To come clean, I read this first issue of Hotel Oblivion and was confused. I mean, I understood what was happening; I just had no point of reference. It didn’t seem like “the beginning.” I guess Umbrella Academy was something I had only seen in passing but never read, so I spent the last day reading the first two volumes, and it was an extremely enjoyable and emotionally rattling experience.
The brothers and sisters of the Umbrella Academy were born on the same day, with special powers, all across the globe and gathered by Hargreeves (an alien disguised as a wealthy entrepreneur). He would then train the children to use their powers for the betterment of the world. He found seven of them - Spaceboy (hero with a human head and a giant gorilla body), The Kraken, The Rumor, The Séance, Number Five, The Horror, and The White Violin - and while he trained them to use their powers, he had no idea how to train them to be healthy minded human beings. This has created a team of heroes who will do anything to stop the bad guys, but they have a really hard time not being terrible to each other. It’s actually deeply upsetting at times and darkly funny at other times, but it’s never cheap or manipulative. It never goes for the low-hanging fruit. Instead, every character “pinballs” off of each other, sloshing their psychological messes everywhere and leaving a trail they have to clean up later. The one caretaker that they had who cared about them as people and not just tools to be manipulated was a walking, talking chimpanzee named Pogo – yes, chimpanzees can walk and talk in this world.
Honestly, it’s been awhile since moments of violence have hit me as viscerally and emotionally as they did while reading this series, and that’s because it’s difficult watching these internal wounds become weapons against each other. At the same time, you genuinely root for these siblings, because you see where these wounds came from and you see them wanting to be better. Nature versus nurture is on display in this book, and it seems that nurture (or lack thereof) is what has made these characters who they are. If you haven’t read any of the Umbrella Academy series, know that there is a reason it is award winning and that it’s getting its own Netflix show. It’s pretty freaking great.
Creative Team: Gerard Way (writer), Gabriel Bá (artist), Nick Filardi (colors), Nate Piekos from Blambot (letters), Scott Allie (editor)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
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