Doom Patrol v5 #1-13
Written by Keith Giffen
Art by Andy Clarke
Almost simultaneously Marvel and DC introduced bizarre misfits teams in 1963. Marvel brought the world the X-Men, led by the wheelchair bound Professor X. DC Comics presented Doom Patrol, led by the wheelchair bound Chief. As you well know, only one of these two concepts skyrocketed into great success. That’s not to say Doom Patrol hasn’t been a perennial favorite in the decades that followed. Since the late 1980s, there have been four separate shots at resurrecting the Doom Patrol idea. The most successful was spearheaded by Grant Morrison who took over the second series and brought into the mature readers imprint Vertigo. He injected bits of dadaism and surreality into the series and created a critically acclaimed run. But it didn’t last for much longer after he left. Now Keith Giffen and Andy Clarke are tackling the characters with yet another new angle.
The premise of the Doom Patrol revolves around Niles Caulder aka The Chief. Caulder was a reclusive scientist who had bitterness towards the world. In the interest of his own scientific interests, with a side interest in helping the world, he gathered together three individuals transformed by freak accidents. Pilot Larry Trainor was blasted with strange radiation, forced to wear specially treated bandages to contain his radiation, and could projects hard light version of himself from his body. Rita Farr was a movie actress on the set of her latest picture when she accidentally bathed in mysterious waters and found she could shrink and grow at will. Finally, Cliff Steele was a race car driver fatally injured in an accident. Caulder witnessed it and helped transfer Cliff’s brain is a massive robot body. This trio were often the reluctant aides of Niles Caulder.
In the current series, the Doom Patrol have relocated to Oolong Island, a locale in the DC Universe most recently used as a haven for various mad scientist supervillains. The Island has been “legitimized” and Caulder brings his team in and uses the newly founded nation as his staging ground for illegal experimentation and missions. The trio of members underneath him are completely mistrustful of him and Rita is especially angered when she learns Caulder has brought her ex husband, Steve Dayton along. Dayton is a telepath who originally used his powers to convince Rita to marry him, they even adopted the Teen Titans’ Beast Boy as their son. Once Dayton’s ruse was revealed the marriage fell apart. Now Caulder uses Dayton to attempt to control Rita.
The plots have been pulled into joining the Blackest Night story running through the books as well as delving into dense Doom Patrol continuity. I can’t see someone who hasn’t read the last twenty years of Doom Patrol stories being able to understand this series. There’s a villain reveal in one of the more recently issues that will fall with a thud for anyone who didn’t read the Morrison run. Though Giffen attempts to provide recaps for new readers: there’s a single issue spotlight on Larry Trainor and another on Rita Farr, 32 pages is simply not enough to create an understanding of these vastly difficulty histories. Despite my love of the strangeness of these characters, I have a feeling we will being seeing the cancellation of the series soon. Its odd because DC attempted a complete reboot in 2004 and it failed miserably as well. I will defend the concept of these characters, and I believe they can work. I just have no idea what it would take for them to lead a successful ongoing series.