By: Keith Giffen (writer), Matthew Clark & Ron Randall (pencillers), Art Thibert & John Livesay (inkers), Scott Clark with Dave Beaty, Jose Luis, Scott McDaniel (guest artists), Guy Major (colorist)
The Story: Wanted—studio space for four (one miniaturized), open access to power grid, appliances included. Must love freaks.
The Review: With Doom Patrol’s cancellation imminent, it’s worth reflecting on the series’ possibly dooming shortcomings. Of course, it’s a niche title, with a peculiar cast of characters. It leans more towards comedy than drama—always risky, as comic book humor tends to be very hit or miss, as D.P. frequently is. But the title’s biggest weakness is it has always been more interested in its character interaction than actually giving those characters things to do.
This issue serves as a good example: it’s one of the strongest of the series, yet basically involves nothing more than the Patrol looking for a place to crash after getting kicked off their base. The interest comes from how each member’s particular brand of social awkwardness rubs off on the DCU’s more mainstream characters. The ultimate unfruitfulness of the team’s efforts serves as a good reminder of how out of place they are in their world, and with readers in general.
You just can’t get a handle on these characters. They’re ostensibly heroes, but as Beast Boy and Congorilla astutely point out, most of the Patrol’s endeavors to this point have come across more terrorist than heroic. They’re more a gang of losers who can’t catch a break; most of their misadventures involve them acting out of self-preservation rather than for a good cause.
Another big flaw revolves around Giffen’s attempt to use the fictional Oolong Island as a means to inject some political layers to the title. Now, disregarding the fact that most comic book politics tend to be oversimplified opinions, there’s just little entertainment value to reading about Oolong’s domestic and foreign affairs. This issue spends a lot of time on Oolong’s new status quo with the Patrol gone, and the possibility of the team retaking it (because it might become more obviously terrorist if they don’t?). It’s easily the most tiresome plot thread, but sadly enough, it looks like it’ll be the concluding one for the series.
Besides, the whole sequence where the Patrol calls on various heroes for asylum offers so many more funny and even touching moments. Congorilla’s nonplussed “You can go now” to Cliff calling him a monkey is a great beat (and how awesome is it to have a talking gorilla act as the Justice League’s spokesman?). Giffen also writes a very sincere heart-to-heart between Rita and Beast Boy, a good reminder that she’s actually his adoptive mother, a point most writers tend not to play with.
Besides Clark and Randall’s always-decent work, you get treated to a few guest artists this issue, all of whom provide decent, but not particularly impressive art (though granted, they don’t get to do much). Of them, Scott Clark has the most promising style, being more detailed and less cartoony—just look at how he draws almost-Elvis’ rocket convertible in comparison to the others: it actually looks mechanically credible and cool.
Conclusion: Even at its strongest, Doom Patrol remains less than outstanding. Its lack of mission statement, repetitive dark humor, and uninteresting plotlines are no doubt all factors in its upcoming end.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Bad art physics: if almost-Elvis’ car is flying, there’s no way Karen can just sit directly into the wind tunnel without blowing away.
– Seriously, Trainor—just stuff it. You’re trying way too hard for Deadpool’s wit.