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Gerard Way / Gabriel Ba - The Umbrella Academy: Vol. 4 [comic] (Cover Artwork)

Gerard Way / Gabriel Ba

Gerard Way / Gabriel Ba: The Umbrella Academy: Vol. 4 [comic]The Umbrella Academy: Vol. 4 [comic] (2007)
Dark Horse

Reviewer Rating: 4


Contributed by: jamespastepunkjamespastepunk
(others by this writer | submit your own)

By now, the reviews have been coming in among comic fans that The Umbrella Academy, the comic written by Gerard Way, isn't bad, and is in fact the surprise of the year. I can't deny that those opinions had an effect on me when I purchased the comic book from Borders in New York City last year, but i.


By now, the reviews have been coming in among comic fans that The Umbrella Academy, the comic written by Gerard Way, isn't bad, and is in fact the surprise of the year. I can't deny that those opinions had an effect on me when I purchased the comic book from Borders in New York City last year, but it was mostly the cover art that grabbed me and didn't let go. What was that kid in white doing with a part of a violin? Also, what was with the blood vessels eating at its feet? If a good cover intrigues you and gets you interested, then the James Jean cover did its job. But, here's where I admit that I have little experience with comics. Yes, I read "V for Vendetta" when it was assigned for my Communication Arts class and I've been sneaking peeks at Marvel's Civil War paperbacks whenever I'm in Borders for more than 10 minutes, but I haven't read Watchmen, or The Dark Tower, or whatever other staples I'm supposed to have consumed to fill out a good comic book palate.

So, permit a bit of uncertainty. The first scene spans three pages, introducing number 07 (of the Umbrella Academy, a group of superheroes brought together by a space alien in disguise), at the time a young girl, breaking her violin, screaming that she doesn't belong with the group. Pogo, a chimp, associated with the Academy's (now deceased) extra-terrestrial benefactor, comforts her, telling her she's more special than she knows. It is at this point that the page turns, to find 07, years later, strapped down to a table screaming "What the hell are you doing to me?!" At this point, it would be churlish not to mention the artwork of Mr. Ba. On the two pages on which the title is integrated at the top of both pages, while the action (of the girl being tied down and screaming), is on one page. The next page in the fold has the (evil?) conductor's response, as he leans over her trying to comfort her through the process. "Now, now Vanya, you wanted to help, didn't you? Well--, you're helping" adds a feeling of eccentricity to the conductor, drawn, well, more excited than anything, the black, formal coat and cape set off by the white bow tie.

I am told from interviews and promotional materials that Ba's art style is French, and that may be, but my closest point of reference is the Bruce Timm and Paul Dini's Batman: The Animated Series and the early "Justice League" episodes. It is clear, but not plain and there is always an extra something in the work, whether it be a stray hair, or a slightly cocked eyebrow that shows Mr. Ba is something else entirely.

For every couple pages of doom (doom! doom!, for Latterman fans) from the supposedly superpowered characters, there's a crack of bitter humor and a little fun to be had. Mr. Way says that one of his greatest influences is a comic called Doom Patrol, and to Umbrella Academy's credit, members of the Academy are, in fact, on patrol, looking for doom to stop.

The end of the book sweeps up with a fantastic monologue from the aforementioned skull-faced conductor: "For many years, man has dreamt of the answer to a single question... How do I unreservedly kill billions of people in the blink of an eye?" In the next two pages, the conductor is one part showman, one part proud father and the whole "evil genius bent on destroying the world" bit is shown but the reader is never beaten over the head with it.

It's an engaging mix of doom, humor, pathos and eccentricity, and it might be the first time I'll buy a comic series. My congratulations to Mr. Way and Mr. Ba, and I eagerly await the trade paperback.

