Friday, October 9, 2009

Comic Review: Doom Patrol #3

The new Doom Patrol comic has gotten off to a somewhat shaky start. The plots have been very densely written, with a lot of pseudo-technical science talk to put Star Trek technobabble to shame. It's not an easy read - but it's very much worth the effort.

I've been quite pleased with this series so far, as it feels like I'm getting a modern day slice of the 60s Sci-fi comics. Weird "out of this world" threats plague the heroes - beginning with a wonderfully imaginative idea (in this case, a sentient black hole) and then building around that. Back in the 60s this kind of idea would have been flatly put out there, with truly misunderstood ideas of science facts as a way of explanation. Keith Giffen is putting in a lot more effort, in making these far-out concepts work more realistically, thus explaining the appearance and need for technobabble. Yet - in-between all this technobabble is a highly quirky and up to date stretching of science fact into science fiction. This sentient black hole, for instance, doesn't conform to the natural laws of science. Keith Giffen is basically taking into account real scientific facts, and gently pushing them to the side to get as his far-out idea to work. It's not his best skill, as a sentient black hole could be explained in an easier and less complex fashion - but I really appreciate the effort and am delighted to no end when I know what the heck he's talking about. This story, taking place at a Supercollider, is a prime example of something I've heard about on the news - where people have been fearful of that experiment generating a black hole. Real science tells us nothing of the sort would be generated by the supercollider, but it's such a wonderful idea that the Doom Patrol is suddenly called into deal with what is suppose to be the impossible.

Matthew Clark's art is really superb and well thought out. The designs of the characters are modern - but not dismissive of the kind of costumes they have worn before.

Now - the lengthy science explanations might be a downside, but there's also the mental science of the Doom Patrol team it's self - which is nicely utilized and examined throughout the issues. In this issue, for example, it's revealed that Mento in fact doesn't need his helmet to read minds - that it's in fact a decoy to hide the fact that he is always in people's minds. Giffen has tweaked him to be somewhat of a voyeur. This certainly makes him more creepy as a character - but it's par for the course for the Doom Patrol. These people are messed up. Giffen doesn't shy away from that fact, and in fact delves deeper into the true motivations of the characters. These characters sometimes too often appear like average super heroes. Changing Mento's history in such a way might be a bit off-putting to continuity fans, but it takes him from being a somewhat average super-hero into what the Doom Patrol members should always be: socially and mentally challenged misfits.

There is one more criticism of the over-all plot, as the Doom Patrol faces off against this sentient black hole - it's painfully obvious that the character's back and forth discussions with the black hole are the main point of the story. Action and fighting is thrown in a bit haphazardly to make it a real comic and not an entire discussion on the reality of the universe. Still - even with that fault, the fate for the Black Hole is more interesting than him being beaten back - as he's trapped in a human body, and appears to be going back home with the Doom Patrol to Oloong Island. This sentient black hole claims to be a scientist - so him going to the Island of crazy scientists seems oddly appropriate and charming.

Before I end this review - I have to talk about the Back-Up Metal Men comic. There are only 10 pages worth of the classic Giffen, Dematteis and Maguire creative team, but it's 10 of the most well used pages in comics. The funny and mundane adventures of the Metal Men is well suited for these creators, and it feels like the Metal Men are getting more character development within these 10 pages than in all of the last 8-Issue Metal Men mini-series. Each character is imbued with simple and base personalities, like Gold being a complete egotist, Lead being dumb, and Tin being nervous.; it all matches up nicely enough to previous incarnations. What I really enjoyed this issue was the focus on the newest team member Copper. She's the odd team member left out, being both new and highly forgettable, Giffen has taken that as a cue for her personality, where she is eager to please, but hardly noticed. Hopefully the other Metal Men will wise up and start to accept her more. It's funny when she's ignored - but that won't be funny forever.

A lot of people I've heard about seem to be buying this comic mainly because of the Metal Men back-up feature. While that is a great highlight of this issue - don't forget that the Doom Patrol is a great and interesting read it's self. I encourage anyone to at least try it. I for one am very much looking forward to seeing the sure to be changed relationship between Elasti-Girl and Mento next issue.

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