Winner of the coveted Eisner award for best Finite-Mini-series, writer Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba’s “The Umbrella Academy” has achieved critical acclaim for its originality in style and new ideas that really entice and enthrall the reader. Way and Ba’s creation has birthed two mini-series that were released in 2007 and the next one in 2008 respectively. The first mini-series was called “Apocalyse Suite” and the second entitled “Dallas”, both limited series have been published by Dark Horse Comics (a combined 12 issues now collected in two volumes). The creators have announced a third mini-series in 2009 to be called “Hotel Oblivion” but has experienced delays due to My Chemical romance’s next album.
This review is about the series “Apocalypse Suite” and “Dallas”.
An unexplained worldwide event sees 43 extraordinary babies who were born by women who hasn’t shown signs of pregnancy. Millionaire inventor Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of the children and raises them in his mansion. When asked why, his only answer is to “save the world”. Now many years have passed and the children have fought robot zombies, national monuments like the Eiffel Tower (gone berserk) each one displaying their own unique powers and abilities. But they have disbanded and only the death of their adoptive father can bring them together and this brings potential apocalypse to the planet and they must once again band together to end a familial threat, try to correct the wrong done in the time stream, fight two ’cute’ ruthless killers and to prevent nuclear Armageddon they must allow the assassination of a U.S. president. Are they really heroes or they something else?
Covers to the 'APOCALYPSE SUITE' mini-series
The Main Characters of the series are as follows:
The Monocle (Sir Hargreeves) a wealthy inventor who adopts the special children.
# 1: Spaceboy (Luther Hargreeves)- his body becomes that of a gorilla’s after a failed experiment; he has super-strength and resiliency.
# 2: The Kraken (Diego Hargreeves)- knife-throwing and a skilled combatant; can hold his breath for an underdetermined length of time.
# 3: The Rumor (Allison) - can alter reality by lying.
# 4: The Séance (Klaus)- can contact the dead, levitate and has powerful telekinesis.
# 5: The Boy - can travel through time and has been enhanced by the mysterious guardians of the time stream. He is now immortal and may well be the most dangerous of the seven.
# 6: The Horror (Ben)- deceased but has the ability to summon monsters from different dimensions. You see his status in front of the academy.
# 7: The White Violin (Vanya)- Her powers were never brought forth but instead suppressed as a child (she can play the violin) because of the fact that she is the most powerful of the group; also potentially very uncontrollable.
Covers to the 'DALLAS' mini-series
“The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite” has some simple elements in the first mini-series that made it rather predictable but the writing is just so well done that it managed to maintain my interest for its entirety. The first mini-series introduces the main characters of the series and their powers and characters. The reader is taken to our characters’ lives as secrets are revealed and a possible worldwide threat comes from inside their backyard. It also brings the stakes a lot more personal and the sibling rivalry between Luther and Diego takes central focus. What I liked about the series is the fact that while it did seem a little predictable at first, it managed to cover up its flaws with the effective surprises, twists and turns in the plot.
“Dallas” makes for much more focused development of our characters as we learn the secrets of Number Five (The Boy). This series also introduces the very cool villainous duo of “Hazel and Cha-Cha” whose appearances are so freaky in a way that they are attractive to kids and yet so ruthless; they have an obsession with "Girl Scout Cookies" which adds a lot of black humor in the panels. There is also a very curious villain called the Shubunkin with his head that looks like a fishbowl. This series actually has a lot of time travel mumbo-jumbo that follows established time-travel rules and mythos. It is extremely difficult to discuss this series since it is the kind that channels “the less you know, the better” so it'll hit the right spots when it came to entertainment.
The storytelling by Gerard Way has a lot of foreshadowing that hints at certain things and then develops them the longer the reader becomes invested in the series. Especially in the series “Dallas”, the mysteries behind “the Boy” is one of the most creative things I have ever read about. There is a lot of things going on in “The Umbrella Academy” so it is vital to remember even the most seemingly insignificant sequence and comic book panel as they may come to develop a certain angle as a surprise or as a punch line. The art by Gabriel Ba is quite different, it looks to be a blend of Victorian style mixed in with manga and vibrant colors that makes it look like a kid cartoon. The characters have eyes that are quite expressive and yet some has those that almost looked zombie-like. The character designs are quite excellent as they appear very original; No, this is NOT your kid’s comic book as it does have a strong depiction of violence, blood and gore. There are also some strong questions about morality especially in “Dallas” and the coolest scene with a 40,000 ton asteroid.
“The Umbrella Academy” is a character-driven endeavor that allows them to develop the story rather than the other way around. It has an amazing blend of Victorian sensibility filled with the jet-setting spontaneity of a sardonic, somewhat gothic unveiling. The series is REAL cool, original and creative; filled with action, surprises and wit. I stand ready for the next mini-series with bated breath.
Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Stars]
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The Umbrella Academy is a comic book written by Gerard Way with art by Gabriel Bá, cover art by James Jean, colors by Dave Stewart and letters by Blambot's Nate Piekos. The six-issue limited series is released by Dark Horse Comics, the first issue making its premiere on September 19, 2007. It won the 2008 Eisner Award for Best Finite Series/Limited Series. A second series TheUmbrella Academy: Dallas followed in 2008. The series has been optioned for a film adaptation planned for release in 2012