Sunday, September 19, 2010

Review: DOOM PATROL #13


While I've had my eye on the new DOOM PATROL series, keeping tabs on the general reactions from other readers here and there, I had yet to actually read an issue of it.

#13 was my first taste of Keith Giffen and Matthew Clark's latest revival of the classic super-team. And I liked it.

The group has the "super-hero family" dynamics down pat and Giffen does a great job giving each character a defining voice.

In "I'm Still Rita", Rita Farr (Elasti-Girl) reveals a secret that forever changes the way her teammates (and readers) will view her.

SPOILERS. Skip this paragraph if you don't want to know just yet what the "secret" is.
Rita lets the others know that she DID die in the explosion years ago. The Chief, in all his omnipotence (and arrogant egomania) rebuilt her from just a bit of her skull and some protoplasm. Now just a blob, with no bones or internal organs, Rita sums it up best with "I'm Gumby, dammit."
END SPOILERS.

The group takes the news rather well. Cliff and Larry realize that while all this time they felt Rita was so much better off then them, now she's really no different.

The subject of disassociation comes up and I think what we really see is a question of identity. Are we who we are because of who we were? And if you remove who we were, who are we now?

Cliff and Larry have gone through this before. Both have been removed from their past lives and have identity problems at times because of how far they've been removed from what they feel identify them.

When you have nothing remaining of your body... nothing remaining but your consciousness (if it even is yours)... you can have problems believing you are you. All you have are memories.

Ironically, I was listening to Blade Runner the other day and the part where Rachel's playing the piano came on. She explains to Deckard that she remembers learning to play but not sure if it's her memories or those of Tyrell's niece. His response was "You play beautifully" which was his way of stressing that no matter what, she's Rachel, regardless of the memories she had. She is who she is. Rachel.

This reminded me of Rita and what I think Giffen was trying to convey in the story. Cliff, Larry and Rita (even Karen- a great addition to the team, btw) all struggle with a sense of identity. It eventually boils down to each of the characters coming to the understanding that Rita is still Rita. Just as much as Cliff is still Cliff or Larry is still Larry. A greater bond seems to form between them from this common handicap.

Meanwhile, Rita becomes a stronger woman through accepting herself and her situation. This leads her to confront Steve Dayton, her telepathic ex-husband, who can't seem to stay off her mind (literally and figuratively). This part ends the story as we get a glimpse at how Dayton casually puts the phrase "passive aggressive" in a whole new light.

Again, I must comment on the spectacular characterization by Giffen in this book. The dialogue flows very well, especially in the conversation between Rita and Steve.

I had hoped that this series would finally show what the Doom Patrol is all about and I'm not disappointed. It's a shame that while Marvel's X-Men has turned into the humongous comics/movie franchise, DC's oddball misfit team got left behind so long ago.

I give DOOM PATROL #13 5 out of 5 stars.
Go here for a five page preview of the issue.

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