheelchair who likes chocolate bars - welcome to the Doom Patrol! 

Grant Morrison takes the strangest and least likely superheroes and throws them together as an awkward team who have to save the world; that’s one of the reasons why I like Morrison so much, the way that he embraces the weird so fully to subvert the established model of the superhero narrative. 

The first arc of Morrison’s Doom Patrol has a common theme that has featured throughout his work: fiction as reality. The Scissormen (dudes with scissors for hands – this is also before Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands) are invading Earth, literally cutting people out of our reality and sending them back to their fictional world! Ingeniously, their dialogue looks like the product of William Burroughs’ cut-up method. 

The other main story is about a butterfly collector called Red Jack who believes he’s God and Jack the Ripper. He lives in a mansion without windows and tortures thousands of butterflies because he needs pain to survive! Wow.

Maybe it’s because Morrison began his run at issue #19 and didn’t feel like he had to do much introductory work on the established characters but I liked this book’s villains far more than the Doom Patrol themselves who came off as shallow creations. I like that Crazy Jane has dozens of superhero personalities and therefore potentially dozens of superpowers – that’s a really cool idea – but otherwise I can take or leave the rest. Cliff, Joshua, Rebis, Caulder, Dorothy – they never felt more than names that engaged with the far more interesting villains. 

And what’s Caulder trying to do besides sending out the team to react to threats? Something about getting the team back together but they’re already together it seems so… eh? 

Crawling from the Wreckage is from early in Morrison’s career so the artwork is ‘80s standard, ie. the pre-digital illustration looks very dated today. That said, some of Richard Case’s panels looked quite good, particularly when Rebis battled the Scissormen. Generally though, the visuals aren’t especially brilliant – I think I’ve been spoiled by the incredible comics artwork we see everywhere these days!

Morrison’s first Doom Patrol book has, as you’d expect given the author, some great, original ideas but the overall effect unfortunately isn’t terribly exciting to read. The Doom Patrol are an unusual bunch and I like that misfit aspect but if Morrison hadn’t written them, there’s no way I’d be reading this. In Crawling from the Wreckage, the glimmers of brilliance from Grant Morrison’s script eclipsed the main characters who for the most part came off as uninteresting and flat. He gave readers a reason to give a damn about him rather than the Doom Patrol themselves! His fans will get something out of it but this first Doom Patrol book is still minor Morrison and not an essential read.

Doom Patrol, Volume 1: Crawling from the Wreckage

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