June 26, 2010

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Doom Patrol Volume 6

Written by Grant Morrison
Illustrated by Various Artists, including Richard Case, Sean Phillips, and Walt Simonson
Vertigo

Look out world! The Candlemaker is on the loose, set free of Dorothy's mind and bent on unmaking the world. His first stop? The Doom Patrol! Already reeling from the revelations of the prior volume, can Cliff and company manage to save the day, one more time? Plus, see the "final" fates of many of the characters from this incarnation of the Doom Patrol, as well as a story I can only call...What if Grant Morrison got hit on the head and turned into Rob Liefield?

All great things must come to an end, and these issues mark the final entry in the absolutely insane (but almost always entertaining) run of Grant Morrison on DC's always dysfunctional (but not like this) team. As with the prior volume, it's a bit hard to talk about them without really wrecking the experience of reading them for the first time, but I'll do what I can.

I mentioned in my intro to this week's theme that I love the character of Cliff Steele. This trade is he culmination of everything that Morrison has done with him. He's literally been taken apart in so many ways, and yet, no matter what, Cliff never gives up. Whether it's battling a creature that has almost limitless power, watching people die before his virtual eyes, or facing his own potential destruction, Robotman carries on, because that's what a hero does.

No matter how weird things get in the Doom Patrol, Cliff has always been the "straight man." He's saying and thinking the same things as the reader, time and time again, and that's true here again in this final collection. All of the focus on Cliff in the past pays off, because by the time he's needed to save the world (with an assist by good old Doc Magnus and the rest of the remaining Doom Patrol), we know he's ready to do whatever it takes, because nothing can be worse than all the crap he's seen the past few years.

I really liked how Morrison's resolutions only solved the immediate problems facing the world and not so much the individual group members. It allows others to tell their stories by picking up where he left off (even if DC hasn't done that), which any good creator should do when such a transition is coming. (I don't remember on JLA, but I know this was true for X-Men.) Cliff must deal with the fallout this battle had on his self and that of his love, Crazy Jane. Rebus is...you know, I don't think I really know what Rebus is up to, frankly. Dorothy and Danny the Street go their own ways, but will they find happiness in new roles? You can either see what DC has done with them lately or imagine your own future for them.

And what else has Doom Patrol been about under Morrison, other than looking at alternative ways to view the world? From Jane's multiple perspectives to the moralists to the insane shadow cabinet under the Pentagon to the Chief's vision for the future, it's all been about perception and perspective. That's the whole point of the Brotherhood of Dada and their mission, isn't it?

In fact, one could make an argument that the entire series has the backbone of Cliff, our moral center, learning that the world is more than he perceives it to be, and only when this happens can he finally win. That's just the sort of thing Morrison would come up with and it fits. Then again, you might feel differently, which I think proves my point! (Ha!)

There was only one issue in here I didn't like, and that was Jane's coda. I didn't care for how Morrison places her in the victim role once again, after building up how much she'd worked to be her own person. It just struck me as being unneeded, even if things turn around (or do they?) by the end. I think he was using the character to prove a point, and I'm not over fond of that.

Otherwise, this is great stuff, and not even the many artists working at it could slow the work down. Sean Phillips does his usual strong stuff here, and the Stan Case-Steve Woch combo has that off-kilter look that fits the series so well. Grant Morrison is one of the few writers I know who can trump the problem of too many artists, at least most of the time.

If you grew up reading comics in the 1990s, then the ending of this book will have you rolling on the floor laughing. From the spot-on parody cover by prankster Keith Giffen and moody Mike Mignola ("Doing Penance" according to their signature) to the makes-no-sense plot to horrible, tin-eared dialog, this one sums up everything about 90s comics that came to drive me up a wall, but especially those authored by the Image co-founder.

The characters are all mock ups of the Doom Patrol, which is part of the fun. It's really hysterical to see them tricked out in 90s attitude, costumes, and odd visual perspective, not to mention a complete and other lack of perspective. The plethora of artists on this all manage their best impressions of Liefield and his imitators, which just goes to show that you can in fact break the rules after you learn them,.

Meanwhile, Morrison gets in digs at Wolverine, the nihilism of so many comics of the day, the insane situations they face, and the way in which these stories were billed. My personal favorite is that one character may not be the best at what he does, but that's okay because no one else does it. There's all kinds of little touches like that, giving any comic fan of two decades a lot of room to laugh.

I'll miss having more Grant Morrison Doom Patrol to read, but I am so glad DC reprinted this in full. I don't always like Morrison's projects, but when he's on to something, there's no one better at taking a fresh approach to a concept, without making it feel out of place with the source material. That's the Doom Patrol in a nutshell. I strongly recommend this to all Morrison fans as well as anyone who wants to see what you can do with a "cape comic" when you don't have to worry about breaking anything. The results can be amazing.