Posts Tagged ‘Richard Case’

Okay, so if you said you just knew the first season of the DC Universe original streaming series Doom Patrol was going to come down to a battle royale between giant mutated versions of the Curtis Armstrong-voiced Ezekiel the cockroach and Robotman’s rat nemesis Admiral Whiskers, you’d be lying — and yet here it is, the fifteenth and final episode of the first season, titled “Ezekiel Patrol,” delivers an ending no one could have predicted after an entire run of episodes loaded with “no one could have predicted.”

There’s more to it, of course : there’s the missing backstory that fleshes out the massive, and ugly, revelation laid on the team at the close of last week by Timothy Dalton’s “Chief” Niles Caulder; the uneasy detente achieved between Joivan Wade’s Vic Stone and his father, Silas (portrayed as ever by veteran hand Phil Morris); the failed attempt at a “normal” life undertaken — and subsequently given up on — by April Bowlby’s Rita Farr and Matt Bomer/Matthew Zuk’s Larry Trainor; the descent into addiction and self-negation (or should that be selves-negation?) by Diane Guerrero’s “Crazy” Jane while Brendan Fraser/Riley Shanahan’s Cliff Steele stands watch as her ultimately powerless protector; the possible end of the road for Tommy Snider’s Beard Hunter on Danny the Street; the emptiness of the hollow “victory” achieved by Alan Tudyk’s Mr. Nobody and his subsequent attempt to get the “one-up” on his mortal foe yet again; the return of Alimi Ballard’s Joshua Clay in a new context; the return of Jane “alters” Hammerhead and Penny Farthing in the same context — goddamn, but there’s a lot to unpack in this “committee-written” script by Tamara Becher-Wilkinson, Shoshona Sachi, and “showrunner” Jeremy Carver, is there not?

Mostly, though, it’s all about answering the question of how and even if the team moves forward now that they know they’ve all been betrayed by the man they trusted more than anyone. The man who brings them all back together for one final mission that involves a last-second nod to Grant Morrison and Richard Case’s “The Painting That Ate Paris” storyline — minus anything to do with Paris. Director Dermott Downs makes it all work, somehow, and even if the “method” of entering the painting is less than satisfying, everything else — including the method of getting back out — surely is.

But, really, who can ignore the low-rent Kaiju fireworks? I know I couldn’t, and roach vs. rodent was an absolute blast.

We’re all set up for season two, if DC wants to do it : a familiar name to readers of the comic, presented within the framework of an astonishingly different “secret origin,” is certainly a tantalizing note to close things on, and we still haven’t gotten to the bottom of Jane’s “Psycho Cyborg” painted premonition, nor witnessed the hopefully-inevitable tussle with the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, nor seen the title of “General” placed in front of the word “Immortus” yet. I get the feeling there’s plenty to come — we’re all just waiting on word of an official renewal.

But hey, you know what? Enough with the speculation. What we know we got was the best season of super-hero television ever made — hell, arguably one of the best seasons of any kind of television, period. There’s no shame in wanting more — the ecstatic critical and fan reception to this first run practically guarantees it, anyway — but until that happy day arrives, I think a “binge” of season one would be a welcome way to eat up just about any weekend. Carver and his cohorts are free to take a bow anytime they wish; they’ve certainly earned it.

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This review, and all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, in fact, it’s been a lot of politics. Your patronage there not only keeps things going, it also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my fourcolorapocalypse comics site. I recently lowered the minimum-tier pricing to a dollar a month, so come on — what have you got to lose? There’s a ton of stuff up on there already, and needless to say, I’d be very gratified to have your support,

Oh, and I suppose a link would come in handy. Here you go :https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

 

The end, as they say, is nigh.

It’s been quite the first season for the DC Universe original streaming series Doom Patrol, has it not? And in the next-to-last (and fourteenth) episode, appropriately titled “Penultimate Patrol,” we’re treated to the return of old friends (Danny The Street) and old foes (Tommy Snider’s cringe-worthy, and now apparently reformed, Beard Hunter), but by and large the focus here is on the team — and, yes, now it really is a team — and the culmination of their own personal journeys, quite literally.

Yes indeed, everything “showrunner” Jeremy Carver has been building toward reaches a customarily-bizarre crescendo here, with Alan Tudyk’s Mr. Nobody being treated/subject to some revelatory period-piece “backstory” of his own here (superbly realized by director Rebecca Rodriguez) before placing each of our “Doom Patrolers” at the precise moment before the accidents/incidents that changed their lives and offering them, in a very real sense, a “do-over.” In other words, that newly-realized sense of resolve they’ve all got? It’s sorely put to the test here.

Notably absent from the inter-dimensional brouhaha (arrived at by — uhhmmm — unique means courtesy of Devan Chandler Long’s Flex Mentallo, who accidentally gives our heroes, and everyone else “on” Danny, an orgasm first) is Joivan Wade’s Vic Stone, who’s in for a historical re-write himself, courtesy of his barely-conscious father, Silas (played, as ever, by consummate pro Phil Morris), who reveals that the memories swirling in his son’s mind aren’t necessarily what really happened.

