June 25, 2010

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Doom Patrol Volume 5

Written by Grant Morrison
Illustrated by Richard Case, Ken Steacy, Stan Woch, Philip Bond, Mark McKenna, and Scott Hanna
Vertigo

[Moved to today to fit with the Doom Patrol Theme Week.-Roob] It's Doom Patrol: Disassembled as the team tries to fight the Brotherhood of Dada and finds their abilities lacking. While Cliff tries to hold everything together, one by one, the team starts drifting away. Can they get things together before it's too late? Or is it too late already?

There's a whole lot going on in this volume as Morrison races to the end of his run on the book. He finishes up the Brotherhood of Dada in a way that leaves them as tragic heroes. Their section leads off the volume and is filled with the brilliant insanity that we've come to know and love from Morrison's work.

Countering that insanity is Cliff, our straight man robot who cannot just accept the logic of everyone else. He rushes to stop the Brotherhood, but the confusion that surrounds him makes it impossible for him to act. He cannot deal with the fact that Crazy Jane has her own, abuse-driven mania. He cannot deal with Larry's transformation into something new.

With all this going on, Cliff misses the two most dangerous threats of all, and by the time he wakes up, it's entirely too late. The big reveal in this trade has been coming if you were paying attention, but to see it all play out and watching Cliff's entire world come crashing down is a piece of brilliant writing. Morrison may be taking the Doom Patrol as we know it apart, but he does it so expertly here that it's hard to get angry at him for breaking it in the first place.

I admit I generally don't like huge, continuity-killing stories like this, but Morrison gets a pass because of how well he constructs it. The changes were set up slowly and they build from the previous issues. If you are going to do a significant retcon, this is the way to do it.

While the main focus is on Cliff, we also get spotlights on the problems of our other cast members. Larry has a transformation issue, Crazy Jane tries to deal with her past, and Dorothy's woes may be earth-shattering. Morrison weaves us in and out of these stories with a deft hand, showing just enough to keep us going until he reaches a climax in the final issues next trade.

But it's not all seriousness. Morrison gives us an issue where Denny the Street dreams that the Doom Patrol are the Fantastic Four. Ken Steacy provides the mock Kirby art, and it works perfectly. The issue is a riff on "This Man, This Monster" and it works perfectly. (I especially love Cliff chomping on a stogie the entire time.) The Dada portions are also filled with dark humor. Spliced between things getting worse, this issue gives the reader a nice breather and is a loving tribute to the comics of the 1960s, if DC had been as innovative at the time as Marvel.

Unfortunately, multiple artists and Grant Morrison seem to go together. It makes it hard to follow the story cohesively. They all do a nice job, but I really wish there had been a solid art team. But then again, that just doesn't seem to be something Morrison can ever have, from X-Men to his Batman work.

You have to have a high tolerance for the absurd to read Morrison's Doom Patrol, but it's well worth being patient when he's a little off the mark. Doom Patrol is one of his best works, and those that like Morrison's later stuff definitely should be reading this series. It's good--if bizarre--stuff.