THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY, VOL. 1
Writer: Gerard Way
Illustrator: Gabriel Bá
Publisher: Dark Horse
WHAT IS IT?
Part retired superhero story and part dysfunctional family tale told by the lead singer of My Chemical Romance.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? (Minor Spoilers)
Several superpowered children are born at the same time to different mothers. One man adopts the seven who survive and raises them to eventually save the world. As they grow up, they form the Umbrella Academy, where the grow up and fight crime with their strange powers.
Eventually, the team disbands and goes their separate ways. Years later, most meet back up, catching each other up on their lives and opening old wounds. But one of them doesn’t show up, since she feels disenfranchised and disconnected from the team – after all, she was never allowed to fight alongside them, growing up.
With a world-threatening event looming on the horizon, will they be able to band together to fight it, as prophesied? Can they get over their pasts and the pain that separated them years ago? And just what are they supposed to save the world FROM, after all?
Way’s writing and Bá’s art (shown below) combined to bring a lot of energy and style to the comic
Gerard Way’s experience as a performer manifests itself in the story, making for spectacular displays which contrast well against the quieter moments
The art also balances nicely between cartoony and realistic, which works really well for the story
We get the sense of a great depth of baggage shared by all the characters, which in turn gives more life to what could have been a plain superhero story
The story doesn’t get bogged down in details or too much exposition – the story is all meat and no fat and makes for a quick, page-turner of a read
The comic is so good that a third volume, The Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion, is coming out this fall, and a Netflix TV series is slated to premiere next year
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
The narrative felt rushed – I wanted more history between the characters, more set-up to lend more weight to their later dysfunction and the things that happen to the characters, and more superhero fights showcasing their powers would’ve been nice, too
Sad, retired superheroes seem to be a very popular, recurring theme in comics right now, with books like Jupiter’s Legacy, Powers, Black Hammer and more – I don’t know if this one would stick out if not for Gerard Way being attached to it
Related, the Dysfunctional Superhero sub-genre isn’t as popular in non-comic media, and the story itself (which is fairly music-heavy) would have worked much better in a different visual medium like TV
There’s a lot of potential in this really cool concept that just was not explored in this first volume – I hope we dive a little deeper in subsequent ones
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Even though there are a lot of stories with dysfunctional superheroes this one has a kind of explosive energy to it where others tend to be more melancholy. If you’re into stories like that or just a My Chemical Romance fan and want to see how Gerard Way’s storytelling extends to comics, you should check it out.
Or, you could just wait for the show to come out on Netflix!
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, Vol. 1 by Gerard Way, Shaun Simon & Becky Cloonan
Powers, Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming
Jupiter’s Circle/Jupiter’s Legacy series by Mark Millar, Frank Quitely & Wilfredo Torres
If you like the art:
The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 2 by Gerard Way & Gabriel Bá
How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman, Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá
Black Hammer, Vol. 1 by Jeff Lemire & Dean Ormston
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Gerard Way – Writer
Multitalented: Is the lead singer of pop-punk band, My Chemical Romance
Also co-founded the DC comics imprint, Young Animal
Married Lyn-Z, the bassist from the band, Mindless Self Indulgence
Gabriel Bá – Art
Dream Team: Has also worked with his brother, Fábio Moon, on other projects, like Casanova, later issues of The Umbrella Academy & Daytripper
Outlander: Lives in Brazil
Dave Stewart – Colors
Award Winner: Has won a ton of Eisner Awards for his coloring work
Dream Team: Has also worked with Gabriel Bá on Daytripper
Nate Piekos – Letters
Multitalented: Also draws webcomics & plays guitar
Founded Blambot.com, a website that provides fonts for comics and other creative media
He’s lettered for most of the big comics publishers and his fonts have been used by Microsoft, The Gap, Six Flags and even movies & TV.
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