Which, as things turn out, ends up being something of a running theme here, but to say any more about that would probably be to say too much. What I can safely reveal is that if you think Mr. Nobody is dispatched too easily when the time comes, you’re absolutely right, and the “happy return” of Timothy Dalton’s “Chief” Niles Caulder comes with quite a price, as he’s forced to re-live a tragedy of his own — and, frankly, everyone else’s — again and again.

And again.

And again.

Until —

Yeah, the ending. That ending. The one I said I’d keep mum on, and shall. The one that ties into the episode’s over-arching theme of memory — or at least perceived memory — not being what it’s cracked up to be. But “cracking” may be precisely what’s in store for April Bowlby’s Rita Farr, Diane Guerrero’s “Crazy” Jane, Brendan Fraser/Riley Shanahan’s Cliff Steele, and Matt Bomer/Matthew Zuk’s Larry Trainor. We shall see.

Granted, those familiar with the Grant Morrison/Richard Case run on the comic will be far less shocked by the revelation/twist in question than those coming in to the series “cold,” but my money is on you grizzled vets still being surprised by the tonal difference that comes part and parcel with its, for lack of a better term, “TV version,” and will be equally confounded/intrigued by the possibilities it presents for next week’s big finale.

And, yeah, it’s definitely going to be big. I don’t do the whole “breathless with suspense” thing too often when it comes to television, but the next seven days can hurry up and fly right by as far as I’m concerned.  This has been a heck of a ride, and it’s all set up for a heck of a finish.

The end may indeed be nigh — but all indications are that Carver and company are determined to go out with a very loud bang.

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This review, and all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, in fact, it’s been a lot of politics. Your patronage there not only keeps things going, it also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my fourcolorapocalypse comics site. I recently lowered the minimum-tier pricing to a dollar a month, and given that there’s a lot of stuff up on there already, you’re sure to get excellent value for your money. Needless to say — but I’ll say it anyway — I’d be very gratified to have your support.

Oh, and I suppose a link would come in handy. Here you go :https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

 

And so the moment has come : the thirteenth episode of the DC Universe streaming series Doom Patrol, appropriately titled “Flex Patrol,” finally introduces us, in proper fashion, to Grant Morrison and Richard Case’s (and, some would argue, Frank Quitely’s) so-called “Man Of Muscle Mystery,” Flex Mentallo, after several hints, and an amnesia-riddled debut last week. Was the moment worth waiting for?

The quick answer to that is “yes,” not least because Devan Chandler Long really sinks his teeth into the role of the meta-human molded after Charles Atlas’ “Hero Of The Beach,” but also because script-writers Tom Farrell and Tamara Becher-Wilkinson imbue his backstory with a generous helping of legit pathos that sees him go from “Ant Farm” refugee to ebullient returned champion to unhinged vehicle of pure rage (and not without good reason) by the time all is said and done.

Except, ya know, nothing is said and done quite yet, with two episodes still remaining, and so “setting up for the big finale” is also the order of the day here.

On that score, results are a bit more mixed — we learn a little too quickly and too conveniently that Phil Morris’ Silas Stone is still alive, and while his hospital stay allows for some nice character development for his “on-screen son,” Joivan Wade’s Vic Stone, and Vic’s frequent de facto surrogate mother, April Bowlby’s Rita Farr (who’s probably undergone the most thorough-going transformation of anyone of anyone on the show — and no, I don’t mean that in the strictly physical sense, although the pun is there if you want it), the end result of it all, namely Vic re-synching with his “GRID” operating system, is basically a foregone conclusion.

Whoops, sorry, guess that counts as a bit of a “spoiler” — but, really, it shouldn’t.

Matt Bomer/Matthew Zuk’s Larry Trainor, Brendan Fraser/Riley Shanahan’s Cliff Steele, and Diane Guerrero’s “Crazy” Jane all get some minimal “arc” progression of their own as they play baby-sitter to Flex, but really, who are we fooling? This is is his story all the way, and it’s in the “period-piece” flashback sequences that director T.J. Scott’s precise attention to detail really shines. Some may argue that this episode is directed to within a an inch of its life, but “show-runner” Jeremy Carver has actually allowed his directors more leeway than one would expect, while still achieving a pretty uniform look and feel for the series as a whole. This episode continues that welcome tradition — even if there really is nothing terribly “traditional” about the show on the whole.

Perhaps the biggest surprise to be had here is in a bit of “stunt” casting, though, as Rita strikes up a friendly rapport with an elderly man at the hospital, who — hey, holy shit, that’s Ed Asner!

Except — and here we go with the “spoilers” again — it’s not, and the “cliffhanger” here features Alan Tudyk’s Mr. Nobody at his most “meta” yet, complete with plenty of DC product placement. No sign of Timothy Dalton’s “Chief” Niles Caulder, but one gets the sense he’ll be along again shortly, especially since the next episode carries the title “Penultimate Patrol.” This installment provided a nice lead-in for that, and given that was its primary function, Carver and co. can notch another creative “victory” in their collective belt.

