Reading "Doom Patrol" is turning into a slight journey of frustration. The ideas are there, the set-up is good, but there's just something slightly "off" and it's keeping everything from succeeding. Sadly, that something that's slightly off is probably the overall tone of the book.
Keith Giffen certainly doesn't have a shortage of ideas here, with the team heading off to investigate a sentient black hole that wishes to negotiate with the Doom Patrol. The black hole looking up Doom Patrol on the DC Universe version of Wikipedia is clever, and supporting characters Rocky and Bumblebee even get a scene together away from the rest of the chaos of the book. Even the Chief is up to something or another, being his creepy manipulative self. In outline form, it sounds like it should be a fun comic.
When you read Arnold Drake's, Grant Morrison's, Rachel Pollack's, or even John Arcudi's "Doom Patrol" comics, there was always a sense of wonder and fun about the strange things that the team would encounter. Sure, their foes were deadly more often than not, and it was a fight for survival from one bad guy to the next. But there was still some sort of joy about the book, no matter how bleak things got. I think it's that joy which "Doom Patrol" is currently missing. It's as if the title "Doom Patrol" is being taken a little too literally, with doom and gloom perpetually hovering over the characters.
It's all the odder when you compare the story to the second feature, co-written with J.M. DeMatteis and starring the Metal Men. It has everything that the main feature's script is missing; a sense of fun and entertainment from start to finish. Sure, Giffen and DeMatteis provide a lot of silliness for the reader, from Gold and Tina's arguments to Copper's still being overlooked, plus the rest of the Metal Men trying to fit in to the neighborhood. It's enough fun that it makes me wish that down the line the main and second feature could switch slots for a month and we could get a 22-page Metal Men story.
The art for both features looks good, which is a plus. Matthew Clark's pencils are actually reminding me a bit of older Brandon Peterson comics, especially the way that he draws Rita Farr's curly hair. It's the little details that I think Clark is excelling at, not just hair but rows of scaffolding on buildings, or old churches and pine trees in the backgrounds of establishing shots. Kevin Maguire's art in the second feature is beautiful as always, a lush smooth style that just flows across the page. It's a genuine joy to see Maguire on a regular basis, and he certainly helps up the fun level in his story.
I want to like "Doom Patrol" but I think Giffen needs to make this a little more inviting. Right now all of the characters are perpetually griping and moaning about their lives, in a "hits a little too close to home" sort of way. Excerpts from Rita Farr's journal where she keeps writing, "Every day in every way I am getting better and better," is a pretty big downer, and the book's full of that sort of gem. Where's the fun? Can't we have some, please?