Umbrella Academy: Dallas #4

In Umbrella Academy: Dallas #4, you feel the gears turning, or more appropriate for this in-quotes, in-love-with-pulp comic, you imagine writer Gerard Way in a room with future and past plot points chalked on the wall excitedly connecting them all together with mad dashes and arrows, after three issues of invigorating explanation and throat-clearing, and that's a problem...for now.

Maybe this'll all wrap-up and make sense as six issues together, but the beauty of "Apocalypse Suite" was how it felt like a comic book-comic. More what you think comic books will be like when you were just watching "Batman" on TV before you got your mom to buy you an issue at the super-market and were like "Robin's dead? Jason Todd? I thought it was Dick Grayson! This is stupid." This "Dallas" storyline ain't that bad, but it's not not like that either and I increasingly feel like I'm pushing through the fractured confusion of the plot because it'll all come together soon enough.

This is my biggest problem with comic books and most serialized media. The sense that I'm supposed to keep reading month-to-month--or viewing week-to-week--because eventually it makes sense and'll be really awesome. The best stuff of course, strings you along but drops enough rewards and visceral awesome-ness that you don't have time to stop and be like, "Huh, what?".

And there's some of that here. The intro dream sequence that builds to a two-page spread of Spaceboy gripping the charred skeleton of his child-monkey. The brilliant truly chaotic exit of Hazel and Cha-Cha that by the way, happens to show Nolan/Ledger's Joker to be a mannered maniac and not the rolling ball of chaos they tricked people into thinking he was. John Perseus as a super-successful blindly forward-thinking hot-shot (with shades and maybe even a critique of JFK Jr.??). Seance's sucking head-wound. An issue ending, page-high illustration of the after-math of time travel, with a lone sad robot longingly in the corner. What it all means I don't know and it's pretty damned cool but sounds better in the paragraph above than it feels while reading it. Almost too fractured and all over-the-place.

Of course, part of that's the point of "Dallas". "Apocalypse Suite" was the history of the Academy and a quasi-ideal reunification in adult-hood. As I've said before, this is where the Wes Anderson movie ends. "Dallas" keeps going after the credits roll and The Faces fades-out where all the ugly angry bullshit that was temporarily forgotten or suppressed or whatever comes back and stuff gets ugly and lonely again.

The narrative's not fractured because it's a major comic-book event trying to fuse every different 'verse and character into the issue but because the characters aren't speaking. Still, the whole thing feels disjointed and even as the plot comes together and the characters start interacting and figure stuff out together, there's something perfunctory about the whole thing. And maybe that's the point too?

That the best moments of the issue feel like single-panel flashes of virtuosity or isolated sequences of inspiration, is both a sign that the series is starting to lose its way and a summation of the scatterbrained kitchen-sink brilliance of the series.

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