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This review, and all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Your patronage there not only keeps things going, it also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my fourcolorapocalypse comics blog. I recently lowered the minimum “subscription” price to a dollar, and given that there’s a whole bunch of stuff up on there already, I dare say you’re going to get about the best value for money any creator offers on that site from yours truly. I’d be very gratified indeed to have your support.

Oh, and I suppose a link would come in handy. Here you go : https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

Say one thing for the DC Universe original streaming series Doom Patrol : its own internal tug-of-war, no doubt the design of “showrunner” Jeremy Carver, is working. Last week, we were pulled back into the ongoing psychodrama between Timothy Dalton’s “Chief” Niles Caulder and Alan Tudyk’s wonderfully depraved Mr. Nobody, and in the newest episode, “Frances Patrol,” we’re drawn back out in a major way, our focus shifted squarely back onto the makeshift “team” of super-misfits, who find themselves either “flying solo” or in hitherto-unseen pairings.

On the going it alone front, Matt Bomer/Matthew Zuk’s Larry Trainor (is he ever really “alone,” though, given the “Negative Spirit” he shares a body with?) has made the gutsy decision to meet, like it or not, with former flame John Bowers (played in the present day by Tom Fitzpatrick, in flashback by, as always, Kyle Clements), while the makeshift duos in April Fitzimmons’ script (the third to date not directly based on a comic from the Grant Morrison/Richard Case era) consist of Brendan Fraser/Riley Shanahan’s Cliff Steele searching for his estranged daughter, Clara (Bethany Anne Lind) alongside April Bowlby’s Rita Farr, and Joivan Wade’s Vic Stone trying to get a handle on the irregularities of his cybernetic body with the nominal “assistance” of Diane Guerrero’s “Crazy” Jane. Re-connection, then, is the theme tying all these disparate plotlines together — in Cliff’s case with his offspring, in Larry’s with the love of his life, in Vic’s with himself.

These are handled with varying degrees of success by the episode’s creative brain trust — both Cliff and, especially, Larry’s stories are imbued with genuine pathos, while Vic’s struggles seem almost an afterthought until the very end, when they make up for lost time in a hurry and put him in a situation even more precarious than the one he already found himself in. The next steps in his journey, combined with a few more tantalizing hints about the inevitable arrival of a certain Man of Muscle Mystery, ensure that the remaining installments in this debut season of the show look bright, but in fairness this one proved to be something of a mixed bag. It was great for human — check that, superhuman — drama, but pretty light on genuine dramatic tension.

Which doesn’t mean it was a waste of time by any stretch of the imagination, or even a lost opportunity — within the larger framework of the series its placement makes perfect sense, as do its narrative aims. It just doesn’t necessarily succeed in everything it sets out to do, though most certainly not for lack of trying. Performances are as solid as we’ve come to expect, and the direction, production values, and camera work are suitably cinematic in scope and feel. It’s really only the story itself that’s something of a hit-and-miss affair.

Fortunately, it offers more of the former than the latter, so don’t even necessarily expect to find yourself disappointed here — just less thoroughly impressed than you’ve been with parts one through ten. Is that fair?

Yeah, I think so. It almost runs counter to my nature to give to offer up a middling review of a Doom Patrol episode at this point, so impressive have all the others been, but judged purely on its own terms, that’s what this one has earned. I remain entirely confident that things will “bounce back” in seven days’ time — it’s not like it needs to leap back to form, just to make a few baby steps — so do join me here then, when we’ll see how right, or wrong, this assumption proves to be.

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This review, and all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, in fact, it’s been a lot of politics. Your patronage there not only enables me to keep things going, it also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my fourcolorapocalypse comics site. There’s a lot of stuff up on there already, so you’re sure to get good value for your money, and needless to say, I’d be very grateful indeed to have your support.

Oh, and I suppose a link would come in handy. Here you go :https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

Wow. Some TV episodes work, and then some — really work. And “Danny Patrol,” the eighth installment of the DC Universe streaming series Doom Patrol, most definitely does the latter.

Hewing reasonably close to its Grant Morrison/Richard Case comic book “source material,” there are key distinctions made to the story’s printed-page progenitor that, if anything, make it an even stronger piece of work, and for that, all credit to returning writer and director Tom Farrell and Dermott Downs, respectively, as well as to “showrunner” Jeremy Carver, who is doing a great job of setting a tone best described as “faithful but innovative” for this entire shebang. But enough with the praise, let’s talk specifics.

A sentient, non-binary street named Danny, home to outcasts of every stripe, is being hunted by a top-secret government agency known as the Bureau Of Normalcy, overseen by the ruthlessly square Darren Jones (played with relish by Jon Briddell), who first sends in his deputy, Morris Wilson (Alan Mingo Jr.), to scout things out, only to have him disappear “into” Danny and re-emerge as her — the “her” in question being drag diva par excellence Maura Lee Korrupt, quite possibly the greatest name for a television character, like, ever.

