The Doom Patrol are dispatched on another perilous mission which not only has some unexpected repercussions, but also results in the brutal demise of a team member. After returning to their home base the group are reluctantly subjected to a mission debriefing from a priest who in his own personal history has dealt with some serious challenges of his own.
The Metal Men have also been sent out to deal with a deadly threat but even though they do eventually triumph over their adversary, it is only with the usual group bickering that always occurs between these elemental characters. Meanwhile Doctor Magnus is having to deal with a delegation of his irate neighbours on Kanigher Street who are not happy with a living chemistry set setting down in their community.
Jude Thaddeus is the patron saint of lost causes and if any comic book team ever needed that kind of divine assistance itâ€™s certainly the Doom Patrol. This current incarnation represents the seventh differing version of the main group since their creation forty six years ago and life is really not getting any better for Doctor Caulderâ€™s clan of misfits.
This particular revamp drops the reader straight into the action with the team fighting a mad scientist called Amanda Beckett and her invidious Botfly hybrid creations. At first everything seems to be going well for the Patrol: the villain is defeated and her genetic birthing chamber is completely destroyed but on the way out of the facility their young team member Nudge is violently killed by the incoming bad guy reinforcements. Even though the team take instant lethal revenge itâ€™s really just another in a series of very bad days for Robotman and his maverick crew.
On their return home to Oolong Island the group are forced to individually endure a debriefing session with a priest called Leslie Davis. Each of the team members are asked about their feelings regarding both their assignment and the death of the young woman they hardly knew. Their reactions are perhaps typical of a collection of warriors who have been fighting for far too long on the front line. In conversation their hard exterior belies the displayed anger and passion that the reader witnessed during their bloody escape but this team has always been close mouthed with anyone out with their immediate circle. Itâ€™s only in the discussion with Robotman that the writer gives newer comic fans a strong clue as to the priestâ€™s previous existence in the D.C universe, which had nothing to do with church matters but perhaps had a strong connection to Saint Sebastian. The priest reports back to Dr Caulder that maybe the â€˜Doomâ€™ side of the team name is taking on rather more significance that usual and perhaps its time to rethink the ongoing strategy. Caulderâ€™s reply shows that he is totally indifferent to the fate of his protÃ©gÃ©es. In his mind the ends justify the means and the means are totally dispensable.
Frances de Sales is the patron saint of writers and I donâ€™t know if Keith Giffen directed a silent payer in that direction before he stared writing this script but it couldnâ€™t have been easy to start chronicling the adventures of the most famous antisocial team in comics lore. To his credit he dives straight into the insane kind of adventure that this book was justly famous for in its first incarnation under Drake, Haney and Premiani. This new group now appears to be organised along covert military task force lines: Train every day for the next task / Be dispatched onto a mission /Â Return to base / Get debriefed /Â Have some recreational downtime /Â Back to the training ground first thing tomorrow morning.
These people never were the JLA but to me they now seem a lot colder and dispassionate than they have ever appeared before. Hopefully Giffen will further explore this interesting direction in subsequent issues and to be fair he does seem to have a handle on the differing strengths and weaknesses of the Patrolâ€™s members. The only palsied points in the whole script are that the latter half of the book is really just a collection of talking head shots that are there to impart the other informational plot points that the faux computer file entryâ€™s havenâ€™t already explained. A bit more action in the third act would have been appreciated although I do admit to being intrigued about the savage sentient singularity denouement.
Matthew Clark and John Livesay do their part to make this an entertaining read as well. Clarkâ€™s renderings are extremely clear cut and his action sequences flow very nicely indeed. Livesayâ€™s inking line perfectly enhances the art while at no time overpowering it. Unfortunately both illustrators are somewhat hampered on some pages by the inordinate amount of space that is required for the fake Wikipedia computer info dump boxes that the script requires.
And before I move on to I just want to point out for the sake of completion that the front cover of this book shows Robotman tearing down the cover of a previous Doom Patrol comic. Obviously this is to reinforce the salient point that this revamp is a brand new start that owes nothing to the past and just in case anybody was wondering: the comic that is being ripped apart is the old Doom Patrol issue 109 (February 1967) I know this because I went into my own back issue collection to check it out. Your welcome!
Luke is the patron saint of artists and his spirit must have been present in the room when the Metal Men backup strip was being drawn by Mr Kevin Maguire. It was a genuine pleasure to see this wonderful comic craftsman return to work on a Giffen and Dematteis scrip again.
The whole thing is a total delight and at times while I was reading this story I was strongly reminded of the madcap antics of the Marx Brothers. The writers manage to make every robot into a distinctive character and they breathe new life into their animatronic interactions by injecting wonderful slapstick humour but itâ€™s the artists justly famous facial expressionismâ„¢ that really makes the story a knockout. Itâ€™s not so much â€˜Whoâ€™s on First?â€™ â€“ itâ€™s more like the â€˜Monty Pythonâ€™ done as a chemical based situation comedy. Its total burlesque gold and well worth the price of admission.
In summation I believe that three and a half stars is a fair number for this comic debut but it would have been four if the Metal Men had been the lead feature. So if D.C are out there listening, I would just like to say thatÂ there is nothing wrong with this Doom Patrol revamp but the correct reply to the question â€˜Whoâ€™s on First?â€™ really should be Doc Magnus and his crew. So maybe the patron saint of New York City, St Nicholas, could work his seasonal magic on the inhabitants of 1700 Broadway and affect a line-up change.