By: Keith Giffen (writer), Matthew Clark and Ron Randall (pencillers), John Livesay (inker), Guy Major (colorist)

The Story: Things just get ickier for the Doom Patrol as the Aristocrats demonstrate the “hobbies” they’ve gained over the last century or two.  Hint: not stamp-collecting.

The Review: One of the flaws of the Star Wars prequel/sequel trilogy is how much time it spends pontificating on intergalactic politics.  It seems a little petty for a disturbance in the force.  The same thing applies to comics.  It’s ambitious of writers to insert some socio-political texture to the superhero world, but they’re not exactly the savviest individuals where world affairs are concerned.  The result, as in the recent string of Star Wars films, is a lot of oversimplified political concepts that never really seem like good motivators for superhero fare.

That’s the stumbling block Keith Giffen ran into last issue as he devoted a good half of it developing Oolong Island’s foreign policy (and bashing on North Korea).  Thankfully, the action this issue leaps into the red-hot zone as Keith Giffen sets aside those political intricacies to focus on giving the Doom Patrol some serious brawling to do.

Fast and furious seems the best pace for these characters to work at.  Their jokes fly better, or at least they seem to.  It’s the Laugh-In effect; before you have time to decide if the punchline is funny or not, you’re already pulled along to the next bit.  The friendly friction among the characters also have more to play with when they’re punching the lights out of immortal sadists than when they stand around ranting over the multitude problems in their lives.  The Patrol don’t do soul-searching very well.  They’re better off facing freaks even worse off than they are, and gleaning perspective out of the experience.

That said, the Aristocrats aren’t the most terrific opponents.  Physically, the ‘Crats have nothing on an energy being, a shapeshifter, and a robot.  They don’t bring much to the table in terms of motivating characters either.  Giffen writes them well, with all their excessive politeness on top of their lust for pain (theirs and others’), but he doesn’t embellish their history very well, nor why exactly they serve “Beloved Leader.”  And because they seem to have few stakes in the story, the stakes for the Patrol are even less.

In fact, just when events look to be turning interesting, what with all the Aristocrats’ “collection” getting free, the Patrol bolts, leaving us to wonder exactly what was the point of spending two issues in this place, since neither party accomplishes anything and nothing in the story at large seems to move forward.  Scratch that—at the very end Duke Byron hints he has left a metaphorical time bomb ticking away in the Patrol’s midst.  It all depends on Giffen’s execution of the blowup to come.  Anyway, I’m not too worried.  The Secret Six pop up next issue.  Them and the Patrol are a great combination of freaks, and Giffen’s just the right kind of man to handle the potent chemistry among them.

In the same way the Patrol works best in action, so do Matthew Clark and Ron Randall.  They clearly have way more fun drawing people pummeling each other and twisted character designs than anything else.  Thanks to their dynamic scene-work, you can very easily get caught up in the lively pace of the issue without reflecting on the story’s shortcomings, which is a boon for this issue.  John Livesay takes it easy on inking, allowing the lines to pop out without obscuring the action.

Conclusion: In a way, it’s fitting that the Doom Patrol, the team that can never catch a break, don’t get much out of their harrowing experience, as long as the experience itself has some fun and thrills, which it does.  Here’s looking forward to the Patrol getting higher-stakes adventures in the future.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I recall the Sundoller Coffee reference from Final Crisis, and it’s obvious where Ferris Aircraft comes from.  But can anyone shed some light on these other brand-magnets on the Patrol’s fridge: MSE, Senor Gyro, and an obscured “So— C—”.

– “Not me, you inbred imbeciles!  Get him!”  Really, Veronica Cale?  You’re upset they don’t know what they’re doing?  What part of “inbred imbeciles” did you not get?

– I think Elasti-Woman may just have to wear that girdle/one-piece costume in battle from now on.  Why should Wonder Woman be the only swimsuited heroine?