Mingo delivers the standout performance of the episode, but credit where it’s due to the regulars, as well : Matt Bomer/Matthew Zuk’s Larry Trainor, who has a history with the Bureau, is our focal point among the core cast this time out, both in past and present, and as his sidekick, Joivan Wade’s Vic Stone makes a terrific foil/fish out of water. They find Danny when they go looking for a cake shop that  left a delivery for Timothy Dalton’s still-missing “Chief” Niles Caulder (Dalton still carries a title credit in his absence, as does Alan Tudyk, although Mr. Nobody is nowhere to be found, either), but with the living street’s friend (how they know each other is shrouded, as ever, in mystery) MIA, our not-quite-ready-to-be-dynamic duo will have to do in a pinch, it seems.

Why only the two of them? I’m glad you asked —

April Bowlby’s Rita Farr and Brendan Fraser/Riley Shanahan’s Cliff Steele are looking to fish Diane Guerrero’s “Crazy” Jane out of her “Karen” persona, who is “enjoying” a falsified — hell, make that forced — state of domestic bliss with a poor sap named Doug (Brent Bailey), an on-again/off-again flame who can’t resist her charms mainly because she offers him no choice. Enter plenty of 1990s “rom-com” references and a laugh-out-loud scene ripped right from The Notebook — as in, the sappy movie. But the page-tearing metaphor works taken in, or out of, any context, I suppose. Downs and his actors absolutely nail it, trust me, but that goes for every aspect of this sub-plot, which ends up having tragic consequences and setting the stage for next week’s story.

Fans of Cliff might be a bit dismayed by his limited “screen time” in this one, it’s true, but he gets arguably the best scene of all doing a dance-off against a neighborhood kid — although, who knows? Larry and Mora doing a karaoke duet to Kelly Clarkson might have it beat. And the same could possibly be said for the big Mora/Darrin throw-down. It’s so hard to choose.

So, yeah, in case you couldn’t already tell, we’re going to close with yet another “best episode to date” verdict here, which is probably sounding like a broken record at this point, but damn — the truth is the truth, and who am I to bullshit you just for the sake of finally saying something different?

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This review, and all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly offerings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, in fact, it’s been a lot of politics. Your patronage there not only keeps things going, it also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my fourcolorapocalypse comics site. It’s steadily filling up with a lot of writing, so you’re going to get good value for your dollar from day one, and needless to say, I’d be immensely grateful to have your support.

Oh, and I suppose a link would come in handy, so here you go :https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

The fifth episode of the DC Universe original streaming series Doom Patrol is many things — the conclusion of the “Cult Of The Unwritten Book” two-parter, the return of Alan Tudyk’s Mr. Nobody and Timothy Dalton’s “Chief” Niles Caulder (well, sort of, and only temporarily — but he comes in for more screen time than in any installment to date), a wild and inventive departure from its Grant Morrison/Richard Case “source material” — but first, foremost, and always, it is Jane‘s story.

Diane Guerrero’s “Crazy” Jane is the heart and soul of this one, as we get the most detailed look yet into her troubled and mysterious past and tantalizing hints that, as bad as what we see is, what we don’t yet know is surely even worse. The puzzle of what the “Paw Patrol” title is all about is eventually solved here, but the puzzle that is Jane — well, that’s going to take considerably more “unpacking” to resolve. That ism assuming it’s even possible to do so.

From her 1970s punk rock days to her stay in a particularly sadistic psychiatric facility to the origins of her powers to her first meeting with The Chief, this is a journey  through Jane’s past — but it’s a past in flux, one that’s changing on the fly. Mr. Nobody and Caulder have forged an alliance to stop The Decreator, you see, and it involves some serious chronological fuckery — in fact, this is the most “timey-wimey” story to appear on TV screens since the most self-indulgent period of Steven Moffat’s tenure on Doctor Who, but fortunately it’s far less annoying.

That’s probably because Doom Patrol head honcho Jeremy Carver hasn’t been entrenched in his position long enough to develop any excesses yet, and is still committed to story and character development over and above putting his “signature” on his work, methinks. Certainly he’s giving his writers a fair amount of freedom — Shoshana Sachi, who scripted this episode, takes things in a remarkably different direction than long-time fans of the comic will be expecting here, incorporating a persona and plotline for Jane loosely based on the most recent iteration of the comic by Gerard Way and Nick Derington into the proceedings, but in service of an entirely new and novel resolution to a story almost three decades old. I’ll refrain from specifics and “spoilers,” let’s just say that to stop a cult, sometimes you need to start a cult.

For fans of the other characters, rest assured — they’ve all got plenty to do here, too. April Bowlby’s Rita Farr shows a hitherto-unseen maternal streak, Matt Bomer/Matthew Zuk’s Larry Trainor gains some new perspective on how to resolve his shared-body standoff with the so-called “Negative Spirit,” Joivan Wade’s Cyborg learns the limits of his leadership abilities and his own techno-physical form, and Brendan Fraser/Riley Shanahan’s Cliff Steele exhibits some real vulnerability when he believes his — hell, all of our — days are numbered. Director Larry Teng gets some grade-A performances from his guest cast, as well, with Mark Sheppard turning it supremely pitch-perfect work as rogue occultist Willoughby Kipling and Ted Sutherland wringing a hell of a lot of emotion out of limited screen time as literal “Word Made Flesh” Elliot Patterson. This is a show with amazingly strong scripting and cinematic direction, but it’s the acting that really has been selling things so far, bringing all the goods home.

