Doom Patrol: We Who are About to Die
by Keith Giffen, Matthew Clark, Justiniano (DC Comics, 2010)

They're back, again.

DC Comics' Doom Patrol has a checkered past. I have vague memories of the team from my childhood. The group then, even to my youthful eyes, seemed at odds with the bright colors and optimism of the DC Universe. They were weird and uncomfortable. And, it turned out, quickly forgotten. Oh, they appeared and disappeared on the comic-book shelves with some regularity, but I couldn't be bothered to care. When Grant Morrison began writing the series in the late 1980s, I picked it up for a while, but it was even stranger, made little sense and, again, made no effort to fit in with the greater DCU. (For a summary of the team's odd history, check them out on Wikipedia.)

The fifth (or so) incarnation of the team began in 2009, with Keith Giffen writing the script. Ignoring a lot of the mess of earlier years, Giffen returns the team to its original lineup, eliminating one extraneous member in a hail of gunfire at the beginning and sending another (a talking gorilla; it is just me, or is DC really overusing the talking gorilla schtick these days?) fleeing into the jungle.

Now, with the core team of Cliff (Robotman), Larry (Negative Man) and Rita (Elasti-Woman) back in play, led by the possibly sinister, wheelchair-bound genius Niles Caulder and with a few minor characters in the background, the Doom Patrol faces off against a sentient black hole, who inhabits the faces of various innocent bystanders before they are abandoned and left in a pile of dust. Then, before that matter is fully resolved, the team is wrapped up in the events of DC's Blackest Night crossover, as deceased members of the Doom Patrol (including Caulder's late wife) rise from the dead and make life unpleasant for our heroes.

I've never fully understood the concept behind the Doom Patrol. Why are Robotman and Elasti-Woman considered "too weird" for normal society when other DC heroes, such as Plastic Man and Cyborg, interact with society just fine? Eh.

Brushing that concern aside, I enjoyed Giffen's new take on the team. They're just a little bit crazy and devil-may-care, which I like, and the grim overtones are lightened with plenty of humor. Sure, Caulder is annoyingly sadistic and Rita's ex-husband, Steve (Mento) is just a little too perverse for family viewing, but the overall tone and direction of the story is strong. Perhaps this incarnation of Doom Patrol will last.

review by
Tom Knapp

7 May 2011

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