Nov 2, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - The Weekly Graphic Novel: Week 28 - Doom Patrol: Down Paradise Way, 2005

While I was taking a brief break from reading this book, my son came downstairs, saw the cover, and asked "So, reading some Japanese porn, Dad?" He, of course, knew better, having read Doom Patrol a couple of times at least, but he's certainly not wrong about that cover.

In my introductory piece for the first volume of the series, I mention that Rhea Jones is in a coma, and over the course of the last couple of volumes, she's featured a few times, though still in her comatose state. Rhea comes to the front and center, and not just of the cover, in this volume, but not before Morrison and Case introduce one of the greatest characters in writing, not just comics: Danny the Street.

Danny is a sentient, transvestite street who travels from city to city, location to location, just quietly inserting himself into the surrounding landscapes and giving the odd and disenfranchised a place to live and to belong. He talks through letters on his shop windows, or the steam rising from a grate on his roadway, and dresses his "good macho stores," as Mr. Jones, leader of the Men from N.O.W.H.E.R.E., the villains of the piece, says, "in fairy lights and lace curtains." Danny is wonderful, and only grows more so as the series progresses, and it's been a delight for me in the Doom Patrol series that have followed this one that the character has been brought back time and again, most recently in Gerard Way's latest take on the team.

And, of course, when a street just shows up in a random neighbourhood, the Doom Patrol arrive and enter the fray with, as usual, little idea of what's actually going on. After a brief battle (read: storyline), the DP return to their headquarters to find a newly-awakened and transformed Rhea, who is subsequently...

Oh, hang on a sec. Danny returns later in the series, but one other character who is introduced in this early story is someone who goes on to star in his own series, one that I could happily spend the rest of my life thinking about and writing about: Flex Mentallo. I will talk, inevitably, at length about Flex, about the Pentagon Horror story (next volume), and his own mini-series that introduced me to the work of Frank Quitely.

Anyway, Rhea is subsequently abducted (along with Rebis) by aliens who think she's the key to their winning an eons-old war, and the rest of the team follows them into space with representatives of the other side of the war. As I read this story line, I started wondering if Morrison wasn't offering an interesting look/criticism (that "/" is actually an in-joke for people who've read this story) at literary theory, specifically at the different contentions between early 20th century New Critical thinking and mid-20th century Deconstructive Criticism, embodied in the cultures of the Insect Mesh and the Geomancers of the Kaleidoscape. Considering that the previous volume takes on 20th century artistic movements, I wouldn't be surprised if this one took on literary movements. But that's something I think deserves a far deeper look, so I won't delve into it here. As with the previous stories, this one throws bizarre creatures and concepts at us (the Geomancers manipulate space to bring locations to them, rather than travelling themselves), and Rhea does end up ending the war, though not in the way that any of the players involved had hoped. She rockets off into space afterward, never to be heard from again (at least, not yet), leaving the rest of the team on an alien planet. How do they get home? Will they get home?

What is the Dead Hand? Who are the Men in Green? "Watson, come here. I need you."

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