Reviewer: John Babos
Story Title: A Cold Night’s Death
Written and pencilled by: John Byrne
Inked by: Doug Hazlewood
Colored by: Alex Bleyaert
Letters by: Jared K. Fletcher
Edited by: Mike Carlin
The new Doom Patrol (DP) star in their strangest adventure yet as their series reaches issue #3.
With its third issue, John Byrne starts a new storyline, as the first two issues of this new series were essentially an epilogue to the Tenth Circle 6-part arc that the “new” DP was introduced in the pages of the JLA. [I will say again, that I would have preferred DC to somehow explain the DP’s reboot in-continuity, but they didn’t, so I’m still giving the series a try.] The series will be marked by 2-part arcs, which seem to be a Byrne strength [I recently reread and enjoyed his 2-part classic X-Men tale Days of Future Past that he drew, but co-wrote with equally “controversial” creator Chris Claremont]. I wasn’t sold on this approach until I reread some of his X-work from… ahem… a while ago.
So, the 2nd arc of the new DP series is a strange adventure / weird tale that is very much similar in feel to the franchise’s SA age beginnings. Not much super-heroics in this issue, beyond the DP donning a new black-and-white costume similar in feel to the X-Men’s old costumes right down to belt buckle with “DP” on it. I’m not opposed to costumes in super-hero comics, I actually prefer it, but I am not a fan of these “uniforms”, as the team calls them. While they feel very old school, they don’t seem to work for me here. [I know that’s subjective.]
I do think the DP should be closer in feel to its SA roots, but there needs to be some evolution of the franchise. There is and isn’t in DP. Visuals, like costumes and character looks, need to be attractive to current readers tempered with stories and adventures that harkens back to an earlier time when the “weird” was popular. How many strange all-ages adventures are published these days? Not many, if any. The looks of Negative Man and Cliff Steele work in the new series, but the current costumes for the remaining DP’ers could be a drag on the series, but time will tell. Nudge in particular looks like a rebel product from the 1980’s. The franchise has evolved beyond the designs Negative Man and Cliff Steele. For example, beyond the original four members there are newbies.
All that said the adventure that the team begins to experience in DP #3 is a true-to-form DP tale. The team investigates some strange goings-on at an arctic U.S. government-sponsored facility. Ginormous creepy crawlers… oh my! The cliffhanger ending is creepy indeed. Not sure how the DP will get out of this predicament, so the cliffhanger has served its purpose. I’ll be tuning in for issue #4.
The coloring is quite vibrant in the issue and the lettering is well done.
Byrne’s plotting and dialogue is engaging, although Nudge just feels “off” somehow. I can’t relate to the character and, as I’ve stated, she does feel date.
I’m not sure whether a weird adventures DP book will be viable in today’s market. However, if Byrne mixes it up a bit from arc to arc readers could be enthralled by never knowing what’s next.
I’m particular looking forward to the next arc that begins in issue #5. That looks to be a fight club-like 2-parter with a really cool Cliff Steele “split” cover, channeling some of the really cool Byrne DC covers from the 1980’s.
Byrne’s pencils are solid in issue #3 complimented well by Dough Hazlewood’s inks. This is a good creative paring. Beyond some of my character design reservations, DP is a visual treat.
Issue #4 is the beginning of a back-to-basics DP tale that should enamor those that have been veteran DP fans from the “real” DP days of the Silver Age… not the Vertigo travesty from the Bronze Age. Also, the fact that this is a very different story from what’s offered today, newer readers may be interested in reading a non-traditional adventure tale whose story they can’t get ahead of.
The key to this new DP series, to my mind, is spicing things up from arc-to-arc. Weird tales for one arc; fantasy in another arc; super-heroics in another; a horror arc; romance; and so on and so forth.
The DP lends itself well to multi-genre story-telling. Heck, why not do a super-hero / horror / romance arc?
The new DP has a lot of potential. Only time will tell whether it lives up to it. Issue #3 is a good start, but some of the fundamentals may need to evolve further, like the costumes, Nudge, and few other elements. That said I’d be here next month to see what happens next.
But, I digress…
“John Byrne”. No two words have engendered such heated (internet) debates then, I don’t know, “Comics Code” or “Identity Crisis”. Many “Doom Patrol” (another two-word modern-day lightning rod) purists, who haven’t been able to keep a DP series viable… ever… have come out of the woodwork to revile the current team’s incarnation. While this vocal (online) group seem to be in a minority, as the current series seems to be doing well sales wise so far, the franchise is now much closer to its Silver Age (SA) roots under John Byrne. Its certainly truer to that, with issue #3, and more so then the Grant Morrison revisionist sod-turning of the 1980’s. The DP hasn’t gotten this much attention… ever… as the book remains the source of some interesting discussions among fanboyz and girlz.
Is any publicity good publicity? Maybe. Well, DC may think so. And, it certainly hasn’t hindered the new DP series. If anything, the online chatter reinforces the fact that many current and lapsed DP fans actually care for these characters, something that hasn’t been evident for many years.
If you’re a new or veteran fan or just curious pick up DP #3 and make up your own mind about the series. Issue #3 begins a new arc and is, as they say, a good “jump on” point.
Let me know what you think.
The Final Word:
Doom Patrol #3 is very much a story that is true to the DP’s Silver Age roots. The DP (softball team… hehe) also gets new uniforms. The series continues to evolve and has a lot of potential. There’s still room for the book to find its legs, but its well on its way. Weird. Nostalgic. Fun.