Sunday, August 04, 2013

The Umbrella Academy, Vol #1: Apocalypse Suite by Gerald Way and Gabriel Bá

The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: Apocalypse SuiteThe Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one's been in my tbr pile for a long time, and I finally got around to reading it.

I don't follow the music group My Chemical Romance, but I did see one of their videos, and I found it visually appealing.  I can definitely see the artist in Gerald Way from that video sequence, and it carries over to this graphic novel. 

The story takes the concept of superhuman abilities and the onus to protect humanity at one's personal cost and examines it closely.  In this case, it focuses on seven children who were born under strange circumstances, and subsequently adopted by an eccentric older man.  He goes on to raise these children to be superheroes who step in to counter threats against humanity on earth.  The story goes twenty or so years into the future, and the remaining children are dealing with the aftermath of years under the tutelage and dubious parenting of their father.  Each and every one of them is emotionally scarred, but one in particular.  These emotional scars are ruthlessly exploited to create a very vicious instrument that could lead to the apocalypse.

The artwork is by a Brazilian artist (known for his work with his twin brother) based on scripts and concepts by Way, and there is a real meeting of the minds and collusion evident in the pages.  Like a good graphic novel, a mix of dialogue and action tell the story very well.  The story is relatively easy to follow, although it leaves this reader with some questions that probe me to continue the series.  This is dark, but nothing less than expected.  Dark subject matter is the obvious result when a story centers around children who were reared from birth to be superheroes by a poor substitute for a parent who has a specific endgoal and ruthlessly exploits his children to achieve that goal.  Despite that darkness, there is also a bit of welcome and quite quirky humor.  Of course, even with this dysfunctional family, we see a sibling dynamic that feels realistic for the situation. A tenuous, but surprisingly strong bond of loyalty between the erstwhile adopted siblings that is reactivated as a result of their recent reunion and the need to go back to work defending the denizens of earth.

This is a good graphic novel to experience, especially for aficionados of the visual arts.  Different, but recognizable for readers who appreciate the superhero theme.  The characters are tortured and broken, morally conflicted to some extent, but yet no less heroic; and the dark, twisted villains that exist only in the fictional landscape of superhero fiction.

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