Doom Patrol (vol.3) #1 (December, 2001)
Writer – John Arcudi
Artist – Tan Eng Huat
Letterer – Bob Lappan
Colorist – Dave Stewart
Assistant Editor – Harvey Richards
Editor – Andy Helfer
Cover Price: $2.50
Since I’m in a Doom Patrol kinda mood, today we’re going to discuss that other volume of DP… not the Morrison one that everyone loves, nor the Byrne one that everyone… well, doesn’t. We’re gonna talk about one in between… no no no, not the Rachel Pollack Vertigo run… the other one! Yeah, that turn of the century pseudo-manga-lookin’ one by John Arcudi! It’s been awhile… hell, about 15 years… since I’ve read this. Let’s see how this baby aged!
We open on a foursome of young heroes as they attempt to rescue a crew of a sinking ship as it plunges into the freezing water. They are led by a fella with a southern sounding accent. One member is a girl with short blonde hair who can create heat in things around her. Another is a girl with long dark hair who… well, controls ribbons that come out of her body (?). The non-southern guy on the team appears as though he can manifest a (rather slippery) force field around his body.
Nothing seems to be going right for our gang. The crewmates they were intending to save all perish in their bungled attempt. The “heat-making girl” actually winds up cooking the lot of ’em when she makes the water too hot. Good thing for all involved, this was only a Virtual Reality simulation. The southern-soundin’ field leader slumps down in the snow and smokes a cigarette after berating his team for their massive failure.
We shift scenes to a familiar face. It’s Cliff Steele, Robotman! He’s turning a wheel… but it’s not a steering wheel like he used when he was a famous race car driver… instead he now works for… I wanna say, an oil refinery. His robotic stature allows him to work in the sweltering Arizona-esque temperatures of the tank valve area. Also, of particular… disturbing… note, Cliff appears to have a full set of teeth behind his steam shovel jaw.
We now meet multi-billionaire Thayer Jost. He is the sponsor… owner… moneyman for the team of youngsters from the open. They are called Jostice Inc., and… well, they kinda suck. So much so, that Jost demands they be yanked off the cover of Newstime Magazine. They’re jost… er just not ready to debut yet. Jost feels they need something, but he’s not quite sure what.
We rejoin Cliff as he returns to his apartment after work. Here we learn that he appears to be having a tough time paying his rent. Man, don’t they pay him at the plant? Well, yeah… but more on that in a bit. He heads out for a walk, and no sooner than commenting on how icy and slick the roads are… he finds himself saving the neighborhood from a car veering out of control due to those conditions. Looks like Guy Fieri here doesn’t know how to drive in the winter.
A crowd assembles and the press get involved. It isn’t long before the media pronounces that a former Doom Patrol member is playing hero once more. This news story catches the eye of our Mr. Jost.
The next day at work Cliff is told he has a “guest”. He reports to the plant’s mess hall and meets a moderately excited Thayer Jost. For all the Doom Patrol newbies, we get a quick (four-panel) run down of Cliff (and the team’s) origin.
Jost is not just here to chat about Cliff’s past… he’s got an offer for his future. He offers him a large increase in pay to help mentor his prospective super-team. Cliff hems and haws a bit… and Jost drops a bombshell. He knows that Cliff, while being paid rather well by the plant, is having trouble making rent. It is implied… actually, it’s flat out said that Cliff is spending his salary on a “project”, but does not elaborate.
Later, at Jost HQ, Jostice Inc. is introduced to their new Task Force Commander, Cliff Steele. It is here that we get a proper introduction to the foursome. Meet Fever, Kid Slick, Freak, and Fast Forward.
Fast Forward seems rather reluctant to accept Cliff as part of the team. Jost insists he is only there in an advisory capacity… though by Robotman’s reaction we can tell he was promised far more. Jost introduces Cliff to their Virtual Reality simulation center. Think “Danger Room” without the cool name. I gotta say, Cliff’s mouthful of teeth is really creeping me out here.
Cliff takes roll, and learns what his new team is capable of. The only one being a jerk is Fast Forward… He mouths off to Cliff one time too many, and is asked to take a look 30 seconds into the future (which is his power). He must’ve seen that Robotman is gonna knock his block off if he doesn’t change his tone, because his demeanor immediately changes. This is a very funny use of his powers.
The next couple of pages show Cliff doing the coaching thang. He shows Fever that she can heat water without touching it… Kid Slick is given concentration techniques to ensure he doesn’t slip when he’s sliding… Fast Forward gets pounded into the ground, ya know… to help his hand-to-hand combat acumen… and Freak, well… does her freaky thing.
We wrap up with Jost and Cliff sitting across the table from one another. Turns out what Jost wanted all along was the Doom Patrol license and trademark… which I suppose, as the last living (as far as we know) member, Cliff has power of attorney over. Cliff signs on the dotted line for an undisclosed (yet massive) amount of money. Ladies and Gentlemen… meet, your new Doom Patrol.
There’s definitely something “turn of the century” about this… which, is probably because that’s when it was released. I mean, duh, right? When this came out I was 21 years old, and although I had a better paying job than I had any right to have, I feel I was still something of a slacker. A throwback from the 1990’s… I’m sure I wore a flannel shirt tied around my waist a time or two… and I can say that with absolute certainty… because, ahem… I still do. I have an excuse though… seriously. Here in Arizona it can go from really cold first thing in the morning to really hot in the mid-morning. So there ya go! Anyhoo, where was I?
Oh yeah… this feels like it kind of evokes that “slacker” type of mood that was in the comics ether around now. The characters were moody young people… they looked kinda grunged-out… like, if I didn’t know better, I could see this being a fill-in for Gen13 rather than the Doom Patrol… you follow? This doesn’t feel like a DC book. It feels like an Image book from the era when they were just trying to find their footing post-speculator bust.
Much of that has to do with the art, for sure. But the writing also doesn’t feel DC… at least to me. Let’s not get it twisted… that’s not a bad thing. It’s just a thing that is. It seemed (at least to me) that one of the big trends in funnybooks around the time was for superheroes to “go corporate” and this is another case of that. I remember really digging this when it came out, and I found myself rather enjoying revisiting it today. It’s certainly not the best Doom Patrol… hell, I’m sure folks would argue it’s not the Doom Patrol at all. What it is, is a fairly interesting introductory chapter. We meet the gang, and get a pretty good impression what the tone of the volume will be (at least at the start).
Back when this was released, I remember there being a bit of controversy over Tan Eng Huat’s art. Folks seemed to either love it or hate it… with very little in between. I lean more toward “loving” it… though, I clearly do not like that Tan draws Cliff as having teeth. I don’t recall if he’s ever had teeth before (or after) this… but if so, they were not nearly as noticeable as they were here. They made his face look quite “off”, and I did not dig the decision to include them.
Overall… this is a difficult one for me to give a solid recommendation for. If you’re a fan of the Morrison run, or the current Gerard Way Young Animal run… this is tonally and aesthetically very different. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good… quite good, in fact. It’s just very different from what a Doom Patrol fan may be expecting to see… in a Doom Patrol comic.
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