Re-upping at the Academy.


Share this column

  • Button Delicious
  • Bttn Digg
  • Bttn Facebook
  • Bttn Ff
  • Bttn Myspace
  • Bttn Stumble
  • Bttn Twitter
  • Bttn Reddit

Back in September of last year, I dedicated a focus to the first Umbrella Academy miniseries, Apocalypse Suite. In that column, I noted the novelty of a rock star such as Gerard Way entering the realm of comics. I wondered if fans would hold his day job against him and not give the series the respect it deserved.   

I’m ashamed to admit, I was one of those fans. While I dig Way’s band, My Chemical Romance, I didn’t feel the series was a must-add to my pull list when it was solicited. It wasn’t that I thought it would be bad, just not good enough for the added expense to my monthly bill.

I did pick up the first issue when it hit the stands and I immediately regretted my decision of months earlier. The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite wasn’t just great; it was one of the best books to come out in all of 2007.

The Umbrella Academy started with seven superpowered children who fought all kinds of menaces 20 years ago. They all went their separate ways but most are reunited by the death of their adopted father. They stay together long enough to stave off the end of the world, and the ones who survive that conflict decide to remain a team.

The first miniseries was a wild ride where a zombiefied version of Gustav Eiffel could be a bad guy and a mother could be a partially animated mannequin.

Where the series went beyond simply just wild and wacky was in the depth of the storytelling. The skeleton of the miniseries was provided by an alienated family reuniting. This plot is a staple in all kinds of drama, from the Pulitzer Prize and Tony-winning play August: Orange County to the Oscar-winning film On Golden Pond.

Way’s take on it was unique, but his employing it made the story more accessible to readers. After all, there are people out there who like one sibling better than the next and those who believe their father doesn’t love them enough.

Gerard Way shows a thorough understanding of comic book writing, something not all long time comic writers have, let alone many other writers from other medium that dabble in comics. He has an economy in his writing style that gives you exactly enough information. You’re never left wondering what’s going on or burdened with excessive exposition.

Way also shows a skill at showing characterization through dialogue. Each character in the book is unique and individual. They are completely fleshed out yet have enough mystery to keep them interesting.

Of course, the artwork by Gabriel Bá is a perfect complement to Way’s writing. His work is not only light enough to portray the more humorous moments but also has the weight to carry across the more dramatic elements. He also is good enough to make both the action sequences and quiet scenes equally as interesting.   

Apocalypse Suite was so good that you were left wanting more. Lucky for us, more is what we get. This week brings the next miniseries, subtitled “Dallas.” The team might not be as back together as they thought. Number Five is lying low as his actions of the previous series come back to haunt him. The entire team is in jeopardy, and the only solution might lie in the events of the Kennedy Assassination.

No one can fault you for overlooking the first Umbrella Academy series. But there is no excuse for missing this one. If the sequel is only half as good as the original, it will be twice as good as most of the other comics on the market. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up.  

Also out this week:

Madame Xanadu #6:

The characters Neil Gaiman created in Sandman have been treated as fairly sacrosanct by DC and Vertigo. Sure, Daniel would be appearing in JSA, and there have been a few series that spun off from Sandman, but, for the most part, the Endless have been kept on the shelf.

That ends this week as Death makes a guest appearance in this issue. For those of you who don’t know, Gaiman has created Death as, well, the living embodiment of Death. Instead of a skeleton wearing a tattered cloak and carrying a scythe, this version is a Goth girl with a camisole and an ankh necklace.

Gaiman’s Death was one of the best characters created in the last 20 years. It will be good to see her grace comic pages again. But, and this is nothing against Matt Wagner, I only wish Gaiman was writing her.

Matt Wagner (W), Amy Reeder Hadley (A), DC/Vertigo Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Thor: Man of War:

If you give me just one moment, I’m going to postulate a theory. Matt Fraction is soon going to lose Punisher War Journal from his list of books he writes. J. Michael Straczynski is soon going to take over DC’s Brave and the Bold. This might mean that he is soon going to leave Marvel’s Thor. Fraction has been writing a lot of Thor specials and miniseries. Could Marvel be grooming Matt Fraction to take over Thor?

I don’t know if this is the case, but if it is, it will rock harder that a Led Zeppelin concert with Weezer opening. Matt Fraction is one of the best writers in comics today, and he writes an awesome Thor. He’ll bring something to the title that hasn’t been seen in years—fun. 

Matt Fraction (W), Patrick Zircher  (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. One-Shot.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #19:

Buffy’s trip to the future has been anything but a vacation. As luck would have it, she met up with the only slayer that still exists in the future, Fray. They have come to the realization that only way for Buffy to get back to her own time is for both of them to confront a centuries old sorceress. But what will Buffy do when she finds out Fray’s greatest foe is her best friend Willow.

The uniting of the comics and TV world of vampire slayers is now complete. Joss Whedon and Karl Moline have introduced the comic-only Fray to Buffy and the future slayer is now canon. Now, if only they could guarantee that this will not be the last we see of her.

Joss Whedon (W), Karl Moline (A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Wonder Woman #26:

The Gods of Olympus have pretty much written off the Amazons as a failed experiment. Wonder Woman has been slow in fulfilling her quest to bring peace to mankind, and the Olympians have decided that they really can’t wait any longer. What’s worse, they’ve decided that men should get their shot at it. Change is afoot and it’s unlikely that the Amazons—or Wonder Woman—will be able to withstand it.

If you haven’t been following Gail Simone’s run on Wonder Woman, well, shame one you. Finally, our favorite Amazon has a writer that can emphasize the Wonder and the Woman aspects of the character. Lucky for you late adopters, this issue begins an arc that is a perfect jumping on point. 

Gail Simone (W), Aaron Lopresti (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Echoes of the Damned #1:

When you think of “legendary Batman artists,” who comes to mind? I’d imagine Neal Adams might be high on the list. Naturally, Bob Kane would be in the top five (as would any number of the many artists who ghost drew the comic for him). Perhaps you’d think of Jim Aparo, maybe Jim Lee and Frank Miller, and some would choose someone like Norm Breyfogle. But how long would you have to be thinking to come up with Roger Robinson?

Devil’s Due is advertising this series as being co-created by “legendary Batman artist Roger Robinson.” I guess I’m out of touch, because I didn’t even know an artist by the name of Roger Robinson existed, let alone drew Batman, let alone reached legendary status on the character. If he is a legend in your eyes, then you should probably check this one out.

James Pascoe & Roger Robinson (W), Roger Robinson (A), Devil’s Due Publishing, $3.50. Four-Issue Miniseries.

Secret Invasion: Inhumans #4:

The Inhumans have gone through a lot to get back their long lost king. Families have been torn asunder, old rivalries have been reignited, and loyalties shifted and changed. Now, we find out if it was all worth it. Will Black Bolt be found? And will it really be worth all the chaos the search has caused?

The Inhumans have had a long and storied history with Marvel. And it appears that they are finally getting the respect they deserve. They are going from playing a minor role in the blockbuster Secret Invasion event to playing a major part in Marvel’s next big event, the War of the Kings. It looks like the Inhumans are going to be playing a major part in the Marvel Universe for the foreseeable future.

Joe Pokaski (W), Tom Raney (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Final Issue.


William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY and is expecting his first child with his wife Jennifer. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

Related content

Related Headlines

Related Lowdowns

Related Reviews

Related Columns


There are no comments yet.

In order to post a comment you have to be logged in. Don't have a profile yet? Register now!

Latest headlines


Latest comments
Comics Discussion
Broken Frontier on Facebook