Umbrella Academy Vol.1: The Apocalypse Suite, A Near Perfect Origin of the Dysfunctional Family of Dark Horse

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The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite is a unique take on the fantastical world of superheroes with a misfit family trying to save the world while also dealing with each other.  In a disgruntled family, Numbers 1-5 battle throughout this book in order to solve the mystery of the world supposedly ending in 5 days.  This is the first novel of the limited series and was later transferred into a Netflix original series.  The series became a massive hit and even spawned a second season that came out in early 2020.  The Apocalypse Suite started this famous franchise but in my opinion, wasn’t really a good start. The book was way too short for its own comfort, not letting you build relationships with the characters at all.  While it did have a very humorous sense of gory, unnecessary violence, the book just doesn’t have enough pages to really deliver the punch that it wanted to land on the reader. The Netflix series however makes this up giving it the time it needs to give you the character development that Gerard Way wanted from the comic.  With the series really fulfilling the book, it also included many other story arcs that weren’t introduced in the novel including the time agency. The characters in the book are much more violent than in the series which is a positive that I would have to say on this book, it’s extremely edgy. I mean that in the best way possible, however, keeping the line between satire comedy and straight-up dark and gruesome is a very difficult task which this book aces in flying colors. The novel takes the dysfunctional family of Dark Horse and puts them in intense, and sometimes very emotional, situations and sees how they would be able to handle it together as a team. Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba did an outstanding job on this piece of work revolutionizing the comic book market.

BEHIND THE AUTHORS

Gerard Way is an American Singer/songwriter, comic book writer, and film producer. He is practically a jack of all trades. The majority of his comics have received awards including the Eisner Award and the Harvard award for best series for the Umbrella Academy. He was part of the band My Chemical Romance with hit songs such as Action Cat and Happy Together. He was the executive producer for the Umbrella Academy television series and is currently working on a new iteration of the True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. His first work in the comic book industry was actually the Umbrella Academy (2008) and then he continued with The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys (2013-2014), Untitled (2014), Doom Patrol (2016), DC’s Young Animal Music Tape (2017), Joan of Arc (2017), Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye (2016-2017), Milk Wars (2018), and Doom Patrol Weight of the Worlds (2019-2020). Gerard Way is an accomplished Singer and Comic Book writer as the current Co-Founder of DC Comics’ Young Animal imprint.

Gabriel Ba is a prestigious comic artist with his works spanning from Casanova and Daytripper. His unique art makes him one of the most distinct in this Gothic thin drawings of bizarre characters in bizarre places. Most known for his work on the Hellboy franchise, Gabriel Ba is related to another comic book artist Fabio Moon, his twin. Gabriel has worked on  Ursula (2004), Casanova (2006-2007), Becky (2007), The Umbrella Academy (2008), BRPD: 1947 (2009-2010), PIXU (2009), Daytripper (2010), Two Brothers (2015), and De: Tales Hellboy: The Coffin Man 2—The Rematch (2015). Gabriel’s work is most prolific with Casanova, Umbrella Academy, and Hellboy really taking centerfold pulling the reader’s intention with his art. Gabriel Ba and Gerard Way are both incredible authors and definitely deserve the credit they are given, but it is a very specific audience they are getting.

SYNOPSIS

If you want the full experience of this book I suggest you buy the graphic novel and read it, If however, you don’t have the time for that this is an alternate option.

In the same year that Tusslin Tom Gurney knocked out the space-squid from Rigel X-9 on the time of 9:58 pm, 43 children with extraordinary powers were born to mostly single women who showed no signs of pregnancy until that point. Sir Reginald Hargreeves, a world famous entrepreneur and inventor sought out to find these children for unknown reasons, he only got 7 of them. He wiped each of the childrens’ identities and created a prestigious school called the Umbrella Academy for them to hone their powers and “save the world” as Sir Reginald Hargreeves believed that was their destiny. The children weren’t seen until the fateful day that the Eiffel Tower went berserk.

The kids -at a young age- battle Zombie-Robot Gustave Eiffel to recapture the Eiffel Tower. We see each of the children’s powers in this segment. Number 1 has the power of superhuman strength and is the leader of the team. Number Two has the power to throw knives or any object for that matter with insane accuracy always hitting his target, the most reckless out of the seven, Number Three has the power of mind control, with the four words of “I heard a rumor” and so on she can’t command people to do her bidding, Number 4 can contact the dead in the spirit world which later ends up driving him insane, Number 5 can time travel although he is not in this segment for quite literally going too far into time, Number 6 can transform into a tentacle monster, and Number 7 can do absolutely nothing except play the violin apparently. We get the surprising twist at the end of the fight that the Eiffel Tower is a spaceship and takes off, saving Paris. The kids all celebrate with a scoop of ice cream and the key to the city as Number 1 contemplates and confesses to his father that he wants to go to the moon, where he gets the straightforward reply “and so you shall”.

