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The Umbrella Academy Volume 1 (v. 1)

The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: Apocalypse Suite - Gerard Way, Gabriel Bá Absolutely amazing! Way writes some of the most memorable and original characters and sets them in the most wild and geeky universe I've read in a long time. The Umbrella Academy is a host of youths born around the world at the same time that manifest a variety of powers. Of all the births, seven survived and were adopted by Sir Reginald Hargreaves, who gives them a spartan upbringing while preparing them to save the world. Each of the seven children is a superhero archetype and Way has a lot of fun with the group dynamic - in fact, he handles the group dynamic much, much better than a lot of the people who've managed similar ensembles like with JLA or the Avengers. Way also does his best to build an intriguing world, hinting at tons of things that happen off-panel or in the interval of time between the brief introduction we get to the Academy as children and their reunion upon the death of their adopted father. In that time, the team has fallen into disrepair and shows all the trademarks of a dysfunctional family who need to get their act together to prevent an event witnessed by their long-lost time travelling brother agent 00.05 - the....end of the world. Dun, dun, duuuuuun... I know - but seriously hear me out before you tune out.

Six issues is far too few to tell something as epic as the end of the world while simultaenously trying to develop characters that the reader genuinely cares about, but somehow, miraculously, Way does it. He does so by making the apocalypse personal, by telling the story elliptically with glimpses of a possible future and by making the fate of the rest of the world dependent upon the working out of familial animosities via the airing of pent-up grievances and tensions. Both Agent 00.05 (lost in time for nine years and only recently returned to his siblings) and Agent 00.07, Vanya (the group outcast for her lack of super-powered abilities) present an excellent control group for the contrast necessary to show just how much the group has fallen in a short number of issues and panels without being overly laborious about recounting the past and filling in all the gaps. What do we learn? Nobody liked Dad and these children faced some seriously disturbing things in those early years of adventuring that leave readers craving more. There's TREMENDOUS potential for an ongoing series here set in a wonderfully compelling universe that is as self-conscious about its absurd nature (talking chimps and masked orchestras bent on world annihilation through music) as it is starkly serious as it can be about issues like nature vs. nurture and family.

As comically absurd as it is genre-ifically epic. Move it to the top of your graphic novel reading list and berate Dark Horse to continue the series in more than just annual installments.