Review: Umbrella Academy Vol. 1 by Gerard Way

The Umbrella Academy, Vol 1: The Apocalypse Suite
by Gerard Way, with art by Gabriel Bá
Published: July 22nd 2008
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Source: Purchased
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

In an inexplicable worldwide event, forty-seven extraordinary children were spontaneously born to women who'd previously shown no signs of pregnancy. Millionaire inventor Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of the children; when asked why, his only explanation was, "To save the world."
These seven children form the Umbrella Academy, a dysfunctional family of superheroes with bizarre powers. Their first adventure at the age of ten pits them against an erratic and deadly Eiffel Tower, piloted by the fearsome zombie-robot Gustave Eiffel. Nearly a decade later, the team disbands, but when Hargreeves unexpectedly dies, these disgruntled siblings reunite just in time to save the world once again.

My Thoughts:

Besides reading tons of YA, I also read tons of graphic novels and comics so I hope you don't mind a few reviews on those. I consider a lot of what I read to be YA adjacent, anyways. 

It's no secret that I'm a big music lover. I'm also a big fan of comics who are written by people who engage in other types of writing, including songwriters, novel writers, and screenwriters. I'm fascinated by how they engage in comics, which feels different to me. So when I heard that Gerard Way was re-engaging with DC Comics with his very own imprint, DC's Young Animal, I knew I needed to get on with reading Umbrella Academy. It helps that I got to choose the graphic novel for my Women with Issues comic group. 

Welcome to the Umbrella Academy.

The Umbrella Academy exists in an alternative reality where JFK was never assassinated (apparently there is where 11/22/63 was successful) and is set in 1977, which is the year Gerard was born. The Monocle has adopted a group of kids who were born out of the blue to parents who largely abandoned them. This group of dysfunctional superheroes is charged with saving the world, which would probably be more realistic if The Monocle was a good dad, which he totally is not. In fact, even though the kids call him dad, he doesn't honor that title. Oh, and he names them with numbers, which are assigned in the order he deems them useful. Very helpful in developing a team of kids who are eventually going to save the world.

We only see each other at weddings and funerals.

In starting the story, the team has disbanded and not in contact, though that quickly changes with the death of The Monocle. Oh, and in the meantime, one of they has switched teams and is now a supervillain. #00.01 - The Spaceboy - is the assumed leader of the group and has developed super strength. Other abilities include altering reality through lying, telekinesis (which only works when he's barefoot), and time travel, to name a few. 

#00.05 has been 60 years in the future and relays to his siblings that the world is going to end in the very near future. Chaos ensues, which is all I am going to say about the rest of the story.

Gerard's writing mirrors the tone of his songwriting, poetic and dark and thought provoking, while also being a bit surreal. I enjoy this in a comic, because if I wanted to read a typical superhero story, I'd read Batman or similar. These characters and their journey are not your typical heroes. They're more broken and their responsibility to come together as a team is less clear, especially since they've developed new abilities.

Overall, this isn't a comic for everyone (certainly not for kids). If you want something a little different, I recommend it, though!

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