Book Review: The Umbrella Academy – Vol. 1: The Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way

Image Description: the book-cover of The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: The Apocalypse Suite. The cover is mostly black and white (predominately white with black outlines). It’s an image of Vanya, in a skin-tight white outfit with black line-sections, the outfit makes her body look like a violin. Vanya is also holding her violin to her chin and she’s holding the bow just above the strings.

Title: The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: The Apocalypse Suite
Creators: Gerard Way (Writer), Gabriel Bá (Artist), and Dave Stewart (Colourist)
Social Media: Goodreads
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Format and Price: eBook format $6.03
Stars: 4 stars out of 5

About The Creators:
Gerard Way: Gerard Way began writing and drawing comics at age five when his grandmother first put a pencil in his hand. Having developed a love of the arts, Way attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City where he honed his skills as a writer and an artist before he made a career as a musician. He was a guest speaker at the prestigious Oxford Union and is a Grammy-nominated art director. He currently lives with his wife and children in Los Angeles, California. He’s also in a band.

Gabriel Bá: Gabriel Bá and his twin brother Fábio Moon have been telling comic book stories for the last ten years in their hometown of Sáo Paulo-Brazil’s biggest megalopolis. Their first major US release, De: TALES, collects stories that show their interest in human relations and their eye for the details that make each person unique. As an artist, after taking the challenge of creating the sci-fi mind-bending Casanova with writer Matt Fraction, Bá saw in The Umbrella Academy the chance to work on a mainstream superhero project where he could get deep into the characters while throwing punches and flying around.

About The Book:
In an inexplicable worldwide event, forty-seven extraordinary children were spontaneously born to women who’d previously shown no signs of pregnancy. Millionaire inventor Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of the children; when asked why, his only explanation was, “To save the world.”

These seven children form the Umbrella Academy, a dysfunctional family of superheroes with bizarre powers. Their first adventure at the age of ten pits them against an erratic and deadly Eiffel Tower, piloted by the fearsome zombie-robot Gustave Eiffel. Nearly a decade later, the team disbands, but when Hargreeves unexpectedly dies, these disgruntled siblings reunite just in time to save the world once again.

Collecting: The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite 1-6, as well as out-of-print short stories and an expanded sketchbook section featuring work by Gabriel Bá, James Jean, and Gerard Way

General Observations:
~Unique Art Style: The art style is definitely different from what I’ve seen before. The facial expressions are most certainly unique.

~Sliding Scale of Plot versus Character: The graphic novel has a predominate Plot Focus to it. I like that in the graphic novel that Vanya had more agency and it is interesting to know that Hargreaves Monicle is not just a Monicle. The problem with Volume 1 is that it’s much more interested in planting plot seeds than exploring why the characters behave the way they do.

In fact, the reason I didn’t give this five out of five stars is that the graphic novel spent so much of its narrative space focusing on plot (normally something I prefer), to the point where there was little space for character exploration, so the characters seemed a little shallow, and their motives not as believable or clear as they could have been.

~Book Versus Movie: It’s kind of impossible to not make comparisons between the graphic novel and the Netflix adaptation, especially since I came into contact with the Netflix adaptation first, however, I would have to acknowledge that the Netflix series (while interesting) does focus more on character and character history.

While Pogo dies in Volume 1 and in the TV series, the moment in the Netflix series is more impactful, as the viewer has had more time to get to know Vanya and Pogo, and the viewer has a better understanding of Vanya’s emotional state and motives.

As this is a show intended for mainstream audiences, there is more effort put into making the characters likeable. This can be a plus or a minus depending on your point of view.

All in all, an interesting urban fantasy graphic novel, with a focus on complex superheroes, and a unique art-style. Happy to recommend.

Available for Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

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