Umbrella Academy: Dallas #3

Written by Gerard Way
Art by Gabriel Bà
32 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse Comics

I will be the first to admit that if you’d asked me what comic would be the spiritual successor to Grant Morrison’s acclaimed Doom Patrol run, my answer probably wouldn’t have been, "A comic written by Gerard Way, who’s better known as the lead singer for My Chemical Romance." As soon as the first issue of The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite was released, though, I learned just how wrong I was. And with each new issue of the follow-up mini-series, The Umbrella Academy: Dallas, Way is proving over and over that he’s not a one-hit wonder. If anything, he just keeps getting better. Now how great is that?

The Umbrella Academy has had better days. Seance is being held by assassins who are trying to hunt down his teammate Number 5. The Rumor is still speechless and therefore powerless. Space Boy is fat and asleep on the couch. The White Violin is still half a vegetable thanks to the attempted end of the universe thing and all that. And who knows where the Kraken is? But if that’s not bad enough, the perfect assassins are moving through time to make sure that President John F. Kennedy dies in 1963. And even worse, the assassin? Look to your own, Umbrella Academy.

What I love about Way’s comics is that there’s a fine balance between brilliance and insanity, and Way knows exactly at which point to stop before he crosses the line—but not without leaning over it on occasion. At the heart of The Umbrella Academy: Dallas is, after all, a very solid super-hero story involving time travel, killers, DNA splicing, achilles heels, and famous figures. But it’s the manner in which Way tells his story that really sets it up and above other books out there. I love how Number 5, despite everything he’s been through up until now (and really, this issue could have been easily titled, "The Secret Origin of Number 5"), is still a ten-year old kid who can get distracted by the appearance of a cute puppy. This is a book where a character with a goldfish bowl for a head can somehow feel completely in place, or how as a reader you won’t bat an eye when you discover just how ugly sneakers can stop the Seance dead in his tracks. It’s never strange for the sake of strangeness, though; this is a comic that has a mood and rhythm that Way’s script keeps going; everything just sort of snaps into place with a strong internal logic.

As for the latest issue itself, never let it be said that Way can’t write an information dump. His revealing of just what happened to Number 5 between vanishing in the past and then re-appearing in the present day within the pages of The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite never feels forced or out of place; Way’s moved his characters into a spot where that information is now critical to everyone’s survival, and at the same time it’s helped the tension get heightened by not revealing it until this issue. Honestly, reading this issue made me wonder more than anything else just how far in advance Way has plotted The Umbrella Academy.

Of course, for all the attention that Way receives, it’s important to also mention Gabriel Bà’s contributions to the book. His art is at its finest here, able to draw scheming 10-year olds and lanky spiritualists with equal ease. One of my favorite sequences yet is how well he and colorist Dave Stewart worked together to draw the Seance’s trip to a different plane of reality. Having everything bleached of color save for the Seance’s shirt should have felt cliché and tired, but here the two make the effect pop off the page so well it’s hard to not be charmed by it. And of course, that’s not to say that Bà can’t handle the odder moments as well; the waiting room for the assassins looks wonderfully odd, and the scenes with the goldfish-bowl-head manage to both draw a beautiful looking fish as well as a very dangerous looking scene.

If you aren’t reading The Umbrella Academy, at the very least check out the first collection, which contains their introductory mini-series. Once you’re done, though, you’ll definitely want to return for The Umbrella Academy: Dallas. In an era where more and more monthly comics are losing the idea of how to be a periodical, The Umbrella Academy succeeds. There’s no waiting for a collected edition here; you’ll be back the following month dying to see more. Highly recommended.

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