I always hate being the millionth person to make a particular observation – but it really does bear repeating that it’s a massive surprise that The Bloke From My Chemical Romance should be writing a comic like Umbrella Academy. Alright, so, the crapness of his band aside, we know that Way is a longtime comics fan who used to work in the industry – but even so, I’m not sure anyone would have expected a series that shows such an assured grasp of storytelling, and a surfeit of ideas, making it a highly enjoyable if completely bonkers read.
Having missed the first volume of the series, I will admit to having felt a little lost over the first couple of issues of Dallas, but stuck with it by virtue of having enjoyed a number of the ideas and moments that were being played with (remind you of anyone? Way wears his Morrison influence on his sleeve, and it’s something that extends to the storytelling style as much as the aesthetic). I’m glad I did, as issue #3 is where the details and nature of the plot begin to unfurl, and carried along by some helpful opening-page recaps, I’m starting to feel a bit more immersed in the book’s world – not to mention pleased that it’s turning into a madcap time-travel story, with an absolutely terrific twist involving Number Five revealing itself in the process.
There’s a gleeful exuberance about the whole thing, characterised by Gabriel Ba’s terrific artwork (and as good as he was on Casanova, he looks even better in full-colour, and perfectly suited to the story). Cheerily terrifying psychopaths Hazel and Cha-Cha are absolutely inspired creations, both in concept and execution – delivering lines such as “All we’re interested in is red licorice whips and instant armageddon – and we got twenty bucks for candy and more killing power than we know what to do with” from beneath massive oversized novelty head masks that look like something out of a Sam and Max game. And there’s a superb sequence involving The Seance, Heaven (brilliantly rendered in pure black and white) and God.
The fact that Way’s comics explode with whacked-out ideas is less of a surprise than his ability to craft and construct a comic while maintaining a veneer of freewheeling dementia. Now that the plot has started to kick in – and with the meaning of issue #1’s God Save the Queen parody cover having become apparent – it’s turning into a compelling read rather than just an entertaining curiosity, with (I’m sure) plenty of twists and turns to come. Lovely touches such as the “adverts” on the back cover show an attention to detail and inventiveness of the sort that’s all-too-rare in current mainstream comics, and these qualities make it a series that’s well worth getting on board with.