When Keith Giffen's revamp of "Doom Patrol" was first announced, I remember a lot of promises that it would somehow encompass all versions of the team over the years. Aside from killing off some members of the John Byrne iteration of the team and some brief appearances of Bumblebee, though, that promise has gone mostly unfulfilled. Well, at least until now, where Giffen seems to be doing everything in his power to make up for lost time on that front.
The problem with this technique is that it feels like Giffen is throwing everything at the wall, trying to lure readers back in. The end result is an issue where the main characters are only on one page, and we get jumps to heroes and villains of "Doom Patrol" past as they all hurriedly get pulled into the story. Some are names I had to look up; I don't think I ever would have remembered (to mention an obscure character) that Thayer Jost was the financial backer of the team during the John Arcudi run on "Doom Patrol." Other faces are a little more familiar, and quite frankly a bit surprising. I hope Giffen has a strong story to go with these characters returning; it feels right now like it's pandering towards a departing readership, but I'd be glad to be proven wrong. It's almost like the comic equivalent of stunt casting, where high-profile actors role in during sweeps month to try and entice new viewers to stop by with them.
It probably also doesn't help that in a book that's focusing on the supporting cast this month that I find it hard to care about them. Characters like the Oolong Island staff, Rocky from the Challengers of the Unknown, or even the Chief are failing to offer up any story hooks that make them compelling characters. It's actually a little disappointing that even in their big spotlight issue, they aren't coming across as terribly interesting. When Oberon and a moving company for superhumans being introduced ends up as the most exciting part of the book, something has gone slightly wrong for the past six issues.
Matthew Clark is joined by Cliff Richards this month to pencil the book, and while both of them are good artists, it's a strange combination. Their artistic styles don't look much like one another; heavily detailed on one page, then open and clean on the next. I do have to commend Clark (or at least I'm guessing it's him) for his artistic depiction of a certain character from "Doom Patrol" past; he apes the style and look in a way for this character that actually made me grin at the care put into that splash page.
"Doom Patrol" #7 also has the final installment of the Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire second-feature starring the Metal Men. This was normally my favorite part of the book, although it falls slightly flat here with a sudden rush to wrap things up. It's too bad, because the early pages show off the slightly juvenile humor that made the book fun, especially with Maguire's beautiful art. As it's hurried towards a conclusion, though, it's a hint at what could have been if the second feature had only continued.
With the Metal Men gone, Giffen was smart to bring in some special guest stars from the past. But even then, I'm starting to feel like he's got maybe one or two more issues to convince me that things are turning around. For now, this is a series that looks to be floundering, and I'm not convinced that it's going to become seaworthy any time soon.