 

 
People who liked this also liked:
Millencolin - Pennybridge PioneersWith Honor - This is Our RevengeThe Briefs - Steal Yer HeartWorld/Inferno Friendship Society - Red-Eyed SoulPolar Bear Club - Sometimes Things Just DisappearInquisition - Uproar: Live and Loud! [CD/DVD]Gerard Way / Gabriel Ba - The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse SuiteEnvy - Transfovista DVDMike Cavallaro - Parade (with Fireworks) [book]Defeater - Lost Ground

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
kevinanchi (February 4, 2011)

Hey, I'll impart you to couple that I'm wicked with HTML, and it looks a lot little unpleasant to use quotes than to effort it! Thanks for sharing...
Regards,
Patio Umbrellas

damnitsderek (April 26, 2008)

Fallingupwards,

About King-You're right about Hemingway, Vonnegut and co. having more important messages and themes in their books, but at the same time, comparing them to King isn't entirely fair. Their reasons for writing were on opposite ends of the spectrum as King was never shooting for political or social commentary.

When you grade King against other writers within his genre (I.E., entertainment value), he's in the upper echelon. You're not going to take a lot of important knowledge from King's novels, but you're still likely to enjoy them.

/end two cents.

el_matt (April 18, 2008)

Alright, so I guess I'm going to be the comic book nerd that points it out, but here it is, at leas the way i understand it.

This is Umbrella Academy issue 4, not volume 4. Volume 4 would mean that there have been 3 other different series/mini-series with the same name and this is the 4th one.

fallingupwards84 (April 18, 2008)

i know nothing about comics so i'll stay out of that debate, but Scruffy, Stephen King definitely does not have a whole lot of respect among the academia, thats just a fact. great novelists like Hemingway, Steinbeck, Vonnegut, Twain, etc.. wrote fiction that actually had an underlying theme that one could relate to society, social movements, philosophy, or something deeper than the story itself. Huck Finn, for example, goes wayyy deeper than the story, Twain actually had several key messages in that book.

King is one of many pop writers who may write good stories but they're nothing more than that. their books are primarily for entertainment purposes only, its not literature. and thats fine - when i see movies, for example, most of the time i'm not really expecting to get anything deep out of it, although there are exceptions.

like i said, there's an enormous difference between literature and entertainment. Hemingway and Dickens wrote literature, King and Crichton write entertaining stories

shark-e (April 18, 2008)

I guess it should be no surprise that the comments for this are about the most annoying I've read since before anonymous posting was banned.

android (April 17, 2008)

JJ Abrams is turning the dark tower into a tv series...

nate_derby (April 16, 2008)

You really should get to reading the Watchmen and Dark Tower trades...

I'll have to check this out though...

asxyouxwish (April 16, 2008)

i dunno, civil war wasn't THAT great. now captain america, and this new secret invasion stuff, that's some good stuff.

i would say a large majority of comics aren't on par with mediocre to above average fiction of today, but when comics are at their best, they blow modern fiction clear into the mouth of galactus.

Scruffy (April 16, 2008)

Can you tell, by the grammar and spelling below, that I just woke up?

Scruffy (April 16, 2008)

To folk below: Stephen King is the Burger King of fiction. The fact that anything he's done has been adapted to comics in any way and in any tone apart from an ironic one should discredit the pure medium in anyone's eyes. If I write a comic book detailing the giant dump I took earlier today, it's not necessarily art. Though it's probably closer than anything a swollen-headed band guy has ever penned.

There are definitely great graphic novels, comic books and manga out there. But like any other art form, 98 percent of it is utter crap. The blind elitism of "punk" culture becomes painfully obvious whenever its adherents blindly cling to utter garbage in other media purely because it exists at all. Why defend this dreck only because it's supposedly counterculture by being a comic? Bullshit...


So you never eat at Burger King? Despite the fact that, while not exactly Dickens or Delillo, King is not the bottom rung of fiction either. King is rather well-respected, for what he writes, among a lot of English students. You want the "Burger King" of fiction, think Cussler, Andrews, Grafton, Brown or the aforementioned Koontz.

