After three issues of doom and gloom (no pun intended), I was starting to wonder if "Doom Patrol" was the book for me. Sure, there was always fun waiting in the Metal Men second feature (more on that in a bit), but it was hardly enough justification to buy an entire book. But this month, a funny thing happened. Somehow, the latest "Doom Patrol" didn't seem quite so grim. That's impressive, when you consider that it's also a "Blackest Night" tie-in.
If you think about it, there's a huge potential "dead former members" roster available for this sort of issue: Celsius, Scott Fischer, Karma, Tempest, Dorothy Spinner, Coagula, Fever, Nudge... you get the idea. Giffen has fun with this, digging up a former member best suited to each of the main four characters in "Doom Patrol." And their confrontations? Some of them are more interesting than you'd suspect. It helps that Giffen mixes in some other tidbits that feel more in line with "Doom Patrol" than what we've had up until now, like Robotman's exchangeable heads, or the fact that the team is based on Oolong Island means that at least one former Doom Patrol villain is also living there. This is the first issue of the new "Doom Patrol" that felt like it moved at a brisk pace, and I'm hoping this is the turning point for the series.
Guest artists Justiniano and Livesay provide an attractive look for the book, with angular character designs for the latest Black Lanterns that provide an attractively off-kilter appearance for the heroes-turned-villains. At the same time, there's a creepy texture to their faces, especially the Chief's returning Black Lantern; it's a skin pattern that reminds me almost of the mummification process, a great touch to tackling the book. If Justiniano became the regular fill-in penciller for "Doom Patrol" I'd be just fine with that.
The second feature starring the Metal Men is unsurprisingly fun as always. The appearance of the new team known as the Clique look like they could be simultaneously played for fun and serious drama; if nothing else, having a counterpart group to the Metal Men makes perfect sense. The fact that most of the Metal Men themselves barely appear in this latest issue didn't even sink in until later, because Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis keep the story and dialogue as crisp and fast-moving as ever. Kevin Maguire's art seems slightly stripped down in places, but overall it's still smooth and graceful, a breath of fresh air in today's market. With the Metal Men second feature's first "to be continued" moment, I'm actually slightly more eager to see how this story pans out over the main feature, so they're definitely doing something right.
I never thought a "Blackest Night" tie-in could end being fun, but Giffen's script for the main feature of "Doom Patrol" just proved that it's possible. I'm hoping this means that we're at the end of the Grim Patrol; there needs to be some more fun moments to balance out the serious bits. Fingers crossed, the book might be heading in the right direction.