Oct 20, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - The Weekly Graphic Novel: Week 26 - Doom Patrol: Crawling from the Wreckage, 1992


I have talked, rather extensively, about the Doom Patrol. Here is one of my earliest pieces of critical writing on comics, a review of the Morrison era of the DP. Here is the document I give to people when I give this first volume of the series as a gift. And here are all of the other posts tagged "Doom Patrol."

I know I've said that I think Animal Man #5 is a perfect comic. Well, I think Doom Patrol, at least in this iteration of the series/team, is a perfect series. I think it's the best that superheroes get. Not to say that it's the best that superheroes have ever been, or will ever be, but, for me at least, Doom Patrol is the bar to which all other superhero series have to aspire.

As with so many of the early Vertigo titles (this was actually a pre-Vertigo title originally), I was not collecting or reading comics when this series came out. In fact, I only discovered that Morrison wrote the Doom Patrol when I re-entered comics life in the mid-90s and found a reference to his scripting in the final issue of Animal Man. I figured that if this Morrison guy was good on one comic, he was probably good on others. The rest is history, at least for me.

We're dropped into the middle of the end of a story when Morrison and Case take over the title. The Doom Patrol have been decimated in the Invasion crossover, and the various members are in various states of recovery. Prior to Morrison's series, Paul Kupperberg and Steve Lightle (mainly) had attempted to turn the team into a more mainstream presence, giving them newer, younger members and having them face fairly standard superhero menaces. Though my affection for the characters gets me through these first 18 or so issues, they're not great comics by any stretch of the imagination. As with their earlier incarnation in the 60s, the Doom Patrol work best on the fringes of their shared narrative space, a sentiment echoed by Niles "The Chief" Caulder as he attempts to recruit Joshua Clay into his new version of the team. This Doom Patrol confronts villains and problems that only just verge on the real - in fact, the first challenge, the bone city of Orqwith, is actually a fiction that is finding its way into reality (a reality which, of course, is completely fictional - this gives you a nice sense of how the series plays out). To call the Doom Patrol under Morrison's aegis a series about the ontological crises of a superhero team and universe is reductive, but is also a fairly good summary of the series.

I'll be reading these over the next few weeks. Doom Patrol is one of my favourite comics, regardless of volume, and I try to read it at least once a year. It reminds me of exactly what comics are capable of, and of what I want to say about them. See you next week!

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