Friday, September 28, 2007

REVIEW :: Umbrella Academy #1


by Gerard Way & Gabriel Ba
covers by James Jean

reviewed by Seth Peagler

Last week Dark Horse premiered a new miniseries called The Umbrella Academy. The book's creative team consists of Gabriel Ba on interior art, James Jean on cover art and Gerard Way on writing duties. Some of you may know Ba from his work on the series Casanova, and Jean for his covers for the series Fables. If you don't recognize the writer Gerard Way, don't feel bad; this is Way's first comic series. Apparently he started creating the book when he wasn't working his day job as singer of the band My Chemical Romance. Though unfamiliar with this band's music, the thought of a rock singer writing a comic intrigued me. Can rock stars write comics?

Beyond the curiosity I had about the book's story, what initially prompted me to pick up this new book was the respect I have for the art of Ba and Jean. Their contributions seem to fit the story's super-hero/science fiction tone very well, which didn't surprise me, considering the excellence of their previous work. What did surprise me was how well-constructed the story ended up being. For a first issue we aren't bogged down with endless dialogue, but are given enough information to want to continue reading. We get a bit of action, but not so much that we don't have an investment in the story. And by the book's end, we have several unanswered questions propelling us toward issue two, and the introduction of the major conflict of the series.

Throughout issue # 1 we travel through an odd world where the Eiffel Tower wreaks havoc on Paris, a super-powered boy dreams of growing up to be a space man, and zombie robots threaten society. Though The Umbrella Academy unabashedly takes cues from the X-Men, with its inclusion of a super hero school, it also seems to be related to titles as divergent as Hellboy and Casanova. This is a quirky book that blends archetypes of science fiction and comics in a unique, high-paced format.

If there are any of you who have hesitations about a rock star writing comics, you might just be surprised at the book's quality. James Jean provides a beautiful cover for issue number one, featuring the academy's children being mirrored by their adult selves. Gabriel Ba delivers energetic panels that fit nicely with the story's quick delivery. Gerard Way, for his first comics work, offers a surprisingly enjoyable story, and with it, quite possibly the arrival of another promising writer in the realm of comics.

14 comments:

Rusty Baily said...

Thought this book was GREAT! I didn't have ANY expectations going in, but I really liked Ba and Jean! Gerard did a "way" good job! I'm on board for issue 2! Good review Seth!!!

Rusty Baily said...

Thought this book was GREAT! I didn't have ANY expectations going in, but I really liked Ba and Jean! Gerard did a "way" good job! I'm on board for issue 2! Good review Seth!!!

Neil said...

Way actually went to SVA in NYC and studied sequential arts. He also interned at DC. Here's a link to a good interview with Way and Scott Allie from Dark Horse.

http://www.wizarduniverse.com/magazine/wizard/005791510.cfm

Neil said...

Oh! And he also did the cover art for the #1 incentive cover. (forgot to mention that earlier)

Rich Barrett said...

I loved this book too. It's like if Wes Anderson and Grant Morrison collaborated on a superhero comic.

Andy Mansell said...

Can one of you Heroes stalwarths throw a copy into my bin?

Thanks!!

Shawn Reynolds said...

Andy we are unfortunately sold out, and it went to back order. But I will be on the lookout for one for you.

Rusty Baily said...

Shawn, Shawn, Shawn, you know the words "sold out" don't apply to Andy!
Andy, I got ya Bro...

Shawn Reynolds said...

Rusty you're so nice. No wonder everybody loves you.

Jason Wheatley said...

I once did something nice for somebody. There may even be a record of it somewhere.

Shawn Reynolds said...

You're nice too Jason. Just not as nice as Rusty.

Andy Mansell said...

Thanks Heroes--I love ya! (except for Jason-- we are justgood friends)

Jason Wheatley said...

Sigh...always the bridesmaid, never the bride...

Anonymous said...

umm my variant cover version of the book (the gerald way cover) is very fragle and filmsy and the imside pages are stronger than the cover am i the only one who noticed?