My one criticism, and it’s a slight one, is that the cliffhanger is maybe a bit too multi-faceted and may even be a case of the show biting off more than it can chew, but the series hasn’t missed a beat yet and has, in fact, more than exceeded expectations every step of the way — so I wouldn’t bet against Carver, his cast, his writers, and his directors pulling off everything that’s foreshadowed in the final few minutes here. Plus, Curtis Armstrong’s Ezekiel the Cockroach gets to make another appearance. What’s not to love?

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We close things up with the customary quick reminder that this review, as well as all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, it’s been a lot of politics. Your support there not only keeps things going, it also ensures a steady stream of free content both here and at my fourcolorapocalypse comics page. So what are you waiting for? Join up already! Please?

Oh, here’s a link : https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

Goddamn. I mean, seriously.

It’s no secret that I’m a tremendous fan — nay, admirer — of Grant Morrison and Richard Case’s justly-legendary run on the Doom Patrol comic book, but if you put a gun to my head (and some readers over the years have been, I’m sure, tempted to do just that) and forced me to name a favorite single storyline from their era, I’d probably have to say the one colloquially known as “The Cult Of The Unwritten Book,” so-called because that’s the name of the villains they go up against, a suitably freakish bunch of nihilists who are waiting for the flesh of a certain unwitting sap to literally finish writing itself, given that it’s been manifesting a tattooed “unholy scripture” upon its own surface, in the form of arcane symbols, for quite some time now. Once this unwritten book is, in fact, written, the cult’s intention is to read it and, in so doing, summon forth The Decreator, a shadow of the Big Bang itself tasked with undoing that which its counterpart once did. Fuck the end of the world — The Decreator’s out to wipe out all of existence.

In the comics, the team is joined by “de-frocked” Templar Knight/freelance occult detective Willoughby Kipling — think John Constantine only not cool (Morrison had, in fact, originally wanted to use Constantine for the story, but DC editorial put the kibosh on it as his involvement would run counter to some things taking place concurrently within his own series) — and after a harrowing visit to the cult’s home turf of Nurnheim, a shadow realm that exists within a snow globe, the combined forces of “The World’s Strangest Heroes” and the world’s most annoying magician result, not so much in stopping the destruction of all things, but in slowing it down to the point where nobody can really be bothered to notice what’s happening.

I never never could have imagined, way back in 1990, that I’d ever see this utterly bizarre, mystifying, and singular tale adapted into a big-budget TV production, and yet, here in 2019 —in a world that, I humbly submit, is probably every bit as weird as Nurnheim itself — it’s actually happened. It’s called “Cult Patrol.”  And it’s not just “good,” it’s sensational.

A few liberties with the so-called “source material” have been taken by “showrunner” Jeremy Carver and his script writers, Marcus Dalzine and Chris Dingess — Kipling (magnificently brought to life by actor Mark Sheppard) and Timothy Dalton’s Chief are old acquaintances, the “recipient” of the unwritten book is a Salt Lake City teen named Elliot Patterson (Ted Sutherland), while the actual leader of the cult turns out to be none other than his own mother (Lilli Birdsell) — but a good number of scenes are lifted directly from the page, and those that aren’t offer intriguing new takes on this old story (that, in fairness, most viewers have probably never read anyway) that make it unpredictable all over again while fitting in with the various ongoing “story arcs” of the series as a whole. In short, though, the basics are intact, and when Brendan Fraser/Riley Shanahan’s Cliff Steele and Diane Guerrero’s “Crazy” Jane (who spends most of this episode in her defensive-to-the-point-of-offensive Hammerhead persona) end up in an astonishingly well-realized version of Nurnheim, shit — I was over the moon.

Who knows? I might have loved this story too much, and for too long, to write anything approaching an “objective” review here.

Still, if director Stefan Pleszczynski had screwed anything up, I’d be the first to object, and he doesn’t. The performances of the cast are strong, with April Bowlby really coming into her own as Rita Farr, Joivan Wade playing his de facto leader role as Cyborg to a proverbial “T,” and Matt Bomer/Matthew Zuk’s recently-developed “what the fuck?” persona for Larry Trainor all meriting special mention — Cliff and Jane may be the heart of this particular episode, but it’s not like everyone else is just given “filler” material to pad out the runtime. Everything’s essential, everything’s part of a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

My one gripe — and it’s a small one — is that when The Decreator makes its appearance, “Chicken Little was right” is a lot better line to announce its arrival than “Maybe I should have gone with A Hard Day’s Night.” That’s seriously all I’ve got though — other than that, this is some seriously flawless television. We’ll see how part two shakes out next week, but top marks for all involved so far.

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This review, as well as all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, a lot of politics. Your support there not only helps to keep it as a going concern, but also ensures a steady supply of free content both here and at my fourcolorapocalypse comics site. Joining up is cheap, and I make sure you get plenty to read for your money.

