TV Review: Doom Patrol (2019- )

Original Run: February 15th, 2019 – current
Created by: Jeremy Carver
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Doom Patrol by Arnold Drake, Bob Haney, Bruno Premiani, Grant Morrison
Music by: Clint Marshall, Kevin Kiner
Cast: Diane Guerrero, April Bowlby, Joivan Wade, Alan Tudyk, Matt Bomer, Brendan Fraser, Timothy Dalton, Phil Morris, Curtis Armstrong (voice), Ed Asner (cameo)

Berlanti Productions, Jeremy Carver Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television, 15 Episodes (so far), 45-60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I wasn’t sure what to think about this show before seeing it. For one, the Titans TV show put out by the same streaming service, DC Universe, was pretty shaky and had a lot of issues. Plus, Doom Patrol is such a bizarre comic, especially during its Grant Morrison run, which this is based off of, that I didn’t know how that would translate to screen.

So I’m glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this show and then some. It exceeds my expectations, which is rare in the realm of TV superheroes where the field is dominated by inconsistent and now cancelled Netflix shows, as well as the CW wing of the DC TV universe, which has mostly turned to crap after some solid starts on a few of those shows.

Doom Patrol, however, feels more like AMC’s Preacher or FX’s Legion but without the mental clusterfuckery of the latter.

What makes this so damn solid is the ensemble. Everyone here truly feels at home in their roles and they have stellar chemistry as a group. Plus, adding in Timothy Dalton was a real win for the show.

I’m really glad to see Brendan Fraser in this, as his career has felt like it’s been on a hiatus for quite some time. He is the glue that holds this group together. He plays a conflicted, complex character going through some serious shit but he’s just so good at it.

Also, Diane Guerrero, who I liked on Orange is the New Black, steals the f’n show in every scene that she’s in and that’s a true feat considering how good everyone else is on this show. She plays a character with 64 different personalities and she shows incredible range and talent in her ability to pull them all off and sometimes switch from personality to personality on a dime. It’s very similar to James McAvoy’s character in Split and Glass but Guerrero is really impressive in that she has to pull this off over 15 one hour episodes.

I also really love April Bowlby on this show. I’m mostly only familiar with her role as Kandi on Two and a Half Men, where she was a real highlight of that show. I’ve seen her here and there over the years but man, she shines on this show and I’m glad to see her working on a project that lets her do some real dramatic and emotional work.

The show takes some liberties, as all superhero shows do, but it does feel close to the source material and the spirit and camaraderie of the group is alive and well. While it’s not yet as nutty as Grant Morrison’s material, I think the show does a good job of keeping its bizarreness more palatable for the normies that don’t read the comics.

Unfortunately, being exclusive to DC Universe works against the show. It makes it hard for casual viewers to find it and just six months into its existence, the streaming service is already in trouble. So despite how good this show is and the mostly positive response I’ve seen from others, it’s future is probably in doubt because its home’s future is definitely in doubt.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Legion, Preacher and other TV shows put out by DC Universe, such as Titans and the upcoming Swamp Thing.

Documentary Review: Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods (2010)

Release Date: October 9th, 2010 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Patrick Meaney

Sequart Organization, Respect! Films, Halo-8 Entertainment, 80 Minutes

Review:

I have really enjoyed the comic book documentaries that Patrick Meaney has made. However, this one was kind of a dud, which is unfortunate, as I have liked some of Grant Morrison’s work over the years.

This was also Meaney’s first documentary, so there’s that.

What I mean, is that this felt amateurish and the editing wasn’t as good as it became in his later films. This was mostly talking head interviews and even then, most of them were just one or two sentence blurbs that came out pretty rapidly. Also, this was definitely a puff piece where everyone interviewed just praised Morrison like he was the second coming.

A lot of this felt insincere. And I don’t mean that to knock Morrison but this wasn’t a good documentary or very interesting. I anticipated really delving into the man and really getting some insight into his best work. Instead, this is just a bunch of people trying to sell you on Morrison, a guy you probably already know if you’re taking the time out to watch this.

