Saturday, January 12, 2008

Check out 'THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY' comic book from Dark Horse....Grade A

If you read comic books, or even if you don't, you really should give The Umbrella Academy a chance. Written by Gerard Way (from the rock band MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE), illustrated by Gabriel Ba (CASANOVA, from Image Comics) and with color art by Dave Stewart, this comic book really kicks the fun and interest level into high gear! With quirky and unique characters, as well as bold and colorful action, this title sure does have a great flow. It is a real breath of fresh air, and one of the best modern superhero comics on the stands right now.

A condensed skeleton of the main story is as follows (WARNING: SOME STORY SPOILERS AHEAD): Several kids are born simultaneously around the world. A scientist and entrepreneur named Sir Reginald Hargreeves takes notice of the births and quickly focuses on finding as many of the kids as he can. Once found, he then proceeds to adopt and raise seven of them. Wiping their identities clean and concealing them from the world, the kids are shown to have innate super-abilities. What little we see in issue #1 of Hargreeves interactions with the kids shows us that he never gives them affection or true love. This lack of fatherly affection takes its toll, as we find out all too soon. Moving quickly forward in the timeline of the series, we already get to see some of the kids as adults towards the end of issue #1. We also start to see more clearly the fruits of their loveless upbringings. We then go on to find out in later issues that they have been reunited to battle a worldwide threat of apocalypse.Knowingly or not, UA contains shades of the Science Fiction laced quirkiness that can be found in Alan Moore's comic book called Top Ten. Also in evidence here is some of the veil of historical fiction that made Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentleman such a great read. I also dig what feels to be a mixture of European and American sensibilities throughout the series. Throw in a dose of Grant Morrison doing some of his finely tuned Doom Patrol stuff and you have a real pretty picture of what this comic book is like.

Giving away any more plot points or detailed specifics than I already have would do damage to the first time reading experience I think. Oh, and what a wonderful experience that is! Let's just say that this fighting
team of quirky "brothers and sisters" give us, in a very dysfunctional and pained way, some highly fertile ground for lots of interesting and fresh superhero stories. You could sorta call it a semblance of "family" ties without really knowing all of the details and back story yet as to why those ties are there or how they came to be. Thus, we are propelled even further into the story craft by a purposefully created sense of mystery and yearning that makes us want to know more. To know more not only about these strange and wonderful individuals who make up The Umbrella Academy, but about the amazing world of UA in general.
Mr. Way's dialogue, pacing and plot threads all flow quite seamlessly from issue to issue. His sense of quick-witted and absurdist humor are on display at several turns as well. I found Way's writing to have its own voice and a unique personality shining through in each and every issue of UA, despite the above mentioned influences. Ba's art is simply stunning and lends to the overall cohesiveness, to say the least. Dave Stewart's colors are superb as usual, and the covers by James Jean are extremely eye catching. Check out the cover to issue #5 above, which is due to hit comic shops this Wednesday, January 16Th, 2007.

Oh, and on a last note, I truly hope that someday someone turns UA into an animated property--either as a cartoon series, or as an animated feature. If it does indeed get translated to the realm of animation, I will be one of the first in line to check it out! It would also be quite interesting to hear just what a music score inspired by The Umbrella Academy would sound like. Like the comic book itself, I think it would probably be SUPER SWEET!

To learn more about The Umbrella Academy comic, go here (Warning-SPOILERS AHEAD!):


Best, HK..........

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Music Scoring News and Pop Culture Thoughts from Composer Hans Karl at Liquid Years Music: http://wwwhanskarlmusiccom.blogspot.com/