There’s a certain weirdness in comics that I’ve never found in any other type of media. I won’t deny there are strange books, films, video games, plays, operas, etc. out there, but there’s something about comics that allows for a particular brand of oddness to be tried and, in many cases, work splendidly.
You can find this strangeness from the roots of American comics, particularly in pre-Comics Code horror and weird science stories. However, for a great dose of the peculiar one wouldn’t have to look farther than Vertigo, DC’s creator-owned imprint that brought out hits like The Sandman and turned writers like Grant Morrison into stars in the comics field. I’d be lying if I said Vertigo still ruled the creator-owned roost; almost unquestionably, Image Comics has unseated Vertigo in that regard, with even many big name Vertigo creators taking their work to the publisher.
And so we come to DC’s Young Animal.
Starting in September, DC Comics launched an imprint known as Young Animal. Curated by Gerard Way, the imprint seeks to bring back lesser known DC characters and explore strange stories. The tagline, “Comics for Dangerous Humans” evokes its own sense of oddity, as if only a certain group of people will connect with these works which, I’m sure to some degree, is true. I was especially excited for Young Animal after I started reading Morrison’s Doom Patrol run, which Way has cited as an influence on the line, unsurprising when you consider both the pedigree of that series and the fact that a new Doom Patrol series is the flagship title of Young Animal.
We’re now into October, meaning three of the four headliner series of Young Animal have at least had their first issue premier or, in the case of Doom Patrol, their second as well. I’ve decided to give a quick overview of each title, discussing its merits and failings, to encourage or perhaps even discourage new readers.
Anyway, let’s dig in.
Doom Patrol #1 and #2
Young Animal’s flagship title is, without a doubt, Doom Patrol. Aided in part by the fact that the this series’ characters are probably the best known of any within the imprint, Doom Patrol boasts at least some degree of name recognition, though even die-hard comic fans may not have heard of Robotman, Niles Caulder, Negative Man or Flex Mentallo. Ironically, the most popular character to come out of the Doom Patrol is a character few even know has ever been a part of another team, Beast Boy, but I digress. An no, Beast Boy does not make an appearance.
Doom Patrol #1 and #2 follow a new character, EMT Casey Brinke, as she meets the former heroes of the Doom Patrol one by one and deals with all kinds of strangeness invading her daily life. Before long, she encounters villains and indescribable situations, including the arrival of a certain sentient location.
Doom Patrol seems to be Way’s baby, as he takes on sole writing duty for the title. Way is joined by penciller Nick Derrington, colorist Tamra Bonvillain, and letterer Todd Klein to creator a strong creative team worthy of this title. Things are still in the “slow burn” phase which is fine for now, but I hope that the title picks up with some more adventuring once all of the characters are introduced which, by the end of issue #2, seems to be the case.
Rating: 7 out of 10 Gyros
Shade, The Changing Girl #1
A few pages into this comic, I was sure it’d be my least favorite of the imprint. The opening is hectic, with strange dialogue and narration that makes little sense and leaves far more questions than even remote hints of eventual answers. By the halfway point of this issue, I was hooked.
The story follows Loma Shade, an avian alien from the planet Meta. Loma, a fan of poet Rac Shade, steals the Madness Vest and uses it to inhabit the body of Megan Boyer, a comatose 16-year-old high school student. Loma takes on the role of Megan and explores life as a human, something that’s intrigued the Metan since she first saw an Earth television series.
Written by Cecil Castellucci and with art by Marley Zarcone (penciller), Kelly Fitzpatrick (colorist), and Saida Temofonte (letterer), Shade the Changing Girl #1 sets up an intriguing story as an alien observes life on Earth first hand while trying to piece back together the host body’s life.
Rating: 7 out of 10 Vests
Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #1
Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #1 was my most anticipated title from the Young Animal line, mostly thanks to having the best title for anything in the history of the universe. Regrettably, of the three titles, it ended up leaving the most to be desired. That’s not to say the comic is bad, just that it felt like moving from one event to the next without bringing things together, though this is still the first issue and the ending sets up an interesting thread for the next issue.
Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye stars Calvin “Cave” Carson, an ex-explorer and current company man who recently lost his wife. Cave struggles with a cybernetic eye that he received and can’t fully control as it shows him flashes of memories and constantly scans the world around him. Cave stumbles through life, spending time with his daughter, visiting friends, and trying to better understand the state of the world. However, Cave may be forced to return to his life of adventure when he’s attacked in his subterranean laboratory.
Way is joined by co-writer Jon Rivera on the title, along with artist Michael Avon Oeming, colorist Nick Filardi, and letterer Clem Robins. The art team exemplifies clean visual storytelling, which is especially well-done on a page that draws the eye in an uncommon manner from one panel to the next while Cave comes home and enters his underground lair. I think of the three series, this one has the most potential, but at least so far hasn’t grabbed me the way the others have.
Rating: 5 out of 10 Gemstones
Overall, DC’s Young Animal is an interesting imprint, but nothing has yet to blow my mind the way early Vertigo works did. Nevertheless, I’m in for the long haul and willing to see where these series, as well as Mother Panic which debuts next month, go in the future.
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