From the stack: The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite

October 11, 2007

I don’t think it was the actual pitch for The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite (Dark Horse), but I would love it if it went something like this: “What if some of the kids from Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies survived and became super-heroes?” The book has something of the same morbid sweetness, and it’s extremely likeable.

The book owes a fair amount to Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and that trio of mini-series Grant Morrison wrote for Vertigo a couple of years ago, with high-concept craziness and a retro-adventure feel. But those are balanced out by a quirky sense of humor that owes more to The Venture Brothers. And the influences cohere into something distinct, if not groundbreaking.

Anyway, the plot: forty-three infants are born simultaneously under bizarre circumstances. A crusty old genius-adventurer adopts as many as he can and raises seven of them to save the world. (“From What?” newspapers wonder.) They make their debut when the Eiffel Tower starts throwing visitors to the ground below. Time passes and the group drifts apart, though circumstances conspire to bring them back together.

Nothing mind-boggling there, but the execution is just about faultless. Wray is a witty, imaginative writer. The dialogue is fluid and funny, and he’s written some appealingly crazed bits for Bá to draw. Pardon the gushing, but Bá’s illustrations for this kind of genre pulp are just pitch perfect – energetic, funny, moody, explosive, bizarre. Whatever the script demands, Bá delivers with just a little something extra.

The craft on display makes up for the fact that the characters aren’t developed very well. At this point, they’re highly functional archetypes, and Wray and Bá could probably get away with that for several more issues. I hope they build some more layers in as the story progresses, but I could be quite content with the book’s status quo. It’s great fun.