By: Keith Giffen (writer), Matthew Clark & Ron Randall (pencillers), Art Thibert (inker), Guy Major (colorist)
The Story: Robotman reflects on the many incarnations—literally, it turns out—of the Doom Patrol.
The Review: With cancellation imminent and the last two issues to go, it’s no wonder Giffen wants to take the opportunity to wax nostalgic about the Doom Patrol’s history. It’s very smart of him to write this retrospective in the penultimate issue rather than the final one. The Patrol, after all, is not a team of thinkers. For them, the most fitting way to go out is to go with a bang, which leaves this issue as the calm before the storm.
This issue also acts as a much-needed character piece on Cliff, who’s always been the most centered member and as such the one you have the least handle on. Rita’s the self-loathing one and Larry’s the smart-alec, but as it turns out, Cliff has more internal conflict than perhaps any of us believed. His oft-repeated phrase says everything about why he’s the Patrol’s acting leader: “What’s important here?” Giffen cleverly uses this mantra to analyze Cliff’s loyalty to the team.
Since the Patrol got revamped by Geoff Johns after Infinite Crisis, and even more so under Giffen’s work on this ongoing, the team has steadily lost more and more of their humanity. Rita went from your usual size-changer to a protoplasmic shapeshifter; there’s no telling what’s underneath Larry’s bandages; and now Cliff reveals he’s almost purely robot—even Cyborg has more organics than that.
Yet despite losing the things that makes them biologically human, the Patrol remains the most human of all the superhero teams because they are also the most fallible. They have no agenda other than to try to make the best of the lot life has given them, and they suffer constantly from feelings of insecurity and inferiority, especially compared to their more beloved peers. They’re the X-Men of the DCU—the heroes most likely to be called freaks and criminals. As Cliff realizes, they need each other because they only have each other; no one else can really relate.
Now, whether this is good motivation for the Patrol retaking Oolong Island—that’s more questionable. After all, it’s the team that matters, not their mad-scientist controlled, terrorist-aligned, island headquarters. But perhaps Cliff insists it’s important because for once, the Patrol isn’t going to let itself be pushed around. Taking back the island doesn’t just mean no more crashing at Elvis-impersonator’s place—it means they’ve got a right to call their own shots, as all humans do.
The art here is the strongest effort yet from Clark and Randall, as if they’re summoning up their finest chops for the final hours of their run. Then again, it could also be this issue lacks much in the way of action. They seem to fly best when they can pose the characters; the numerous splash panels indicate as much. One of the most striking panels I’ve seen all year is of Cliff looking at the reflection of himself in his initial, unfinished Robotman glory. It’s actually quite horrific, especially with Niles Caulder being the one holding up the mirror.
Conclusion: A bittersweet tribute to the Doom Patrol spirit, the issue takes some time to meditate before the team takes off for the finish line.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Geez, those are some crazy eyes Niles Caulder’s got on him—how did no one see the red flags just from that?
– Now I really want to see what not-Elvis turns into when he gets mad. I’m guessing…four-armed demon with purple mullet and gold spandex jeans.