Umbrella Academy: Dallas #5
Something we've all been sort of obsessed with lately here, is the always problematic issue of continuity and those few comics that aren't stand-alone, but can be read stand-alone. David's experiment with Elephantmen #17 being a good example. While issues #3 and #4 of the "Dallas" storyline sort of got like Final Crisis-crazy with plotting and jumping around, this latest issue totally moves the story along but is also just sort of awesome, if you just picked it up, out of context.
Way basically threw a total curveball here and it allows him to do some weird, crazy, stuff that the comic didn't exactly call for, but works at a tangent, and (in a way) most importantly, fits with the feeling and thematics of the story. Issue #4 ended with a time-traveling POP! and we expected the series' final events to really kick-off, but instead, we see the results of the time-traveling by just being dropped in the middle of it--as a reader you're as displaced as the Umbrella Academy. The comics readers equivalent of like Scott Bakula leaping and being like, "Woah, I'm in a dress? Okay, gotta figure this out..."
In the meantime, as you begin to connect the dots--in short, the Academy ended-up in the wrong year and location--you're treated to a really nuts Vietnam, battle sequence that's part every American 70s 'Nam movie stuck on atop of each other--really reminded of the very comic book-y Dead Presidents by the Hughes Brothers--and part, something else altogether, Vietnam through the looking-glass Apocalypse Now-style (maybe the amount of surreal I wanted Apocalypse Now to be) with Vampire Vietnamese and a Mummy and stuff.
Much of this issue's taken-up by a Vietnam fighting sequence that ostensibly, "means" very little to the plot. But that's great. It's great because it captures the sense of messed-up, disorganized, ennui of "Dallas" in a sequence. As I've said a lot, Apocalypse Suite was Wes Anderson-like in the reuniting of a family after years apart, and now "Dallas" is the team just sort of not getting along and trying to do their best to complete a very-important, superhero task without the joy hangover you get when you temporarily forgive people of all the messed-up shit you've been not forgiving them for, which is what fueled the Academy through Apocalypse Suite.
The group being in the wrong time, in the wrong location just generally confused is perfect. Additionally, the "extraneous" Vietnam sequence is great because it indulges in this very, like 90s, Liefeld/Jim Lee sense of comic book fun that a whole bunch of Umbrella Academy readers think they're too cool for--notice the way Spaceboy basically looks (and sorta acts) like Cable or you know, how a bunch of people fighting for no apparent reason invokes 90s X-Force (and really, X-Force in 2009 too, but that's another post. In short, envision something as Jack Kirby crazy and Rob Liefeld indulgent--Kirby and Liefeld are sorta the same person, but that's another post too--but filtered through the energy and mannered simplicity of Ba.
So yeah, this is great single issue and it pushes along the odd, unkempt feeling of discomfort and disorganization of the series even if it's mostly a tangent that doesn't move the plot along quite as swimmingly. But that's okay or like, you should be okay with that. The fight sequence is great, and the way that the members of the Academy that've been stuck in Vietnam have spent their time is really hilarious and poignant. I'm both nervous and excited for how "Dallas" is gonna wrap up in one more issue. Could be a boner-kill anti-ending, could be too much stuffed into a single, or it could just be bat-shit crazy and awesome.