UMBRELLA ACADEMY APOCALYPSE SUITE Review: Too Much like X-Men?

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Written by Gerard Way, Art by Gabriel Bá

Thanks to Dark Horse Comics for providing a review copy of Umbrella Academy Apocalypse Suite.

SYNOPSIS: In an inexplicable worldwide event, forty-seven extraordinary children were spontaneously born to women who’d previously shown no signs of pregnancy. Millionaire inventor Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of the children; when asked why, his only explanation was, “To save the world.”

These seven children form the Umbrella Academy, a dysfunctional family of superheroes with bizarre powers. Their first adventure at the age of ten pits them against an erratic and deadly Eiffel Tower, piloted by the fearsome zombie-robot Gustave Eiffel. Nearly a decade later, the team disbands, but when Hargreeves unexpectedly dies, these disgruntled siblings reunite just in time to save the world once again.

Collecting: The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite 1-6, as well as out-of-print short stories and an expanded sketchbook section featuring work by Gabriel Bá, James Jean, and Gerard Way.

REVIEW

I had a few preconceptions for Umbrella Academy due to the Netflix adaptation. The graphic novel proved to be a bit different from what I expected! In a lot of ways, the first story arc didn’t give me enough character development. Only a small number of characters really shone, and the rest were more set dressing than anything. Each child in the Academy has their own unique set of abilities and foibles. I didn’t feel like I had a good sense of what each person’s abilities were, but I could certainly pin-point their vices and flaws. I thought this was an interesting way to approach character development.

Obviously, this notion of special children being gathered into a school and trained to fight evil sounds familiar. If anyone can read this book and not tie it to X-Men, I would be surprised. However, I do feel like the general atmosphere, and the interactions between the characters do a great of making Umbrella Academy its own unique story.

The villains in the story are certainly deadly, but I’m not sure I can get behind their motivations. Ultimately they all just wanted to die, and take the whole world down with them. While philosophically I understood their intentions, their end goal was far too dramatic for me to ever believe they would win.

Artistically, Umbrella Academy is a bit of a stunner. There were moment when side characters were hard to differentiate, but then there were also moments with beautiful costuming and symbolism that made up for those indistinguishable faces. The character designs for each of the children are highly unique, and I loved learning about who they were through how they were designed.

While I did enjoy Umbrella Academy, it did feel a bit underdeveloped. The villain’s motivations weren’t 100% believable, and some of the primary case faded into the background. I would be interested to continue reading the series to see if they are fleshed out more in later stories. It’s a fun take on a premise that feels familiar but is just different enough to keep you guessing.

Have you read/watched Umbrella Academy? Send in your thoughts on how the show compares to the graphic novel!

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