Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way

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IMG_2195Surprisingly this one has been out for about seven years, yeah that is right, and I had never heard of it. I came across it at my local comic shop and the cover looked very cool and interesting, not to mention the title as well. Everything about this book fit perfectly into my parameters as to what I look for when I shop for comics, so naturally I added it to the stack I was purchasing and that was that.

Also surprisingly the author of this one is a rock star, Gerard Way is actually the lead singer for My Chemical Romance, pretty bizarre I know. This is not the first story he has written either, according to Wikipedia he wrote another story called On Raven’s Wings IMG_2196which I know nothing about, way back in 1994. I find this interesting that a musician would be interested in writing, much less writing a comic, but that is pretty cool. I would imagine that that writing songs takes a special sort of creativity and is somewhat like a story, so I can see where the two may overlap. He is also the co-writer on The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys which has received very popular reviews. It is also worth noting that this book won the Eisner Award for best limited series when it came out.

The story opens up talking about a very wealthy man named Sir Reginald Hargreeves who is somewhat of a philanthropist. He discovers six children that are seemingly virgin births. He raises the children who all possess extraordinary powers, except one, to become superheroes. The story flashes back and forth between their upbringing and an impending disaster that the group must stop, especially when one of their own gets lured to the dark side. The one who seemed to possess no powers at all could turn out to be the most dangerous.

IMG_2197The more I think about this story I am not sure what to make of it. It is a very different take on superheroes, which is cool but something about it just did not appeal to me. Overall I think the story itself is solid and touches on some cool ideas throughout, but still I am not immediately sold.

The theme is somewhat new, somewhat been done before, so I do not have a problem with that. I am having trouble understanding what the author was going for and who his audience is. The story is real and not over the top by any means, but I felt like it went back and forth between a IMG_2198very young audience then switched to a more mature audience. Perhaps I am reading too much into it, but I struggled to understand that aspect of the story.

I did find the characters fascinating and very complex. There are some cool ideas that the characters explore as the story moves. It was interesting to see how they all interact and how each of them have their own set of problems, I did like that aspect of the story.

I think the thing that budded me was that the book as a whole is mostly serious and the story does a good job keeping it that way with serious themes, yet the artwork in no way mimics these ideas. So to me there is a complete disconnect between the artwork and the story. I also did not undIMG_2199erstand why one character walks around in a giant gorilla suit, which was never explained? Then there is also a talking monkey that seems to play the role of Alfred from Batman to the children. Again I feel there are a few ideas that contradict the overall tone of the book and theses are a couple. At times it was goofy then it would switch back to serious and to me the overall feel of the book seemed off.

When I looked up other reviews of this book I found that it was very popular, on Amazon it had over 100 reviews and 4.5 stars, that is pretty impressive. As I mentioned above it has also been out for over 7 years so it has had time to accumulate popularity. The thing I do not understand is how this book got that many positive reviews and on top of that a movie deal. Let me say that I am by no means saying that this book is terrible, not in the least, I have already stated that I liked the overall story. I just did not think it was as good as the reviews or IMG_2200someone in Hollywood says it is. I think it is a very neat story, but still there is something not quite right about it. Perhaps it is trying to be odd, but when the time comes to be truly bizarre it shies away and returns to normalcy. Kind of like freezing up when you get on stage. So when it has a chance to take the uniqueness of the book to another level it never does, it just fizzles and keeps the same pace. I guess that is what I am trying to say about the story, the story does not know what it is, it tries to be both, when it could have been so much better had it picked one.

I hate bashing someone’s work but I am truly wondering if Way used his rock star fame to help make this book popular. Let me say that I would do the exact same thing if I were in his position, but for a little peon like me who is trying to make it, it is a little disheartening to see this happen. I am not sure if this is the case and given that it did win an Eisner Award I am probably way out of line. But I still have to wonder if he had just created this one on his own and published it himself would it have been as popular or would Dark Horse have picked, IMG_2201much less would they be talking about making a movie??

So now on to the artwork. It is highly stylized and very cartoony. In my opinion I feel that the artwork hurt the story and felt it would have been better had they chosen a different style. As you can tell I did not care for it very much but that is me, I am sure there are those out there that loved it. I will say that I did love the issue covers, they on the other hand are very cool. I have always found it a little strange that someone would hire an artist to work on the inner pages yet hire another artist to draw the covers. To me I always feel deceived when I see this awesome cover, then the inside is a totally different style. Colors are bright and vibrant, and really catch the readers eye. Page layouts and scene selection are fairly normal, nothing over the top, yet a little non traditional, nothing much to really talk about here.

Overall I liked the story in this book, but I feel that it has problems. I feel the story struggles to find an identity, is it going to be super weird (which is totally cool) and unique or calm down and be tame and more traditional. It does not do either or it tried to do both, and bothered me as I read it. I honestly do not know how to describe the book to a friend if they ask about it. I will also say that this is one of the more unique and creative books I have read, which is always fun. With all that beinIMG_2202g said I am in the minority as this is a very popular book. I guess it was just lost on me…

Manik

 

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