I don’t care that he’s an alien abducted wizard and how “cool” this “rockstar” is, I want to know more about his creative process and why he did certain things a certain way. There’s a lot of “Oh, yeah… that was great! And then so and so stole it for this movie!”

This was just a lot of people giving Morrison a community wide handjob, telling us he’s great but not actually telling us what makes him great and why his work is great.

This was a real bore to get through but I’m glad that Meaney’s documentaries got better. Check out the one on Image Comics and the one on Chris Claremont. Those were infinitely more engaging than this was.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: Patrick Meaney’s other comic book documentaries but his later ones are much better.

Comic Review: Doom Patrol, Vol. 3: Down Paradise Way

Published: 1990-1991
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Richard Case, Kelley Jones

Vertigo Comics, 185 Pages

Review:

While I’ve really enjoyed getting this far into Grant Morrison’s legendary run on Doom Patrol. This volume didn’t hit the mark quite the same way for me. But that could also be due to the luster and newness of this bizarre series starting to run dry.

I wouldn’t say that I’m bored with it but it’s so far out there that the stories are overly fantastical and it is hard trying to ground this in any way that gives it some sort of emotional weight. I like the characters but the proceedings are too surreal, all the time.

The first volume took me by surprise and was so unique that it was hard not to get drawn into it. The second volume brought the Justice League into the mix and it grounded the craziness somewhat, as the well-known DC Comics characters almost became the eyes and ears of the reader.

Here, it’s just Doom Patrol once again, as they are thrown into another dreamlike sequence that isn’t very easy to follow or grasp. I’ve always loved surrealist art but it exists well as its own thing and I dare anyone to try and make a narrative that can string together all the scenes Salvador Dali painted in some sort of coherent way.

Granted, art and the effectiveness of storytelling are all subjective but, at this point, I’m not sure what I’m reading and if there is even any sort of plan with Morrison’s Doom Patrol or if he’s just throwing really colorful shit on the canvas and hoping the reader somehow connects the dots for him.

I like Morrison’s imagination but this was also really early in his career and not as refined as his work would become with more experience. However, this is still a really unique experience and the fact that this exists within the larger DC universe is kind of interesting and sort of cool.

At the end of the day, no one can say that Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol wasn’t ambitious. I just don’t know if this ambition is going to pay off in any meaningful way. But again, that’s subjective and this may speak to a lot of people.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol.

Comic Review: Doom Patrol, Vol. 2: The Painting That Ate Paris

Published: 1989-1990
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Richard Case, John Nyberg

Vertigo Comics, 228 Pages

Review:

I’m really digging the Grant Morrision run on Doom Patrol.

While the first volume was better overall, the first half of this collection was probably the high point for me, thus far. The second half of this is mostly filler and comes off at a slower pace but there are still some things of importance within it.

The first half is the story arc that gives this volume its name: The Painting That Ate Paris. And while the name may sound metaphorical, it isn’t. This is Grant Morrision’s Doom Patrol and a painting literally eats Paris. And with that, the Doom Patrol has to find a way into the painting in an effort to save the city. All the while, the Justice League shows up and stands idly by, staring at the painting, confused by the whole ordeal.

I feel like the Justice League here represents the more casual comic book reader, who would probably be baffled by the insanity, absurdity and surrealism of Morrison fully and creatively unleashed.

Richard Case’s art is some of my favorite from the era and man, it just lures you in and is a perfect compliment to Morrison’s writing. Case’s art is clean, crisp, colorful and fluid. I love his character design and the life his style gives every person in these stories.

This was just a really exciting comic to read. It loses steam with the second half but it is still entertaining and serves to setup what’s to come after this.

If you’ve never given Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol a shot, you really should. It’s a superhero team book but it is so unique that you really should experience it.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol.

Comic Review: Doom Patrol, Vol. 1: Crawling From the Wreckage

Published: 1989
Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Richard Case

Vertigo Comics, 186 Pages

Review:

I knew all about Doom Patrol back when Grant Morrison was writing it in the very late ’80s and into the ’90s. It’s something that the older, cooler kids talked about but I was more into Batman and Spider-Man at the time, as comic books were still kind of new to me and I hadn’t yet expanded too much beyond that.

