Friday, September 05, 2008

The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite

I had a couple of friends tell me I'd enjoy this book, and it was something I noticed on the shelves. Yet more and more these are the days of the trade, and The Umbrella Academy from Dark Horse makes a damn good case for it.

Going in I didn't know what the book was about, so I went in blind and gleefully enjoyed the hell out of it. Surely I would have enjoyed the individual issues as well, but reading the whole story as a big chunk over a couple of nights is immensely satisfying. Bonafide rock star Gerard Way delivers a solid, super science adventure full of oddity and awe. It is surprisingly layered and the world Way creates has an underlying fiction that peels away like onion skin leading readers ever deeper into its harsh reality accented by wit and charm.

The story follows the lives of seven children who eventually form the Umbrella Academy, each with a unique skill or ability, but far removed from the average superhero tropes we read again and again. Some are downright esoteric, but are employed imaginatively or even just hinted at. The storytelling jumps rapidly from one scenario to the next, randomly skipping years both forward and backward, eventually letting little bits fall into place as the plot reaches its climax. This is some seriously good storytelling not just in structure but in execution. Every great thing about weird science is touched on or boldly invented, both as key plot points or throwaway lines. My own fires were lit again and again as different aspects unfolded, often muttering to myself, "I can't believe how good this is," after finishing a chapter. The Academy members are instantly endeared as both children and adults, and I won't even begin to describe them here. Trust me, it's best to discover on your own.

Gabriel Ba's artwork is the perfect compliment, being a striking and stylistic emphasis on shape and character, invoking the likes of Mike Mignola and Tim Sale while retaining an independent flavor. It has that extra indie quirk that adds to the oh-so-elusive "accessibility" I tend to speak of now and again. The story calls for plenty of bizarre and epic situations which are handled spectacularly, yet the small, emotional moments hold onto their significance in the Academy's strange and often tragic lives.

I may be late to the party in regards to catching up with Umbrella Academy, but I'll sure be promoting it from here out. Easily one of my highest recommendations.

Post a Comment