Doom Patrol #1 - 'We Who Are About To Die' and 'Metal Men: A Day In The Life' - Giffen, Clark, Livesay, DeMatteis, Maguire and Major
Story - DC Comics in the Silver Age was a strange place, Batman travelled through time and wore Pink, Superman was a dick to everyone, and Gorillas were everywhere. But probably the strangest 2 properties DC published at the time were the Doom Patrol and the Metal Men, I've posted some covers and other images in the thread, and they're mad, bloody mad, in the best possible way. But since then DC has kind of held back on the Madness, Batman never wears pink anymore and Superman is deadly serious, and some of the kookier concepts (koncepts?) in DC's stable haven't really fit into the new tone of the DCU, Grant Morrison succeeded in his Vertigo Doom Patrol book by going even crazier, but any other attempts to fit these 2 ideas within the current Rapetastic DCU haven't really worked. So it's up to Keith Giffen to attempt to re-ignite both teams, and on the whole, he succeeds. Moreso with the comedy take on the Metal Men (thanks to a reteaming of his JLI compadres JM DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire), but both strips hold a lot of promise for me.
The Doom Patrol story is mainly set-up really, Giffen dispenses with some of John Byrne's stupid ideas, we are introduced to our main characters, to their new Base of Operations, and a new threat is introduced, it's all fairly standard stuff, but there's enough of a Doom Patrol twist to make this stand out from every other team book out there. There's a dark humour here, a cynical edge, and while it's not the same off the wall madness Arnold Drake would deal with, it's interesting. Giffen's humour shines through, he's dissing Nudge and Grunt even before he kills them, and each character has a dark edge, and a flippantness about the nature of heroism. Too often in DC books, heroes are too happy, and too well-adjusted, everyone is buddy buddy and cries at eachothers funerals, not so the Doom Patrol, they know the score, and it's quite refreshing. Giffen uses an interesting device to introduce us to our 'heroes', by having Rocky Davis (from the Challengers of the Unknown, another Silver Age square peg that's never quite fitted into the modern DC's round hole), who is now a Priest and superhero counsellor interview each Patrol-member. I found it interesting how confrontational each team-member was, this is not what I expect from a DC team book! I'm not familiar with past DP incarnations so I don't know how accurate the characterisation was, but it was good enough for me. I should also say how much I love the idea of the team operating out of Oolong Island, this Island of mad scientists was one of my favourite concepts to come out of 52, and I'm glad someone is playing with it, and hopefully the array of crazy super-science based on the Island will provide plenty off crazy threats for the Doom Patrol to deal with.
Giffen also plays with some other storytelling devices, using epistolary pieces like emails and computer reports to fill in details, and while this isn't totally successful (often it was quite difficult to read), it was interesting, particular in regards to the character of The Chief, where you learn exactly how disdainful he is of his team, and what aspects he's going to exploit in them.
It's not perfect by any means, and while it does have a different edge than much of DC's output, it is perhaps not different enough, the older stories were truly insane, and this is merely surly. But this is only the first step, we are not really used to seeing these characters in a modern milieu, and from the look of the last page, where a scientist who resembles Dan DiDio tells The Chief about a sentient black hole who wishes to negotiate terms... things might be reaching an appropriate level of mad. I'm not sure I'd recommend this whole-heartedly just yet, but if you're a fan of off-beat heroics like Agents Of Atlas, you could do worse than check it out. This could be a slow-burner. Giffen has cleared the decks, now let's watch him build.
The Metal Men back-up story was a different kettle of fish altogether, no set-up here, we're straight into the action. I'm a huge fan of the team of Giffen. DeMatteis and Maguire, I read their Justice League run in reprints when I was young, I loved their Formerly Known As... stories, and even their take on The Defenders for Marvel, and this is them on classic form, there's no real plot to speak of, the Metal Men fight a giant Wooden God Idol, but there is plenty of fun to be had. It's only 10 pages, but already all the characters are established as well as several running jokes, such as the team not acknowledging Copper, or Gold being egotistical, or Platinum's love of Doc Magnus. It's just fun, the Metal Men are a great idea, perfect for the Bwa-Ha-Ha trio, I can't wait to see what madness comes up in the future. Even if the Doom Patrol story wasn't quite perfect, this makes up for it, just brilliant.
Art - I've been a fan of Matt Clark ever since his work on Adventures Of Superman with Greg Rucka, prior to Infinite Crisis (that was a damn good run), but he's never really found a project that suited him, or one he's been on for long enough to make his own. I think this might be it. He does great work here, his work on ordinary people is great, and he can draw the weirder stuff like the 4-armed Gorilla, or Robotman, or the woman transforming into a monster well, a good fit for 'The World's Strangest Superheroes', perhaps the best thing was how expressive he made Negative Man, even through the bandages.
Kevin Maguire is the master, there's not much else to say, perfectly suited for comedy. Compliments should also go to Guy Major's colouring, and how it reflected the different materials of each of the Metal Men.
Best Line - From the Metal Men story, 'One Man's delusion - Is another man's destiny!' That just struck me as hilarious. Gold is awesome.
8/10 The score is increased by how awesome the Metal Men story was, on it's own, Doom Patrol would have gotten a 6, maybe 7, but the whole package here is just great, and I see the kernels of something great in Giffen's story.
Last edited by Punchy
on Sun Aug 09, 2009 5:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.