It’s impossible to boil down Doom Patrol’s essence into a post short enough to warrant reading, but I’ll be damned if I won’t try.
In Recognition of Its People
Character design, and superhero character design in particular, has always been a source of fascination for me. And no one, absolutely no one, has done character design and re-design better than Grant Morrison has here.
To cast the Doom Patrol as a superhero team, and subsequently lump them in with names like the Avengers or the Justice League, is to do them a horrible disservice. The Doom Patrol that Morrison gives us in 1989 has more in common with the spots you see when you stand up too quickly or the disoriented fear of waking up from a mid-evening nap than it does with the token bands of Marvel or DC.
Morrison’s Doom Patrol comprises a loose scoop of colorful characters with gobs of representation that feels more at home in 2020 than it likely did in the late ‘80s.
Morrison plays with gender identity and fluidity with heroes like Rebis and Danny the Street. He introduces Eleanor Poole and retains Joshua Clay to avoid the whitewashing of the team many superhero organizations suffer from. Robotman suffers from PTSD in the opening pages of the collection. Morrison even makes an attempt at removing the stigma of mental illness with the introduction of Crazy Jane.
More than 30 years ahead of its time, Doom Patrol must be lauded for its efforts to provide points of personal reference in the midst of its fever-dream plotlines and outrageous settings. In comic culture that has become painfully aware of its own lack of diversity and representation, Morrison’s work displays it effortlessly and without haughty self-reference.
In Recognition of Its Villains
The intense character design spins beyond just the central cast, delivering villains like Red Jack, who claims to be god and draws power from the pain of butterflies, and Mr. Nobody, an experiment gone wrong who spends his pages raging against reason and normalcy.
Each villain could well be deserving of their own Infinity War-esque arc. But Morrison restricts them to a mere handful of leaves after skimming the top of their mythos, allowing for the reader to expand upon their universes in individualized enthusiasm.
In Recognition of Its Missteps
In criticisms of Doom Patrol, there are few. Chief among the limited criticisms I have is the perpetual brain-battering writing you will encounter between the covers. Morrison’s creativity is boundless here, and he takes every opportunity to flex that creativity. There are a handful of instances in which Morrison’s creativity begins to obscure the action, forcing the reader to re-read or forge ahead in hopes of finding traction in the following panels.
Luckily, these instances are few and far between, detracting little from the depth and beauty of the overall work.
The Final Verdict
Morrison’s Doom Patrol is a singular, unparalleled piece of art. It is an unrelenting salvo of creativity and a sublime supernatural trip from start to finish. Its place on NPR’s list of the greatest comics and graphic novels is undeniably deserved.
Without any hesitation whatsoever, I’d call it Well Worth The Purchase.