Flash forward to the present twenty years later where we see Number One, now known as SpaceBoy on the moon. He gets a call from Dr. Pogo, the monkey Hargreeves worked on, reporting the news that Hargreeves is dead. During this panel, we see several newspaper clippings of what happened in the span of 20 years. Number One was sent to space as he wished but later received critical injuries on his expedition to Mars, because of this, Hargreeves injects monkey genetics into Spaceboy to save him. This incident gave him a large gorilla physique segregating him from the rest of civilization. Number One heads back to Earth. Number Seven is shown in the next panel in an apartment in the city. She gets an anonymous call that requests her violin performance. The caller later declares that it is for revenge. We see a book in one of the panels called Extra-Ordinary: My Life as Number 7 where she writes on her isolation and trauma from the Academy. Spaceboy heads into the mansion where Hargreeves and the rest of them lived to where he sees in his surprise, Number Five, who has been gone for twenty years informing that something far worse is coming than the death of their father.

Spaceboy is startled from Pogo who notifies him that his sister, Rumor, has been welcomed into the mansion. He converses with Rumor as Sceance, Number 4, enters in a very fashionable entrance. The next segment shows a fair being decimated by drones after being alerted that the Umbrella Academy has been reunited. We are shown some backstory on what happened to Number 5 as he got stuck in the future where the apocalypse happens three days after Hargreeves death. He found the way back home using a formula but was pushed out of the time stream leading to him being stuck in his prepubescent 10-year-old body. Kraken Aka. Number 3 appears and starts throwing accusations around that someone may have killed Hargreeves. They go to the funeral where their mother monologues on her husband and how his death must not be in vain when Number 3 takes off her coat, revealing that she is a robot. Number 3 and Number 1 get into an argument as Number 4 ponders why Number 7 Aka. Vanya isn’t there, perhaps she could even play her violin as they drop the coffin. Vanya enters the audition where she sees a blinding light covering the audience. She plays but sadly a string snaps before she can get to the end. The audience applause as they are revealed to be The Orchestra Vermaddtem, a group of psychopaths and murderers. They try to recruit her as their final piece to end the world but she quickly flees to get assistance from her family. During the fight, the very dysfunctional family sees the carnival on fire in the distance, due to the droids flooding the city. The droids were sent by Dr. Terminal, now dead, who sent it as a “farewell gift” if the team ever reunites. Number 3 rushes to the scene leaving the academy behind. The team reunites to save the carnival and destroy the droids.

We get sent on another flashback of Mr. Terminal interrogating Number 3 in a bloody doctors office. He confesses his life story practically before eating her since he’s you know, a cannibal. Number One intervened and Number Three is taken out of the flashback into a burning fair of destruction. The Team try to fight off the droids to get the civilians out of the area, Vanya heads over to the carnival via taxi. Pogo and Number 5 examine the biology of Number 5’s peculiar age as he is a 60 year old man stuck in the shell of a ten year old boy. However, he is not aging as his cell growth and death rates have stopped, suggesting that his body is quite literally stuck in time. We get sent into a very horrific scene where Kraken tries to rescue 3 children off of a boat ride as droids creep towards them. During this, Seance, Spaceboy, and Rumor try to defend and protect all civilians as they evacuate but are struggling to do so. Seance cracks a joke or two in this very stressful situation. Kraken rescues the three children, barely living, and asks them for a shirt to hide the blood stains. Vanya enters the carnival trying to notify the team of the orchestra but quickly gets put in danger. Kraken saves her from an explosion but yells at her after the save. He goes off on Vanya and in doing so she flees the scene. The team save the city but quickly realize that this loses them time to save the world from the unknown cataclysmic event. Vanya accepts the Orchestra’s offer to perform.

We get sent on one more flashback of Vanya having a mental breakdown expressing how she just doesn’t belong in the academy. Pogo comforts her explaining to her that if shes the only that doesn’t have powers, she’s the only special one. The Orchestra experiment on Vanya to reach her full potential, as she is the most powerful of the academy but was suppressed by Hargreeves for being far too powerful,  by torturing her body into releasing the mutation. Pogo and Number 5 go flying around the strip explaining their morals to each other and how no matter what they will try to stop the apocalypse from happening. Vanya reaches her full transformation as the White Violin. The family get into another argument about Vanya and their father. Spaceboy goes on patrol with Rumor and Seance. Number 5 and Pogo go to a diner and discuss how most people don’t believe the end of the world is near and how its just another false alarm. A group of mysterious soldiers appear asking for identification of Number 5. The White Violin shows off her power to the Orchestra by splitting their leader in half with a musical note.