And 98% of comics are NOT crap. The fact that you believe this leads me to think you're judgment was made sometime in the 90's when that number would've been close to true. We've already had a slew of people defending the old stalwarts (Saying you liked Watchmen is kind of like saying you like pizza) that when Pulitzer Prizes and such. But if you can read Civil War or the Morrison/Quitely run on X-Men and tell me you read better storytelling or more unique artwork, you really are a snob.
An entertainment medium does not have to be high-minded, slow-paced, actionless and pretentious to be respectable. Sometimes the most fun book can still be artfully and intelligently written. I don't understand how you can so obviously argue against this idea if you enjoy punk. You're treating comic books the exact way most music snobs treat punk. It's clear by your quotes you've somehow equated liking punk into being an arbiter of high culture. Go talk about how punk rockers that aren't elitist should hate Stephen King and comic books around anyone into neither and see if you don't get dirty looks.

kevinh (April 16, 2008)

The Dark Tower isn't being adapted into a comic book. They're telling a completely original story that took place when Roland and crew were in Mejis. You get a lot of that story in Wizard and Glass (my favorite of the series) and this expands upon it.

Score is for Watchmen, hands down the best comic I have ever read, and it's probably in my top 10 in all of literature.

trevor_the_exploder (April 16, 2008)

to the dark tower commenters below. there has already been one series made (The Gunslinger Born. the hardcover came out in november. if you're a fan of the dark tower series, it's definitely worth picking up.

haven't had a chance to check out The Long Road Home yet though...

AlmostPunkEnough (April 16, 2008)

thus_spoke_sean: you should without a doubt read all the DT books asap.

The Gunslinger starts out slow and can be a grind, but by the time you reach the last 1/4 you're gonna fly though and wanna read every book.

damnitsderek (April 15, 2008)

The Dark Tower series? i was planning on buying the gunslinger this week...

Dude, The Waste Lands is such an amazing book. You will absolutely love it when/if you get to it. It painted some incredible pictures for me.

Also, Adam, thanks for posting that link-the fact that they're turning this series into a comic book could turn out to be pretty sick.

contrarian (April 15, 2008)

To folk below: Stephen King is the Burger King of fiction. The fact that anything he's done has been adapted to comics in any way and in any tone apart from an ironic one should discredit the pure medium in anyone's eyes. If I write a comic book detailing the giant dump I took earlier today, it's not necessarily art. Though it's probably closer than anything a swollen-headed band guy has ever penned.

There are definitely great graphic novels, comic books and manga out there. But like any other art form, 98 percent of it is utter crap. The blind elitism of "punk" culture becomes painfully obvious whenever its adherents blindly cling to utter garbage in other media purely because it exists at all. Why defend this dreck only because it's supposedly counterculture by being a comic? Bullshit...

Cyanotic (April 15, 2008)

Read Watchmen.

Score's for Watchmen.

douglas_is_rad (April 15, 2008)

"I know if your coheed or whoever, wow, lets transition my other hobby or job to use my band's status to get my comic made, but really, give it up madonnas, your not triple threats"

Gerard Way was actually in the comics business before starting My Chemical Romance. He was very close to scoring a show on Cartoon Network. Unfortunately CN rejected the show at the last second, and the rest is shitty shitty shitty music history. God damnit Ted Turner.

Scruffy (April 15, 2008)

Hey, I'll thank you to know that I'm terrible with HTML, and it looks a lot less embarrassing to use quotes than to attempt it!

Redscare (April 15, 2008)

"Surprise of the year"? "In fact" even!

wyzo (April 15, 2008)

Comics, despite the belief they are between art and text, is actually having its big medium heyday in this decade. In my nononline world, I push comic books down academics throats constantly.

That being said, my sense about this book from others was 'i know its by that guy in that horrible band, but really, its a good comic'.

