Umbrella Academy: Dallas #6

The frustration many comics readers feel having to wait month-to-month and sometimes much longer (as Jesse pointed out) for something even resembling a narrative to develop in their comics makes a lot of sense, but it also rejects a certain kind of wonder that only happens through serialization.

As the "Dallas" storyline wraps-up, Gerard Way reminds readers that it's the adventure itself, the panel to panel, scene to scene, issue to issue, temporal fun of comics that matter as much as it making sense or conventionally keeping your interest. This was something easy to forget because "Dallas" wasn't as delightfully comic-book as "Apocalypse Suite". "Dallas" leaped from events and time periods and groups of characters and back again, slowly rumbling towards some kind of big ending, then hanging out in Vietnam for most of the last issue, and still wrapping it up with a really moving, cinematic finale.

In short, there's a lot of dicking-around in "Dallas", just like every other comic book out there, but here, that's the point, not a way to keep you buying the monthly until the comic's no longer profitable and they end at abruptly at issue #87 or whatever. When at the end of their journey, The Seance says, "Everything looks the same...it's like nothing changed at all" and Spaceboy responds with a grumble "I wish you were right Klaus, but it all looks pretty different to me" and wanders away, Way's illustrating the subjectivity of "events" and "action" for the characters, but also for the reader.

A lot of people were enamored by Secret Invasion or proudly pass out copies of Y: The Last Man to friends or are inexplicably moved by boring-ass Watchmen but they all put me to sleep. They all lack the tiny details that make a great comic and not "tiny details" as in, little clues and symbols that build-up to the greater narrative that you maybe won't catch on first read, but like tiny details that make a page jump-out, the whims and weirdo impulses of the writer and artists--those weird asides. The latter rewards issue reading, the former chin-scratching trade paperback readers.

When Carmichael (fishbowl head guy) tells the group "the point is to maintain the status quo", it's a comment on "event comics" which send you on a game-changing whirlwind of events, deaths, re-characterizations only to land like three inches from where they took off. The difference though, is all the bullshit that "changed nothing" in "Dallas" stands on its own as pretty awesome while all the crap in Final Crisis is supposed to build to something and then just doesn't really. Of course, everything's changed--if it was all the same, why are they so bummed at the end?--but that's all obvious, right?

Take special note to Gabriel Ba's wordless, nine-panel page that comes right before Seance's comment that "Everything looks the same". The page is a big deal, its the half-spread the illustrates the results of the comics' actions but the joke is, it illustrates nothing more than regular ol' life moving on. It's the page that's supposed to show a dead villain, a writhing hero, a big explosion but it just doesn't. The lack of a conventional reward makes sense because going back through "Dallas", which began with Giant Booth shooting Giant Lincoln and featured Nam' Vampires and a huge fucking Mummy in the last issue doesn't need a big, giant "Woah" ending, it's given you all that in every issue. It never held back or jerked you around with bullshit events pretending to be important ("Where were you when Martian Manhunter died?") it just kept moving, confused and muddled yes, but bravely moving forward nonetheless.

Last issue review, I expressed concern that the ending would be a "boner kill" and it basically is, only it's like, such a boner-kill, such a non-event that it works. Pushing to the side some epic culmination, it rolls along with moments of comic book fun, but mainly riding a melancholy throb of confusion (Seance, Kraken, Rumor), anger (Number Five), and depression (Spaceboy) up to and through Way/Ba's bravura movie montage (complete with lyrics and all) ending.

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