I do so dearly love the Doom Patrol. All of their incarnations bring something very different and memorable to comics. Keith Giffen has recognized that in this series and has used that to his advantage, selectively plucking threads from those series and weaving them into this one. Take the “Second Generation Arcudi Cloak” for example. Fun stuff there, a wink and a nod to the readers who have followed the Patrol for more than this current run, but not an inside joke that derails the series.
This issue continues the story that started in “Secret Six” #30 two weeks ago, giving the Doom Patrol and the Six a chance to even the score following their first encounter in the “Secret Six” mini from a few years back. Giffen brings his standard-issue best to this issue of “Doom Patrol,” complete with some snappy one-liners from Larry, heaps of exasperation from Cliff, and Rita Farr deciding enough is just about enough. Giffen gets the added bonus, however, of playing with the Secret Six. He manages to give each of them a moment (or two) to shine and does so in a manner that is consistent with the characters’ existence elsewhere. Giffen makes no bones about the fact that this is the Doom Patrol’s book, though. The team gets the best scenes of this issue, and the snappiest banter.
As good as the writing is, the art tries to step up and match, but frequently falls short. The disparity between Clark and Randall is pretty evident in this issue. If you flip through and simply look for King Shark (he has six panels total) you can see the variance exemplified. This issue suffers from the combination of tag team artwork and being the second half of the two-part installment. By the end of the issue, over the course of forty pages, we’ve seen the same characters rendered three different ways. Luckily there weren’t nearly a dozen characters running around on these pages fighting each other and mingling with subordinate storylines, or this would have been a real mess. Oh wait. There were a baker’s dozen characters. Well then, that changes everything. Seriously, Clark and Randall are both very good to great artists, but their styles just don’t work well together when they’re synchronized, and this issue was not synchronized a bit. In addition to the wildly shifting King Shark, Eric Fine – the big bad of the issue – goes from having a goatee to no goatee in the matter of two pages that would be representative of two minutes of time at most. Randall handles the last page, which just doesn’t carry the same ambiance as Clark’s final pages have to this point in the series. It’s a dramatic scene, ripe with consequence certain to burst forth next issue, but it just doesn’t pack visual punch.
“Doom Patrol” is a book that has been criminally overlooked. Each and every issue has humor, action, adventure, wild and crazy comic book science, absurd characters, and good art, but it doesn’t seem to have the charm to draw readers in. The recent news of its cancellation comes as no surprise. It’s a shame, because this issue would give you most of what you need to know to move forward. Giffen isn’t afraid of encapsulating and building at the same time, and he is one of the few writers nowadays who can do that effectively. But as it stands, there’s only a couple of issues left. But if you do get this issue, you’ll have a chance to see Danny the Bungalow in action. Ambush Bug too.