Oh, here’s a link :https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

 

Those who know far more about the craft (we’ll stick with that term given that it seldom rises to the level of “art’) of television writing tell me that second episodes are the trickiest wicket of all — at the starting gate you simply lay enough of your cards on the table to grab peoples’ attention, but not so many that they’ll walk away figuring they’ve got the whole show sussed out; with episodes three on out you’re essentially preaching to the choir; but episode two is the one that has to turn the casual viewers into die-hards, has to keep the butts in the seats. The “insta-fans” are already on board, but the “take it or leave it” crowd — the really fickle folks — well, they’re looking for a reason to take it. This is your one and only chance.

“Showrunner” Jeremy Carver turns the writing chores for this crucial installment of the DC Universe original series Doom Patrol over to the tandem of Neil Reynolds and Shoshana Sachi, and their script for “Donkey Patrol” (“Puppet Patrol” is next, so you can already see a pattern developing here) more than does its job — following, as most shows do these days, directly from the previous episode, the vortex created by Alan Tudyk’s narrator/villain Mr. Nobody has swallowed whole the town of Cloverton, Ohio, and with it Niles “The Chief” Caulder (the role that Timothy Dalton, I’m already convinced, was born to play) , but that farting donkey we “met” last time? He’s more than a gasbag, he’s a portal into whatever realm the Doom Patrol’s de facto “leader” has been whisked away to by this guy who hates his guts for reasons we’re still not privy to.

Diane Guerrero’ s”Crazy” Jane leaps in for an attempted rescue, but her visit proves to be a short one, the donkey hee-hawing her back out when her insanity proves to be too unpalatable even for a creature that’ll probably eat anything. This commotion’s not the only show in town, though, as alternating scenes in the early going introduce us to the team’s final member, Vic Stone/Cyborg (played by Joivan Wade), a Detroit-based hero aiming to work his way up to Justice League membership by busting small crimes such as ATM robberies. His roll-out proves to be a complete (I say that with zero hesitation) “win” for Carver, his writers, and director Dermott Downs, who alleviate all concerns about what the fuck a character best known for his turns with the aforementioned League and the Teen Titans is even doing in this show within a matter of minutes — hell, they even manage to tick every box on the “pedantic fan” checklist by directly addressing the continuity issues that arise from Vic appearing in this series this year, but in the Justice League movie last year.

Making perhaps an even more distinctive debut, though, is veteran actor Phil Ford in the role of his father, robotics genius/overbearing prick Silas Stone, a “second voice” in his son’s mind who simply won’t shut the fuck up and always has a “better” idea about what the kiddo should be doing with his extraordinary powers. There’s a tragedy at the heart of Cyborg’s origin story that no doubt has resulted in much unspoken tension between progenitor and progeny, but positioning Caulder as a secondary “father figure” in Vic’s life going back quite a few years not only helps ameliorate some of that, it also provides a perfectly logical explanation for why the half-robotic teen decides to hook up with the Doom Patrol in the first place.

In short, then, shoe-horning this character into this show probably shouldn’t have worked — but damn, it sure does.

“Shippers” — as well as regular people — will probably be gratified to see the bonds between Brendan Fraser/Riley Shanahan’s Cliff Steele and Jane deepen in this episode, fans of the freakish will get a kick out of April Bowlby’s Rita Farr being “squeezed” down into the donkey, and it’s a safe bet that everyone will find the “confronting their past demons” scenarios that she, Vic, and Matt Bomer/Matthew Zuk’s Larry Trainor are faced with on the “other side” of the most deliberately absurd dimensional doorway ever envisioned compelling in the extreme. Unlikely heroes emerge from this already-unlikely crew as they make their escape, but rest assured no one is left unscathed from their experiences in the (let’s just call it what it is) Twilight Zone.

Oh, and The Chief? Spoiler alert — by the time the end credits roll, he’s still stuck there.

Another good episode, then? Nope. Another great one, anchored by strong performances from one and all, well-paced scripting, smart and reasonably stylish direction, and a generous smattering of “Easter Eggs” (including, as you’d expect, any number from the Grant Morrison/Richard Case era of the comic — and one you probably would never expect featuring Curtis “Booger” Armstrong himself) for the observant and/or obsessive. It’s still too early to call this the best super-hero TV show of all time (even if most of the competition for that title is pretty weak), but it’s in no way too early to say that it’s well on track to be.

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Every comic-book reader has it : “their” book. The one that comes along at just the right time in your life and stays with you for the rest of your days. I’ve got a few, truth be told, but one of the big ones is Doom Patrol — specifically, Grant Morrison and Richard Case’s Doom Patrol, that began with issue number 19 of the title’s second go-’round and lasted through number 63, a unique amalgamation of the existential, the conspiratorial, the emotive, and the quite-often indescribable that surely still stands as the most unusual “team book” ever set within the confines of a pre-existing superhero “universe.” Filled to the brim and beyond with Morrison’s patented brand of “high weirdness” but underscored with a palpable strain of sheer heart throughout, it had everything I was looking for in a comic as a teenager — when my interest in the traditional, by-the-numbers superhero narrative was waning, and my exploration of the work of  “alternative” cartoonists of the period (Chester Brown, Dan Clowes, Peter Bagge, Chris Ware, etc.) was only just starting to take hold. Doom Patrol was a comic that hit a kind of “sweet spot” right between the two, and I definitely credit it for keeping my interest in the medium alive at precisely the point where it was threatening to wane.

