Keith Giffen has always been a hard writer for me to pin down. I was never all that familiar with Giffen the artist, but rather the writer. I remember Ambush Bug and the fairly stupid scandal created by the similarities between the art in that book and the art of Jose Munoz. It was a big deal then, which really damaged Giffen in the public eye for a while. Now it would be just another entry in “swipe File” at Bleeding Cool.
My interest was always in the writing. His approach was funny and irreverent, and yet he knew how to bring the serious. His work on the series 52, in both story and breakdown art really helped bring that book some of the attention it deserved, and brought me deeper into the DCU than I had previously been.
With Doom Patrol, a series that he was born to write, there is everything that a fan would expect. This book ignores the previous John Byrne series that itself ignored all previous continuity. In doing so, it brings the series back to what long time fans of the book were hoping for in the characters they knew from “back in the day”. (Nothing against the Byrne series. I have not yet read it, as I don’t think it has been collected. But it was a very divisive series when it came out) My own knowledge of these characters was very limited before picking the books up, limited to appearances in other books as guests, so I was coming in fresh. My limited interest in the Grant Morrison series, had actually made me pass this by originally as that take just didn’t do it for me. I may have to give it another try later, but for these books; I had very little pre-formed opinion to slow me down.
Our heroes are Robotman, Negative Man and Elasti-woman(girl), along with Niles Caulder, the Professor X of the bunch and some newer supporting players. The story pretty much jumps in as though no real intro is needed, and it really isn’t. Everything you need to know gets put out there fairly early on. The dynamics between the members of the group are harsh at times, but very much like a family. These people are the X-Men’s dark mirror in a lot of ways, an approach that served the book well in the 60’s for quite a long time. Here it is the defining trait of the story. Any fights and “plot” are incidental to the interesting character interplay. In fact, the story can even slow the flow of the books at times. This is partly due to the Blackest Night crossover that really sucks the life out of book 1, but in other parts of these trades (covering the first 13 issues of the series-I am waiting on the last trade collection) the need to further the plot can derail the important part, the characters and the way they deal with each other.
The art is very strong, done mostly by Matthew Clark, the line is strong and fun, brining out all the subtlety needed in a book that always has to balance humor and pathos carefully. Another artist would have overwhelmed the book too much, but Clark’s clean, but not too clean line, is perfect.
I look forward to the final book(s) to wrap up the series, which ran 22 issues before being cancelled, and hope that it does not get lost in the shuffle of trade collections that come from the New 52. This a very solid book and a fun read. While not Giffen’s best, it IS up there and well worth a look.