Umbrella Academy: Dallas #1

Umbrella Academy's already proven itself to be way more than a silly rock star vanity project, and Gerard Way's gone to great lengths to separate his musical career from his comics career, but there's undeniable rock star bravado to the whole project that ties it to to Mr. Way's lead-singer for My Chemical Romance day job.

It's interesting that a new issue of UA would come out in the same week as big, dumb, brilliant, musical statements from arty pop stars The Killers (Day & Age) and Kanye West (808s & Heartbreaks). Like those albums--and like My Chemical Romance's own work-- Umbrella Academy: Dallas is interested in big, sweeping statements that mix, match, and merge the personal, iconic, historical, political and everything else into a crazy statement that's not only okay with maybe falling apart, but gains power and brilliance precisely because it might just go up in flames.

"Dallas" kicks-off with John F. Kennedy consulting with The Monocle, the U.A's Professor X--the way rock stars riff on their influences and icons, Way does with legendary comics characters and creators--while the young UA battles a fire-breathing Lincoln Memorial who is ultimately killed by a marble John Wilkes Booth manifested by Rumor (or Number Three as she's known in her youth). Flash-forward to modern times, the colors are 50s bowling alley blue and a throwback Milk Man's shown delivering glass bottles of milk to the academy, which is in ruins. Even Bono or Madonna might wince at the amount of loaded innocence lost imagery being farted all around with there. But that's why it's so great.

Way's got a knowing--but not ironic--wink about the whole thing. Judging by the title of this series ("Dallas") this'll all somehow funnel back into the Kennedy assassination and all of the emotions and references that the historic tragedy entails. The same way Kanye or the Killers are making ego albums in quotes, is Way doing it big and important, but not because he can't control himself but because he's putting his foot down and being like, "Look, I know this all a bit too much, but hey man, sometimes too much works and when it works, it works real big, so get fucking ready..".

But before readers are ready, we have to be reminded of the slow, sad-ass burn that is the Umbrella Academy in their current state. Dazed, confused, grieving and happy to not have to deal with one another again, they've all split up after the White Violin fiasco: Spaceboy's watching dumb reality TV, the Seance is back to being a vain prick, The Rumor's grieving over Pogo, The Kraken's playing tough-guy superhero, Number Five's betting on horses, the White Violin doesn't remember anything. It's an interesting way to restart the series as both everything's changed and nothing's changed.

While not a whole lot happens in the issue, all of the set-up feels subliminal and so it's not one of those "this'll all pay-off soon enough and that should be enough to get you through this" issues either. Instead, it's Way's universe and Gabriel Ba's illustration of that universe that are engaging enough. The characters already have caves of history and personality behind them and it turns a couple pages of Spaceboy dumbly eating chocolate chip cookies into a scene of pathos. And that's what UA's about, that weird sad nothing when you're not fighting Abe Lincoln Memorials.


samuel rules said...

basically Seance is way?

brandon said...

Ha, good point. Seance and Number 5 combined? I think what's so cool about the comic is the layers and in a way, Seance might be Way's rock star side? That's awesome!

Way in interviews and shit though, seems like a pretty down to earth guy. A nerd in a weird rock band whose speaking voice is sort of like Steve-O:

Gerard Way Lecture at SVA