Saturday, June 6, 2009
Why Should I Read.....The Umbrella Academy!
I will be the first to admit that when I heard lead singer and front man of the Rock band My Chemical Romance, Gerard Way entered the world of comics with the Umbrella Academy, I was a little bit skeptical. Whether it was good or bad, everyone has had some experience of a mega star crossing entertainment mediums into a field very foreign their own. It took a while, but I finally went out and bought, The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite. By the end of the graphic novel I realized that this book, was amazing.
So what is The Umbrella Academy? The Academy is made up of seven super human adopted siblings, created by their distant, foster father with the intention of saving the world. That said, this isn’t about a team of super heroes who save the world for the good of mankind. This is about a team of super powered siblings in a dysfunctional family who save the world because somebody has to. Way does a great job of letting the reader feel the tension between the siblings and just how it affects them on a personal level. He does this in a way that makes you empathize with some of the characters and you feel a real connection with them. In addition, Way also does a fantastic job of using characters of a familiar archetype and making them feel polished and imaginative.
When you first open the book you will notice the unique art of Gabriel Bá that fits the style of the comic perfectly. He doesn’t just bring the characters to life, but everything within the panel as well. The action scenes are depicted with lots of movement and details that make the pages feel real, and in the drama scenes he brings the characters into focus to show the reader the characters true emotions. His art is just as important to the page as Way’s dialog. The two go hand-in-hand, and they come together to create a fantastic sense of realism and motion to the pages. Everything a comic should do.
The feel of the Umbrella Academy is dark and grungy. You begin to realize the kind of world they live in is almost not even worth saving. Their world emulates our own in the sense that it doesn’t take place in some fictional land (it takes place in our world), but it does seem to push some extremes onto the environment we live in so it can get a point across. It doesn’t seem forced or unnatural in fact, it fits the story great. You begin to feel that the Academy is the only team suited to save this world, because the world is just as dysfunctional as they are.
Their adventures seem to transcend the norm. From fighting murdering robots to fighting the Eiffel Tower itself, there is something new and fun on every page. The villains are as unique as the comic and the Apocalypse Suite introduces you to a variety of these villains each with their own sadistic needs in mind. What is interesting is each villain may not necessarily play a direct role in the overall plot of the story, but each one helps evolve the team’s back-story, which is just as important.
The six-issue story arc, The Apocalypse Suite, ties directly to its successor ,Dallas, in which the team gets themselves involved with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Way isn’t afraid to reuse ideas and turn them into his own. Dallas is proof of this, with his through back to past issues that we see as the focal point of many stories in modern media before, but he molds them into something new. He takes it to a whole new level in which the reader can’t predict the next move.
Dallas dives into the characters personalities and sheds more light on who they truly are. What you thought of some character in the Apocalypse Suite will change in Dallas. Way uses the same style of keeping the reader in the dark, as in its predecessor to form a very intriguing story that proves to be even more exciting than the Apocalypse Suite, which is a major accomplishment in its own.
In short, The Umbrella Academy is a fantastic comic with enough awards to prove it. Is it for everyone? No, but what is? If you have the extra money you should go pick it up. To say this book is imaginative, fun, and gorgeous would be an understatement. You have to read it to see for yourself. With the Apocalypse Suite already collected in a graphic novel, and with Dallas just reaching its end with a trade due out in October and a third story arc on the way, there is plenty for you to read and immerse yourself in.