And now, here we are, some three fucking decades later, and what would have been absolutely unthinkable in 1989 has come to pass : Doom Patrol is now a big-budget TV series, newly-launched on the DC Universe website/streaming service.

It’s not precisely “my” Doom Patrol, mind you, nor should it be : a straight adaptation of the Morrison/Case era would reek of the “been there, done that,” but one episode in (that episode bearing the standardized, and entirely unimaginative, title of “Pilot”), it’s clear that “showrunner” Jeremy Carver is cleaving to the temperament of that now-legendary run, while mixing in plenty from the original “Silver Age” version of the book by Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani (credited as the team’s creators along with Bob Haney), a dash of Rachel Pollack’s post-Morrison/Case iteration (although, at least as yet, the elements of Pollack’s run that make their way onto the screen include nothing from the brief-but-incredible period when things went really, and wonderfully, far off the rails following the arrival of Ted McKeever as artist), and plenty that’s wholly unique and original in its own right. Something old, something new and all that —

The basic set-up is a fairly logical updating of the initial premise : genius (but quite mysterious) wheelchair-bound scientist Dr. Niles Caulder (played with something very much akin to absolute perfection by Timothy Dalton) accrues into his orbit a small group of super-beings whose abilities brand them more as rejects and freaks than “heroes,” outcasts with power to save the world but little desire to do so given they’ve been shunned from it. Their ranks are composed of former test pilot Larry Trainor (Matt Bomer), who is now horribly burned, completely bandaged, and sharing his body with a mysterious, and sentient, “negative” energy force; one-time Hollywood starlet Rita Farr (April Bowlby), who suffered a freak accident on a film location and is now a gelatinous, oozing mass of flesh that can only hold on to human form for brief periods of time; multiple personality disorder sufferer “Crazy” Jane (Diane Guerrero), who has 64 distinctive “selves,” each with a metahuman “gift” of its own; and long-since-believed-dead race car driver Cliff Steele (Brendan Fraser), whose brain was actually saved by Caulder following a fiery collision and placed inside a robotic body. Future  episodes will apparently see the addition of stalwart DC character Cyborg, a fan-favorite from the pages of Teen Titans and Justice League, but since he has yet to hit the scene, we need not dwell on him too much — although I’m curious as to how they plan to integrate him into this far-less-traditional team and, more importantly, why they’re even bothering to do so. Guess we’ll take a “wait and see” approach there.

Based on evidence so far, though, I’m inclined to give Carver the benefit of the doubt and assume he knows what he’s doing, because his script for this first episode is essentially pitch-perfect : Cliff is out point of entry, and through him we get to know the other members of the cast, their “secret origins,” and their coping mechanisms : Larry’s into horticulture, Rita has her knitting, Jane (or a part of her at any rate) paints. Cliff, for his part, is building a miniature town, but when they all go into the nearest real one while “Chief” Caulder is away for a couple of days, the shit hits the fan and they end up needing to save the pleasant little village they’ve entered — from themselves.

Caulder warned them not to go, of course, but with the cat out of the bag, his makeshift “family” suddenly finds itself at very real risk from forces not out of their pasts, but his : specifically a mentally-and physically-fragmented being of immense power known as Mr. Morden/Mr. Nobody (Alan Tudyk, who doubles as this episode’s narrator), whose been looking for “The Chief” for a long time for reasons as yet unknown. Much as with the first “live-action” DC Universe series, Titans (where a slightly different version of our team made its first appearance in episode four), this  show looks to have a “road trip” as its core conceit, but first they all head back into town to undo the damage/face the music — only to find that Morden is a step ahead of them. As is a flatulent donkey. Things are about to go from strange to stranger.

Director Glen Winter does a superb job with the pacing here, balancing flashbacks with “present-day” action seamlessly, and his cast turn in uniformly strong performances that really sell viewers on the everyday banality of their absurd existences. These are people — and a robot — each in tremendous amounts of pain, and while they all seem to be able to “go through the motions” to a certain extent, that sense of anguish is ever-present just beneath the surface. This is an especially tricky thing to pull off in the cases of Larry Trainor and Cliff Steele, who are each voiced by the “big-name” actors whose names adorn the show’s credits, while their full-body costumes are inhabited by other actors (Matthew Zuk and Riley Shanahan, respectively) charged with the important task of expressing the physicality of the characters. It works — hell, it’s so seamless you could be forgiven for assuming Bomer and Fraser were on set/location and inside the suits — but never forget this kind of apparent “ease” always takes a hell of a lot of work, and the effort Winter puts in behind the camera definitely pays off in terms of delivering a unique, idiosyncratic, highly imaginative product in front of it.

Fans of standard superhero fare may find the altogether different tone, style, and even premise of Doom Patrol 180 degrees removed from where their interests lie, but they needn’t despair too much : the big and small screens offer no shortage of material in line with their populist sensibilities. For the rest of us, though, this show offers the exact same thing that Grant Morrison and Richard Case did 30 years ago, and Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani some 20 years before that : a superhero adventure series capable of rekindling our interest in the genre by doing something new and different, while simultaneously reminding us why we loved it in the first place.

