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The Umbrella Academy Volume 1: Apocalypse Suite - Book Review

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by Jennifer Muirhead (subscribe)
I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma. ~ Eartha Kitt
Published February 21st 2019
It's okay to be different
umbrella academy, Apocalypse Suite, comics, graphic novel, My Chemical Romance

In a single day, forty-seven children were born to women who hadn't shown any prior signs of pregnancy. Most of the children were abandoned or died, but the eccentric millionaire Reginald Hargreeves adopted the seven surviving babies and created the Umbrella Academy, where he trained his young wards to be ready to one day save the world. As the children grew up, one by one they left home, until Hargreeves' sudden death brought them back together. When Number 5, a boy with the ability to teleport, returns from the future he brings the terrible news that the world will soon be destroyed unless his dysfunctional family can band together again to help stop it.

The Umbrella Academy, The Apocalyse Suite, comics, graphic novely, Vanya, Number 7
Number 7 watches from afar as her siblings save Paris.

Each of the seven children is unique and extraordinary (with superpowers such as teleportation, communicating with the dead, and the ability to alter reality by telling lies), but Vanya (Number 7) is told by Hargreeves that there is nothing special about her, and made to watch from the sidelines as her siblings go on missions to fight crime. This leaves her ripe for the picking when the conductor of the villainous Orchestra Verdammten goes looking for someone to turn into a living weapon to destroy the world.

I'd heard the Umbrella Academy books mentioned a few times, but only finally got around to reading the first one after binge-watching the television series based on the books on Netflix. Written by Gerard Way, of the band My Chemical Romance, and creator of the comic mini-series The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, The Umbrella Academy is a lot of fun.

umbrella academy, comics, graphic novel, zombie Eiffel, Eiffel tower goes beserk, superheroes, superhero comics
The Day the Eiffel Tower Went Beserk.

Stories about strange and dysfunctional superheroes have been told before (I'm reminded of Powers by Brian Bendis, Jessica Jones and the British TV series Misfits, among others), but it doesn't matter whether the concept is entirely original as long as it's used well. I was impressed with Way's writing, which is sometimes lighthearted and silly, such as in the adventure of The Day the Eiffel Tower Went Beserk, and other times more emotional as the relationships between the characters is gradually revealed. It reminded me a little of. I enjoyed the way not everything is spelt out for the reader right away, with many of the characters' backstories still to be explained. However, the Deus Ex Machina ending of this story arc was disappointing.

The art, by Gabriel Bá, of Daytripper, brings the story wonderfully to life, with great character designs and a lot of little details that I only noticed on a second read through. There is a fair bit of violence and gore, and some upsetting things happen to people who don't deserve it (no spoilers, but I felt bad for Pogo, Hargreeves' chimpanzee butler, and was kind of hoping he'd risen up and murdered Hargreeves for giving him human intelligence only to make him a slave) so, this is another comic strictly for adults and older teens.

The Umbrella Academy: The Apocalypse Suite is a great start to a very readable comic series. I look forward to the continuation of the story in The Umbrella Academy Volume 2: Dallas.
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