DC's Doom Patrol Review
Beware the Ides of March...and donkeys.
Guys I...I think I was wrong about the DC Universe streaming service. Well not wrong about the price, currently, or the fact that what it does offer is lacking in content. The latter part definitely does not warrant its current price. These are legit concerns for me. Yet after watching and being absolutely amazed and falling in love in just a short time with the characters in the new Doom Patrol series, I understand why DC would feel the need to do this. I understand why DC would bet on the fact that their audience, in multiple mediums, would eventually flock to this. More importantly why in a few years, there’s no way they would not want to stay. This is DC’s full assault against Netflix, and damn if the Doom Patrol is not an impressive third attack. They aren’t going to knock out Netflix any time soon, but if they continue at this pace, even Netflix is gonna have to respect their gangsta.
Doom Patrol, for those who aren’t aware, is one of the more golden era eccentric comic book ideas. The idea of it works in part because of its absurdity and also because of the writers who have used the series as a mirror of the industry itself. In other words, smart somewhat meta commentary on comic books and the mythology of superheroes. Commentary especially on the various ways powers are seemed to accidentally be bestowed on folks. At its best, the Doom Patrol comics are part the original Watchmen comic book series with a dash of the Fantastic Four, and a cup of the Mad Scientist with some Tales from the Crypt horror pulp stories from the 60’s and 70’s mixed in. The Grant Morrison run of the series is a perfect example of this.
The main characters that make up the team are Robotman (think the Thing), Elasti-Girl (Susan Storm with Mr. Fantastic’s powers), Negative Man (The Human Torch of the group) and The Chief (Reed Richard, but if he was crippled like Professor X). All of them had terrible, usually life ending, events happen to them leaving them powered but it also immensely scarred them and their team both physically and mentally. The Chief is usually the doctor, father figure and team leader for this band of misfits. Generally speaking, he isn’t always the nicest but he really does have their best interests at heart.
The TV show keeps with this general line up except with the addition of two characters. One is Crazy Jane who has been on the team many times before in its various interpretations. The other is Cyborg, famously known for his origins with the Teen Titans and, in recent years, associated with the Justice League. Initially, the addition of Cyborg didn’t make sense to fans, myself included, especially when you had a perfectly good Titan series to place him in.
Side Note: DC has confirmed for next season in Titans that he will be transitioning from one team/tv show to another.
Weirdest college tour ever
However, as I continued to watch Doom Patrol, I realized that the adult tone was necessary to convey the intent of the series. This is ironic because Titans was the first series to give us dark content which audiences weren't expecting. Doom Patrol thooo.. it beats Titans in the gruesome category. It’s funny as hell at times, but damn do you want to drink and give the characters a hug at the end of each episode.
What you mean " You people?"
A great example of this is the first episode called “Pilot.” This episode gavel us the origin story of Robotman, voiced amazingly by the internet’s favorite Mummy catcher, Brendan Frasier, and physically performed by Riley Shanahan, as Cliff Steele. In the first episode, we learn about his past before his accident as a drug abusing, serial cheating, aging champion race car driver. We discover his past intertwined as flashbacks during his transformation into Robotman, in addition to finding out about the loss of his family. As heart wrenching as it was to watch Cliff go through his own tragedies, I found myself laughing at times simply from his depressingly sad sarcasm and way of acting during all this. This is exactly who the character is in most versions of him in the comic books, and it’s a testament to Brendan Frasier as an actor that you see this so clearly in just one episode. Ya’ll most of the time you only see Cliff as Robotman, who has no face to emote with, yet it doesn't even matter with how good Brendan voices him as the tragic robot man.
You also are introduced to the origins of Elasti-Girl Rita Farr, played by April Bowlby, and Negative Man Larry Trainer, played by Matt Bomer and Matthew Zuk. You find out Rita was a 1950’s B film actress with A film diva attitude. Who during a shoot ends up in an accident causing her to turn into a sentient version of the Blob from the Thing movie if she doesn’t keep her emotional state in check. Larry who seemed to be the nicest most normal one of the trio is a married family man ace fighter pilot. Like a lot of similar origin stories, during an experimental flight finds trouble in the stars that causes him to crash. This leads to him being horribly burned and disfigured, but also now being the host of some alien like parasite inside of him.
These are deeply traumatized individuals who have no idea how to use the “gifts” they have been given. Usually causing more harm than good when they try to step out of the comfort of their home with the Chief to attempt to be heroes. The only one who seems to even remotely know how to use their power is Robotman who can act as the tank of the group, but to the horrible side effect he can’t feel anything at all. They have no business honestly taking matters in their own hands, but the story is woven so well that for them to be able to actually have lives after their incidents, and not just be living, they must go out in the world as Frankenstein’s monsters and learn who they can be..not who they were.
We haven’t seen the origin story of Crazy Jane yet, who ha 64 personalities each one with a separate super power, but the fact she’s called you CRAZY Jane, I doubt it’s filled with a trip to Disney with puppy dog belly rubs. Just saying. She’s played by Diane Guerrero most commonly known as Maritza from Orange is the New Black. She gives an absolute mischief in a glass bottle energy to Crazy Jane that makes any moment she is on screen as a possible scene stealer. Between her personalities and the random ways they can approach any situation, she is an absolute joy to watch.
Freshman year vs Senior year
The Cyborg character is the most known out of the group so his origin is pretty well known to folks by now. A young school star Vic Stone ends up in some type of accident at his father’s lab, and in the process of having his life saved is turned into Cyborg. The difference in this iteration played by Joivan Wade is he is not in that “Whoa is me!” phase we see in other current iterations. This Cyborg while he remembers all the time what happened to him, he uses it to be a better person, the best hero he can be. It’s even said throughout first meeting him that he's training himself to apply for the Justice League in a few years. This is the Cyborg who can really show what he can do, when not always depressed about his situation, which is a big bag of fresh air after the last few rides through his origin story to be honest.
The three faces of "Nobody"
Yet, what is a dysfunctional team of misfits, without a villain to match, and lordy lordy is Mr. Nobody perfect. Played by the always great to see show up Alan Tudyk, he is menacing in how ludicrous he seems to be. Breaking the 4th wall as the narrator of the story for the first few episodes, his powerset makes him seem like a certain 5th dimensional imp that Superman has a hard time with saying their name. His time shown while not much is used to its fullest potential to where even though he is clearly a big villain baddie, he’s so fun to watch you kind of root for him just to see what lethal hi-jinks comes up next. Keyword: flatulent donkey.
Episode 3 "Puppet Patrol"
I can honestly not think of one bad thing about this series currently, and 4 solid episodes in that is saying a lot. By this time in the Titans series while the premise was a lot better than the trailers portrayed, there were gaps in story and decisions that left audiences wanting. With Doom Patrol though...I got nothing. It’s the same type of feeling I had watching the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. There was no reason for any of this to work, but by embracing the camp and absurdity of the story and characters, DC has actually created an emotionally poignant and strong framework. The sky's the limit if they continue on this path, and I am all in for the ride. The next series up is slated to be Swamp Thing (a personal favorite of mine), and if the constant success and critical acclaim that DC Universe has received so far continues , it will herald something new. Not great in any means for the masses in terms of the streaming wars, but for fans who want to see dedication and passion placed in the projects of our favorite characters and pastimes, well, I’ll just say this. This may be the perfect time if your a DC fanboy or girl to put your money, where your mouth is.
Doom Patrol: A+