TNTM Trade of The Week: The Umbrella Academy APOCALYPSE SUITE
THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY
VOLUME 1: APOCALYPSE SUITE
STORY GERARD WAY
ART GABRIEL BA
COLORS DAVE STEWART
There was a lot of buzz around this title, The Umbrella Academy. It's a creation from the mind of Gerard Way, which is the lead singer of My Chemical Romance. That's one reason why. Umbrella Academy gets some recognition just because Gerard Way is the writer of the series. Gabriel Bá is the artist, who is also known for Casanova and De: Tales. The colors are done by nine time Eisner Award winning colorist, Dave Stewart. Apocalypse Suite is the first volume of Umbrella Academy. This first story arc is made up of six issues. The volume itself also includes a free comic book day issue story, an intro by Grant Morrison, afterword from the editor, Scott Allie, and some concept art by Gerard, Gabriel, and, series cover artist, James Jean.
That all sounds quite daunting to me. Going into this graphic novel, Umbrella Academy was already pretty hyped up for me. Then after Grant Morrison's introduction my expectations were elevated even more so. I did my best to reserve judgment until I was finished reading this book.
It starts with a ridiculous and preposterous notion that 43 non-pregnant women around the world each suddenly birthed their own child. Reginald Hargreaves aka The Monocle, a millionaire inventor, adopts 7 of the 43 children. None of the other 36 kids are ever brought up or mentioned. Perhaps they serve as characters or have some role in future volumes or issues but not in this. Ten years later Hargreaves shows up with these special kids to undertake a mission of fighting the Eiffel Tower, which is being controlled by zombie robot, Gustav Eiffel. Then it jumps another ten years later. Reginald is dead, the team has been disbanded, each grown into their own. They are brought back together by his passing and forced to be a team again to save the world from various threats. All the while they are each dealing with grief in their own way. There are a lot of clashing personalities. You can tell each one is damaged in different ways because of the way that their father figure treated them. He was kind of a bastard because he refused to treat or allow them to act like he was as such, their father. To him they were just one of his ideas to be made and molded as he pleased. There's a lot under the surface that you don't instantly pick up on or see but it's there. I wish they had gone deeper into each characters story and how they got to be where they are. I understand they could fill the gaps later but if you can't get me to care about these characters within a couple issues much less by the end of the first story arc I won't bother sticking around. That's exactly what happened with me. When these characters are in peril and things look as bad as they could be I couldn't care less because I wasn't invested in any of them.
The art team of Gabriel Bá and Dave Stewart did a solid job of telling the story. Gabriel Bá has a very Hellboy/Mignola-esque style of art. Personally it's not my cup of tea but it worked and fit well for this title. Gabriel manages to have a style that can be clean, dirty, detailed, basic, deep, and shallow all at the same time. It's odd, peculiar, weird, interesting, and intriguing. The colors bring so much life into this world. The visuals never get boring, that's for sure. The colors are constantly changing, keeping it fresh, giving it life, adding heat or cold. I must say that there wasn't much for detail and expression when it come to the faces. That's what was left to be desired in the art.
In the combined effort of story with writing and art there also left to be desired. The premise of it all is quite ludicrous. None of it is rooted in reality so know that going in. After reading the FCBD issue at the end of the book the story made a lot more sense. What I'm getting at is that the story feels like it's playing off the idea that you know more than you actually do. The whole time it seemed like I was missing something. And I was, everything that came before that first ten years and ten years after that. There's not even a montage and there's rarely any flashbacks. The finale was a great idea that wasn't handled and built up that well. Mostly because of what I just said. At the same time I think that if they would have let Gerard have more creative control I think it could have been better. I say this because after seeing and reading the extra content it really seems he had a strong vision and idea for this book, these characters, and their stories. A lot of his concepts, written and visual, I found way more enjoyable, interesting, cool, and intriguing. Honestly, I just wanted more, more depth, more character development, more world building, not less, not the basics. If I wanted to read basic, two dimensional characters and worlds I'd read My Little Pony.
Considering this is Gerard Way's first rodeo in comics I give him props for how good it was but considering all the hype it didn't live up to it. Especially when measured up against other indie titles it definitely doesn't meet the grade. The art was well done and effective despite not being my preferred style. The biggest problem with this book is that it asks too much of the reader, to believe, imagine, and see what is not in the pages but should be. I bought this book because of all the good things I heard about it. I wanted to believe them and support Gerard Way. I'm sure many others who have and will feel the same way. I also can't help but feeling that this title just isn't for me. Some have ranted and raved about it but you won't hear it from me. Nice try but trying only gets you so far. If I'm not invested in your characters and world I'm not going to keep buying and reading. If I would have read this in issues I would have dropped it after issue two. Sorry to say but this is a Skim for me. Others may like it more so skim it, if you like what you see and read, buy it. If you like it good on you because you got or found something in it that I didn't so for that I'm jealous.