We come back to the diner where a detective is interrogating one of the workers who explains how Number 5 slaughtered the unknown soldiers and practically blowed them to smithereens.  Kraken converses with the detective and comes to the conclusion that the end of the world has something to do with Vanya as there has been missing violinists in the area during this time. Pogo gives Number 5 a cup of coffee back at the academy as he scavenges through Hargreeves room for his revolver, ends up finding his monocle instead. He puts on the monocle and sees Pogo’s trauma in his early periods of Hargreeves experiments on the chimp, Number 5 faints from all the information being thrown at him. Spaceboy and Rumor express their love for each other on a rooftop in the next panel, not much to really talk about here except that we learn of their relationship. The White Violin implodes the mansion as a “warm up” alerting Pogo. In a gloating manner, Vanya expresses to Pogo that he was right, she was special. Pogo’s brains get blown out from Vanya’s musical note, The Orcesta leaves the scene. Number Five wakes up an examines Vanya’s powers with the Monocle that can inform him of all of Hargreeve’s experiments. The rest of the family enter the mansion in an alarmed manner questioning 5 of what happened while they left for patrol.

We get sent into the future where the Family confront the White Violin for the finale. Kraken goes in without his family and tries to calm down Vanya who already lossed her sanity the moment she unlocked her powers. The rest of the family barge in and try to fight their way to Vanya. Alison tries to use her power on Vanya but gets her throat slit before finishing the phrase. Number 1 tries to get Allison help at the hospital leaving Kraken, Seance, and Number 5 to deal with the matter at hand. Seance uses Vanya’s trauma by acting as her father, Hargreeves. This stuns Vanya and gives Number 5 enough time to blast her in the head with Hargreeve’s revolver. Vanya loses control of her body and ends up not being able to prevent the apocalypse that she started. Number 5 states as the world is coming to an end, “you know something Vanya, I never liked you”.

In a plot twist, The fragments of the moon hurtling towards Earth stop just in the nick of time as Seance uses his telekinesis powers to stop the 40 ton fragment from destroying Earth. Allison’s life was saved with Luthor near her side the entire time, Vanya was able to recover from the bullet as it nearly missed a vital portion of her brain by millimetres. The Family head back to the Mansion’s ruins and begin working on reconstructing the Academy.

MY THOUGHTS AND CONCLUSION

The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite is a splendid book with stunning visuals and art that completely engulfs you into the novel. With its dark and satirical humor, The Umbrella Academy uses near perfect character structure and world building that gets you attached to the protagonists, the biggest problem with this book however is time. While time is one of the most notorious villains of the Umbrella Academy, its also one of the books’ biggest weaknesses. The books are far too short for their own good as the reader isn’t able to build connections with the characters. The segments go on far too fast and sometimes can even push forward the plot without using proper story elements to do so. Many of the characters can make up with this for each of their unique personalities but most of them are usually forgotten and just used as plot devices. Take the leader of the Orchestra for example, He was one of the most notorious villains in this world and had immense powers that could be a major threat to the academy, but he was quickly killed off at the end of chapter 4.

The first Volume is by far one of the better books of the series keeping the reader hooked in one sitting. However, there is much inconsistencies in the book and many plot lines just completely forgotten. The monocle that Number 5 wears in Chapter 5 gives him and us, the reader, information about Pogo but that’s all we see of the monocle’s powers. In the same scene as well we see Number 5 conversing with Pogo about his past life starting with the Kennedy assassination, which would make no sense of he was sent in the future and not the past. I’m positively sure though that these plots will be revisited in Vol. 2: Dallas and maybe even fully explained, but by introducing them just to connect it to the second volume is very useless and a cheap gimmick for readers to look back at when they are finished with the series. I give Umbrella Academy Vol.1: Apocalypse Suite a 7/10 for its stunning world building but its not so stunning plot.

WORKS CITED

Barnett, David. “My Comic Book Romance: Why Gerard Way Ditched Emo for Ink.” The Guardian, The Guardian, 5 Oct. 2017, http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/oct/05/gerard-way-my-chemical-romance-comic-book-writer. Accessed 18 Nov. 2020.

“Gabriel Bá.” Image Comics, 2020, imagecomics.com/creators/gabriel-ba. Accessed 18 Nov. 2020.

“Gabriel Bá.” Hellboy Wiki, 2018, hellboy.fandom.com/wiki/Gabriel_B%C3%A1. Accessed 19 Nov. 2020.

These images were used from the Umbrella Academy Vol.1: Apocalypse Suit (2008) from Dark Horse Comics

1 comments on “Umbrella Academy Vol.1: The Apocalypse Suite, A Near Perfect Origin of the Dysfunctional Family of Dark Horse”

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