THIS REVIEW OF ‘DOOM PATROL’ #12 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Clyde Hall. Thumbing through long boxes for the first eleven issues of DC’s Young Animal title Doom Patrol to reacquaint yourself in preparation for #12? Stop. Re-reading the series isn’t folly, mind you; weird delights racing and raving across every page will always be a part of its charm. You’d probably make a few new connections (and possibly a few new discoveries) that were missed the first time through. But know this going in: The final (for now) issue of Doom Patrol is a standalone focusing on Sam, Val, and Lucius Reynolds.
It’s also a sharp right spin from the deviant field of mind-bending narrative the series previously weaved. The story’s not terribly complex. An adventure across a high fantasy setting called the Daemonscape with a party of displaced 21st Century heroes may sound ripping; the potatoes are tiny compared with the altered-realities rollercoaster this incarnation of the Patrol’s already seen. In its own straightforward manner, it outlines the fate of EMT Sam and his reunited family after breaking from the tsunami wake of the team.
The story picks up after the Reynolds’ make their sudden departure from the main DP group in issue #10, and mostly before they re-appear in #11 to lend the team their assistance. The trio arrive in a mystic medieval world of sword and sorcery, and discover their family is the rightful royal lineage to the throne. Only it’s been sitting empty, with the powerful Chosen One (Lucius) exiled to our world and the realm under assault by the forces of a lich lord, Margoth the Unliving. Together the Reynolds must fulfill the prophesies and end Margoth’s threat, restoring peace and justice to the kingdom.
The storyline satisfies with observations on the eternal nature of our stories, affirmation of fierce strength through kindred bonds, and very bad things getting a full order of just deserts. The Dan McDaid and Nick Derington artwork is viable and firm, molded for this kind of story but still retaining the Doom Patrol core energy. Colors by Tamra Bonvillain are dungeony, subdued with brighter bursts reserved for the magical eruptions of flame and fury. The humanoid races and infernal entities are discerned using an impressive font medley by Todd Klein.
As stories go, though, it’s an afterthought. A creative one by normal standards, but still. “Eleven issues, an odd number to work with, TPB-wise. We get one more, but what story can we tell without tapping into future plots reserved for our return? Maybe give the Reynolds family resolution. We’ll do it like an RPG, where the player characters are Val, Sam, Lucius, and a few NPCs!”. Of course, with Doom Patrol the usual creativity gauges don’t apply. Readers who reveled in that Gerard Way bonkers stream of unfettered imagination may leave the party disappointed.
Conversely, by any other yardstick, “To Tame a Land” achieves its objectives with panache. The D&D approach is reverently spot-on, including overblown, unexplained names for places or items of power. Slugmen and other foul underlings working the evil overlord’s yoke onto the backs of the realm’s common folk. Goblinoids laughably not afraid to cut and run when the tide turns, overlord be bent. It’s an enjoyable little escapade where issues are addressed, personal obstacles overcome, and trust regained. Family therapy as role play.
As tributes go, this is a loving one. A cover perfectly adapting the classic look of a D&D module. Character stat sheets. A map and marker figures for cutting out. With a wizened guide, stock hero classes adapted by the protagonists, and assignation of enchanted weapons, only a Venger slip for Margoth is missing. In most other titles such an upbeat homage finale for a good and decent character like Sam would earn a round of stout on the house from the Prancing Pony innkeeper.
For Doom Patrol, it doesn’t feel natural. Unless the world of Una-Kalm takes a sudden turn for the Melnibonéan with future visits, it’s too safe. As safe as cathartically mending family ties while undertaking a dangerous quest that uses imagination, books, pencils, and dice rather than swords. Such shared fictions do have power. They unite people and establish friendships that endure decades. Maybe we’ve been given a seat for the Reynolds game night table top campaign. Not that it would necessarily remain harmless gaming, given that DP member Danny was a street, then a brick, and eventually an entire cosmos before becoming an ambulance.
A quote from author Julia Quinn goes, “You always get more respect when you don’t have a happy ending.” I respect the massive creative forces behind Doom Patrol sufficiently to make me suspicious of issue #12 as the end of the run. Nostalgic and sweet, yes. But like finding your first TSR plastic 20-sider replacing the d20 of a new Meteorite and Opal inlaid artisan set, you consign yourself that they’ll all still roll. It would just be nice if the set matched.
DC’s Young Animal/$3.99
Story by Gerard Way and Jeremy Lambert.
Art by Nick Derington and Dan McDaid.
Colors by Tamra Bonvillain.
Letters by Todd Klein.
7 out of 10