Between the Legacy books, Young Animal, and planned revival of Vertigo, there has not been a more exciting time to read DC Comics since long before the New 52. That’s what makes declaring a best comic among the current lineup so difficult, but it wouldn’t be much fun to say they’re all good comics and go home. No, even with all of the great series coming from DC Comics today, series like Deathstroke and Mister Miracle, one stands head and shoulders above the rest: Doom Patrol.
Whether you’re looking for new takes on classic stories and history or brand new creations, whether you’re looking for sharp storytelling or mind-bending visuals, whether you’re looking for convoluted plotting or direct gags, Doom Patrol has it all. It’s a comic that delivers on multiple levels every issue while continually reinventing itself. When set side-by-side with other monthly series, it’s almost unbeatable.
Doom Patrol isn’t just the best superhero comic at DC Comics today, it’s one of the best comics being published, no modifiers necessary.
Embracing DC Comics’ Continuity
In the argument between whether superhero continuity is a hindrance or help, Doom Patrol refuses to take a side. Writer Gerard Way’s approach to the 50 years of prior stories can be compared to that of Grant Morrison’s on Batman, everything counts in Doom Patrol. In just eight issues the series has brushed upon Morrison’s own beloved take on the team as well as the very original stories from 1963 and much more recent runs from just before the New 52. There are no characters or concepts that are being blatantly ignored.
At the same time, Way has not bound the series to acknowledging every event to ever occur to Robotman and his many friends. Just take the inclusion of Negative Man as an example. Few characters have as convoluted of history - switching bodies, origins, genders, and a whole lot more across series. Yet in Doom Patrol #4 the series both acknowledges what preceded this story before using the constant of change to set up Negative Man (in his multiple forms) for what comes next.
Sometimes the acknowledgement of history is serious, like when Crazy Jane is returned to the series, and sometimes it is goofy, like when The Chief appears in one-page cameo stories. The importance is that Way and his collaborators are using a library of existing stories to add power to their own. Continuity here is not just fan service, but an important part of this series.
Nick Derington’s Artwork
Derington is the breakout star of Doom Patrol. Based on the promotion and reception to side projects, like covers to Mister Miracle, it’s already apparent the artist has a long career ahead of him following Doom Patrol. His success on the series is the rare combination of a supremely talented comics storyteller and a perfect match between artist and material. You need look no further than many of the single-page gags in Doom Patrol to understand that first half. There are the many pages of The Chief engaging in inscrutable experiments, but something like Negative Man flipping a switch when asked if a project is safe in Doom Patrol #8 is perfection. Many individual pages play out like complete comics that can be reread and enjoyed even when lacking context.
Derington’s approach to character can be admired through the lens of Alex Toth; he strips away the unnecessary and draws the hell out of what is left. That ability to identify the essence of characters and settings allows the ordinary and bizarre to coexist wonderfully in Doom Patrol. It is what permits the series to navigate between existential terror and hilarity at the drop of a hat. Expressions and body language bear out the story and small details on each page light up a world that is constantly changing.
The rest of the artistic team is just as fundamental. Tamra Bonvillain is one of the best colorists working today, and she renders Derington’s artwork wonderfully - taking a similar approach to avoiding any detail or work that might be gratuitous. Tom Fowler has matched Derington’s inking, and Todd Klein is still an all-star letterer. Heck, when the Allred’s are your choice of fill-in for Doom Patrol #7, and it feels as if their talent was necessary to maintain pace, you know that a comic is worth reading for the art alone.
Fast-Paced, Multi-Dimensional Storytelling
If you’re currently reading Doom Patrol, then it’s difficult to believe the series has only run for eight issues. And they’re standard-sized issues too! What would take many series years to cover has been fit into only eight months of development. Way and Derington have introduced a variety of antagonists, reintroduced characters, created many new ones, and set up a Claremont-ian number of B-plots. It’s a busy book.
Perhaps more importantly, it’s not overly busy. Each issue takes a significant amount of time to read not because pages are bogged down with narration, but because there’s a lot occurring, and the comic actively encourages rereads. Details are important, but not always capital-I important. Way’s scripts acknowledge each issue as a unique part of the story, and they shift focus accordingly.
Some issues feel like a chapter in a larger story, while others like Doom Patrol #7 read almost as a one-shot. They each make their purpose clear and serve it well. In the more broadly focused issues, there’s always an A-story that provides a lot of new insight, while other plotlines simmer and move ahead. If you’re not reading Doom Patrol for Negative Man, then you won’t be forced to focus on him for more than one issue. This sort of arrangement was the standard of Silver Age superhero comics, but in Doom Patrol it feels modernized and just as vibrant.
Oddities and Inventions
It’s not just that strangeness is integral to the Doom Patrol, it’s important to superheroes and comics in general. In a medium where you can create anything, Doom Patrol is ready to test that possibility. Morrison’s seminal run on the series also embraced this notion and the current series feels like a spiritual successor in this regard.
Way and Derington have expanded on the concept of Danny the Street in a variety of ways - some of which are a bit gross. The sentient place has become the sentient vehicle, and his infinite locations have been put to uses good and evil. The new Doom Patrol isn’t just expanding on existing concepts though. Casey Brinke has quickly become one of the most exciting new characters within the DC universe. Her very existence is a commentary on narratives, and her personality is such that readers are engaged with her both as an individual and metaphor.
The series shows no sign of slowing its creation of oddities either based on some feline alterations in Doom Patrol #8. This is a story in which the only constant is change, and that makes for a very exciting comic book - the best at DC Comics today.
Be sure to check out the newest issue of Doom Patrol out today!