Over time, I collected a few issues of Morrison’s run but I never completed it and never actually read a full story arc. I’m trying to rectify that now, as I want to better understand these characters with the Doom Patrol television show starting in a few weeks on DC Universe.

I can’t quite say that this is a legendary comic book run, as I need to read Morrison’s entire Doom Patrol catalog but this is certainly off to a very solid start.

Morrison does a fine job of throwing characters at you and finding something within them that allows him to connect with the audience. I cared about every character in this story and I really hope that maintains as I get deeper into this series.

This serves to set up Morrison’s take on Doom Patrol. Even though I don’t know what happened before his first issue, it is very clear that this is a new group, forming out of the ashes of whatever happened to the previous one and even if you don’t know what their motivation is, you care enough to stick with this and find out.

I only hope that this run has a definitive start middle and end and doesn’t just sort of limp forward without any real follow through, which is a trap that so many new creators fall into.

Solid storytelling, really nice, robust art from Richard Case and all around, this was a really engaging and entertaining introduction to what is considered one of the high points of late’80s/early ’90s comics.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the rest of Grant Morrison’s run on Doom Patrol.

TV Review: Titans (2018- )

Also known as: Teen Titans (informal title)
Original Run: October 3rd, 2018 (New York Comic Con) – current
Created by: Akiva Goldsmith, Geoff Johns, Greg Berlanti
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: characters from DC Comics
Music by: Clint Mansell, Kevin Kiner
Cast: Brenton Thwaites, Anna Diop, Teagan Croft, Ryan Potter

Weed Road Pictures, Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television, 11 Episodes (so far), 40-50 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I finally got DC Universe, as it became available on the Amazon FireStick after months of dealys. So that being said, I have now checked out Titans, the streaming service’s first big attempt at original content.

While this wasn’t a total waste of time and shows some promise, it was still a pretty drab attempt at getting me excited for spending $7.99 per month on yet another video-on-demand service.

The biggest issue for me is that the characters don’t really act like the characters in the comics. Dick Grayson a.k.a. Robin a.k.a. Nightwing just straight up murders people the first time we see him confront some thugs. Then everyone else in the show kills or maims people pretty quickly and it’s fairly easy to see what we have here, which is another live action DC Comics property giving itself fully over to their gritty, edgy boy formula that only worked for Christopher Nolan, ten years ago, and Zack Snyder once with Watchmen, also ten years ago.

Also, Gotham does a good job of being gritty but it takes tremendous creative liberties and took awhile to really find its footing.

So Titans could definitely improve, as Gotham did. In fact, there are signs of better things within this first season. However, there isn’t much here to make me care about the main characters. Dick and Rachel, who will become Raven, are emo to the point of cringe but at least Starfire is interesting and Gar, who will become Beast Boy, is charismatic and could potentially be the best thing on the show.

The real problem with Titans is that the best episodes are the ones where the title characters aren’t the focal point. My two favorite chapters out of the eleven here are the one that’s all about introducing Doom Patrol and the one that serves as the origin story for Hawk & Dove. So what does it say when I’m more interested in secondary characters with minor screen time or characters who are getting their own spinoff?

I’m actually excited about Doom Patrol based off of what I saw here. And if I’m being honest, I’m not all that interested in a second season of Titans, even though I will watch it in hopes that things improve.

The season also suffers from not telling a good, self contained story. We get the season’s cliffhanger ending in the second to last episode and then the final episode, which should have been a resolution to the ten episodes before it, is nothing but a hallucination that ends leaving us exactly in the same spot that the previous penultimate episode did. It’s an absolutely terrible conclusion to a mostly mediocre season.

On the positive side, at least this moves more briskly than the Netflix Marvel shows and even though it has its filler episodes, they at least have action and progress the story in some way.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the upcoming live action DC Universe shows, as well as the DC Comics shows on the CW and Fox’s Gotham.