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Question : you’re a comic book publisher and you’ve got yourself a high-profile “superfan.” What should you do about it?

Answer : if you’re DC, and said fan is Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance fame — who interned at your offices and was planning on pursuing a career as a writer and/or artist on your books before his band went and got famous — you give him not just a series, but an entire fucking line. For developmental guidance you pair him with veteran Vertigo editor Shelly Bond (who has since, sadly, left the building), but by and large you leave him to his own devices and let him come up with whatever it is that he comes up with. The end result? A new imprint semi-mysteriously called DC’s Young Animal. Its first title? A(nother) re-imagined take on the original misfit super-team : the one, the only — Doom Patrol!

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For anyone ancient enough to have been there in the late ’80s/early ’90s, when this series — then under the stewardship of Grant Morrison and Richard Case — was the place to be for high weirdness on the four-color page, the news that it was coming back with Way and artist Nick Derington at the helm was reason for much optimism Now that Doom Patrol #1 is here, though, heck — it’s reason to celebrate.

Yes, the book is good. Very good, in fact. But I have no idea what’s going on it or what it’s even all about. Which, to my mind, is exactly how it should be.

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At its best — and later, non-Vertigo iterations of the title were anything but that — Doom Patrol was always a comic that threw you in at the deep end and dared you to either keep up or drown. Morrison tends to get most of the credit for “turning it into” a strange and even dangerous book, but really all he was doing was picking up the baton laid down by the team’s creator, the great Arnold Drake, and his artistic collaborator, the equally-great Bruno Premiani. The DP (quit snickering, porn viewers) were outcasts from the outset, and waaaaaayyyy back in the the 1960s, after a lengthy run that saw the original line-up battle such surreal villains as General Immortus (who was more or less exactly what his name implied), The Brain (who was likewise), Monsieur Mallah (who was a hyper-intelligent talking ape) and The Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man (who — well, shit, you just had to see him to believe him), Drake and Premiani decided to end the book by doing the then-unthinkable : killing ’em all in a plane crash and leaving them dead.

Of course, bean-counters and editors can’t leave profitable characters and concepts mothballed forever, and about a decade later a listless new incarnation of the team came shambling along with only one original member (Cliff “Robotman” Steele) in tow, but it would take some time (and, crucially, a certain Scottish writer)  for the property to well and truly get its “mojo” back — once it did, though, it really did. Fictional cities made of bone that over-write our reality, the painting that ate Paris, a hyper-dimensional sentient transvestite street, a man of “muscle mystery,” and catastrophe worship were but a handful of the magnificently memorable ideas introduced during the legendary Morrison/ Case run, which reached its apex with a shattering climax that was appended by a genuinely heart-wrenching epilogue that still stands out as one of the five or ten best single issues of any comic that I’ve ever experienced in my life. Those who’ve read it will know exactly what I mean when I say that the line “There is another world. There is a better world. Well — there has to be” still sticks in my throat every time.

So, yeah — these characters have been around a long time and have seen some lows, to be sure, but have also had their share of breathtaking, consciousness-expanding highs. Way grew up on Morrison and Case’s run, and while the fact that his new take on Doom Patrol promises to bring back characters from that era who haven’t been seen since like Crazy Jane, Flex Mentallo, and Danny The Street warms my crusty old comic-book-lovin’ heart, what really matters more than anything is the fact that — as this first issue makes abundantly clear — he is determined to do his own thing with them.

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And not just with them, thank goodness, but with his own, all-new, creations as well. Like Casey Brinke, an EMT who seems to think she’s Mario Andretti. And Terry None, who — well, I don’t know what her deal is yet, any more than I know why Casey wears Cliff Steele’s old jacket while Cliff himself seems to be trapped in a universe inside a gyro (that you can get a glimpse of if you buy the cover pictured at the top of this review, which literally peels back). And while we’re on the subject of things that can’t, as yet, be explained,  Way is re-introducing readers to the team’s ostensible leader, once affectionately known as “The Chief,” through a series of one-page vignettes called “What’s Going On With Niles Caluder?” that answer that question before raising the inevitable next one of “okay, why?”and I. Am. So. Digging. That.

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Derington, for his part, is being tasked with having to figure out which of the obviously many styles he can draw in that best brings Way’s absurdist sensibility to life, and so far he’s handling the task with flying colors. His rendered worlds range from the blase to the hyper-kinetic to the quite-likely-dystopian, but labeling them sort of takes the fun out of everything, and if there’s one thing that Doom Patrol has always been — even at its darkest, most confusing, or most terrifying — it’s fun. Derington, like Way, gets that. And we feel it in every last goddamn panel.

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There’s a definite synergy, then, going on here between artist and writer here that can’t be faked, and can only take us in new and interesting directions — even if they can’t really be adequately described (at least by someone of my limited skills). There’s dangerous imagining happening in the gloriously haphazard pages of Doom Patrol #1, and that can only mean two things : I have no idea where we’re going, and I’m desperately eager to take the trip.