I have to disagree and say its very bad, boring, played out, and without his celebrity would not have been made, thankfully. I know if your coheed or whoever, wow, lets transition my other hobby or job to use my band's status to get my comic made, but really, give it up madonnas, your not triple threats. Cmon, she was great in dick tracey, and yes I'm that old. At least Rosario Dawson is modest about her comic.

Trying to save up for the absolute sandman volume 1 big ass hardcover that came out.

w

thus_spoke_sean (April 15, 2008)

Hey, screw you. That kind of 1950s, html-are-posers-and-housewives-stuff attitude is so anachronistic in this day and age.

hahahahahahaha
awesome

thomas7155 (April 15, 2008)

This is so pretentious.

niveK82 (April 15, 2008)

"Scruffy, way to quote him directly and not use html italics. If you haven't heard already, html is apparently 'for posers and housewives'"

Hey, screw you. That kind of 1950s, html-are-posers-and-housewives-stuff attitude is so anachronistic in this day and age.

thus_spoke_sean (April 15, 2008)

Scruffy, way to quote him directly and not use html italics. If you haven't heard already, html is appearently "for posers and housewives"

Scruffy (April 15, 2008)

"Reading is punk. Reading comic books is not."

Hey, screw you. That kind of 1950s, comics-are-kids-stuff attitude is so anachronistic in this day and age. Try reading a good comic once, and not judging an entire medium by its worst aspects, unless you want to judge music by Nickelback, movies by Norbit and books by Dean Koontz.

branden (April 15, 2008)

speaking of books and stephen king, im at work reading the stand. damn that thing was long, but im down to the last 30 pages finally. trashcan man is the bomb. literally. hahahah

thus_spoke_sean (April 15, 2008)

easily my favorite series of novels ever. personally, i think a transfer of it to any other medium is just bastardizing it... but hey, what do i know...

The Dark Tower series? i was planning on buying the gunslinger this week...

AlmostPunkEnough (April 15, 2008)

easily my favorite series of novels ever. personally, i think a transfer of it to any other medium is just bastardizing it... but hey, what do i know...

adam (April 15, 2008)

Stephen King's The Dark Tower is being adapted by Marvel. This is fairly recent (as in within the last few years at least). I believe it was well received but it's hardly been around long enough to be considered a staple or the artform or anything like that.

http://www.marvel.com/comics/Dark_Tower

-adam

AlmostPunkEnough (April 15, 2008)

"The Dark Tower" as in Stephen King's Dark Tower? what does that have to do with comics?

(i don't know anything about comics, so if i'm way off base i apologize.)

keithybobeefy (April 15, 2008)

I haven't read this, but the story (from what I heard) bores me. The artwork is very well done though.

jamespastepunk (April 15, 2008)

If I was worried about "becoming a nerd" I probably wouldn't be playing D&D 3.5 for the last 2 and a half years of my life while also owning multiple JRPGs for the PS2 and get into heated discussions with friends about how I enjoy Chrono Cross more than Chrono Trigger.

I've not been avoiding getting into comic books for fear of being ostracized, but instead because I don't need another hobby cutting into my CD money...

douglas_is_rad (April 15, 2008)

I used to hate on comic books too. Then I read Persepolis 1 and 2. And then Transmetropolitian. And then Y: The Last Man. And then other Brian K. Vaughn works. And then Sin City. And now I'm hooked.
Super hero comics are a bit much for me. But most of the well received comic book series tell incredible stories that rivals the artistic merit of any other postmodern mass media genre.

You can't write off an entire method of story telling just because you're afraid of "becoming a nerd". A well told story is a well told story. There is a reason that Watchmen won a Hugo award.

I might just have to give this a shot. I've always wanted to see Gerard Way back in his natural habitat, especially since he's shown me time and time again that he fails as a musician.

timorous_me (April 15, 2008)

This book is surprisingly good. If you like Ba's art you should definitely pick up Casanova, the book he did with Matt Fraction.

the_ken_chin_imposter (April 15, 2008)

Reading is punk. Reading comic books is not.

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