For the first four issues of the new Umbrella Academy series, Hotel Oblivion, creators Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá have been slowly pulling back the bands of a slingshot. In the last issue, you could hear the rubber creak and stretch as it was about to reach its limit, and in issue five, they’ve let the bullet go, and it’s flying fast and wild. Now, the question is, where will it hit? What’s the target?
You can tell from the first series of this world, way back in 2007 with Apocalypse Suite, the creators loved these characters: a group of kids who came across special abilities and were reared by a billionaire alien in disguise. They knew they had something special, something different, and they did. They had something that spit in the face of your typical superhero genre conventions. It rang authentic and weird. At the same time, Way and Bá have never been reverent. They take these characters and put them through the ringer, both physically and emotionally. This skillful writing is on par with Claremont’s run on the Uncanny X-Men. Whereas Claremont was playing with those superhero tropes, Way and Bá are like, “What tropes?”
Hotel Oblivion is almost a decade after the last limited series ran, and the new Netflix series will be premiering on the 15th. My point being, Way and Bá are telling this story exactly how they want to. They don’t feel beholden to fans to pay service to them, and they don’t care about reaching a new audience for their Netflix show. They love these characters so much that they are taking their time. It’s been ten years, and they want to do it right, not to do it for you and how you want it to go or to find a new audience by softening the tone. They are giving these characters a story they deserve. A story that’s complex, one that has so many threads that in the earlier stages, it was easy to become flummoxed (but never not entertained) trying to follow all of the tangential threads with a month in between each issue. When this is all done, I’ll be curious to see if all of these threads will connect, or if there are going to be multiple McGuffins!
And like me, if you’ve been waiting for those threads to connect, they really do in a big way in this issue. It all explodes outwards from the small action of one criminal trying to escape from an unjust imprisonment, and something tells me that explosion’s shockwaves will quickly reach outward to all of the super-powered siblings of the Umbrella Academy before this is over.
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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