Review

The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite

by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bà

When 47 supernaturally talented children are spontaneously born around the world, seven are taken in by the eccentric millionaire Reginald Hargreeves. These kids are raised to be superheroes with little affection or attention except for their rigorous training. Identified by number rather than name, they develop their powers while at the same time nursing secrets, resentment and rivalries as only highly intelligent, emotionally awkward children can. At age 10, they reveal themselves to the world as the Umbrella Academy, a team ready to battle the Eiffel Tower suddenly come to life and running amok in Paris.

Years of accomplishments and rescues follow, but whatever camaraderie they have erodes away until the group finally disbands, leaving each to their individual fates. 00.03 tries to build a normal life complete with husband and child, while 00.01 retreats into the abstraction of space travel and scientific study. 00.04 disappears from view completely, and 00.07, already estranged from the group, pens a bitter tell-all about her powerful family.

Almost a decade later, Hargreeves dies, and while he was not a man who inspired much love, his funeral is the one thing that will bring all seven children home to pay their respects (or to make sure he's dead). What they don't know is that a new threat is already growing, and one of their own siblings, a musician with no apparent superpower, is at the heart of it.

It's hard to avoid the hullaballoo when getting into reading THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY. My Chemical Romance's frontman Gerard Way pens the series, and the extremely talented Gabriel Bà creates the art. Comics readers have been pleasantly surprised that a comic written by a celebrity is actually good. Going into it, I knew I'd love Bà's art (the cover alone is beautifully designed and evocative), but I wondered a bit about yet another dysfunctional superhero story. I was pleasantly surprised at how the oddball and occasionally grim book rose above the usual clichés to become a portrait of lost children, too often deprived of any sense of normalcy, now trying to reconnect as young adults.

When you're dealing with extraordinary people, an emotional outburst can have unexpected and uncontrollable results. This family is hanging by a thread, but it's still a family, and you can glimpse moments of honest affection amid all of the posturing, competition and long-held grudges. On top of that, both creators' imaginations really let loose. The threats the team faces are fantastic and intriguing: An Eiffel Tower that's actually an alien machine? Music that can kill? Fantastic, steampunk-flavored challenges. The stylish look of the costumes and setting is elegant and evocative, and the darker color palette perfectly complements Way's vision.

The only complaint is that I'd like more --- more back story, more history, more looking into the past of each sibling to see how they went from their 10-year-old selves to the adults they are now. Happily, a new series is about to debut, so fans can anticipate future stories.

Reviewed by Robin Brenner on June 24, 2008

The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite
by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bà

  • Publication Date: June 24, 2008
  • Genres: Graphic Novel
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Dark Horse
  • ISBN-10: 1593079788
  • ISBN-13: 9781593079789