Saturday, 17 January 2015

Doom Patrol (version five) Book Two: Brotherhood (#7-13)

"We're still here, so I guess we won.  And a crappy time was had by all" - Cliff

This is the second and final volume collecting issues from Keith Giffen's run on Doom Patrol. Despite what wikipedia has to say, sadly the third and final volume has been avaliable for pre-order only on Amazon since 2011 so I'm guessing the likelihood of it being released is zero now.  Luckily this volume does end on the completion of an arc, so it we aren't left hanging too much and I have enjoyed these two volumes enough to hunt down the rest of the run as single issues on eBay at some point. Anyway, we last left the Patrol in the middle of the DCU wide crossover Blackest Night/Brightest Day.  Elasti-woman, Negative Man and Robotman or Rita Farr, Larry Trainor and Cliff Steel as they are more commonly known had been zapped away from their base on Oolong Island fighting zombie versions of their ex-teammates, while their crippled mentor/leader Niles Caulder was left with his fate uncertain.  If you want to know how the crossover resolved itself, well, the good guys won.  What a surprise.  You can tell Giffen's wasn't totally enthralled by having to incorporate the Patrol into this crossover as he hurries through the resolution and quickly moves onto quirkier stuff. There's a real feeling that with the Patrol reintroduced, a crossover dealt with and all their history back in DCU continuity job done, Giffen finally gets to write the Patrol exactly how he wants to and this volume is very much more recognisably his work.

The story begins with a man called Thayer Jost interviewing Amanda Beckett, she of the human/botflies from volume one.   He wants to givce her a place on his new superteam we later find out he calls the "Front Men".   He is a multi-bilionaire who is "covetus of the metahuman condition" as Amanda put it.   Although later it becomes clear Thayer is being possessed by someone with his own agenda.

Back with Niles Caulder, he is recovering in hospital and Father Leslie tries to talk to him about the loss of his legs, which Caulder doesn't seem to concerned about.  Then Father Leslie is called to the isolation ward as their has been an "incident".  The action then cuts to Dayton Manor, a former Doom Patrol base, and a character called Oberon a member of Mister Miracle's cast who has started his own removal firm for metahuman resources.  They are collecting stuff to go to Oolong Island, including a Portal that appears to be on the fritz.
Crazy Jane
Back at Oolong we are introduced to the "incident", it's Kay "Crazy Jane" Challis.  She is a superhuman who was an abuse survivor, she developed sixty-four personalities to help cope with that abuse and all of them have superpowers.  She was introduced during Grant Morrison's run and became a very popular character, as well as having a lovely, tender friendship with Cliff, the only "man" not a sexual threat to her.

Elsewhere a man called Dr. Larsen is holed up in a diner, he is also known as Animal-Vegetable-Mineral man and after he transforms and breaks out, a strange, unspeaking porcelain doll like woman hands him a phone with Jost on the other end, who says if he doesn't cooperate life will become more difficult for him.  Finally we find the Doom Patrol returned from fighting the Black Lanterns, they share a moment of camaraderie then it's back to Oolong Island for them.
A rare moment of relaxation for Cliff.
Later Cliff is briefly recounting what happened to a woman called Dusty.  He says seeing his old body in action finally helped him come to terms with his condition:

Cliff: " I don't want it no more Dusty gal. I mean I want it, but..."

Dusty: "It's not you anymore?"

Cliff: "Yeah something like that."

At Oolong's airport, Oberon's delivery is being held up by the military. Suddenly there is an explosion from the plane. Larry and Cliff run to the scene, Rita does the same even though she was just on the verge of confronting Steve.  Back with Crazy Jane, she hands Father Leslie a brick and tells him "if you build it, he will come."  The brick is all that's left of Danny the Street, another character from Grant Morrison's run, he's a sentient transvestite street who travels about inserting himself into the streetplans of cities, and was where Crazy Jane went to live when she left the Doom Patrol.
Alien land grabbers.
At the airport, two blue aliens have emerged from the portal, which was a method of travelling to Danny given to the Patrol.  One of them says, "We are short one brick."  The two beings then discuss what's going on in heavily bureacratic speech and a hovering purple head appear and tells them that this area has been appropriated and all residents must vacate.  Then a giant purple dog thing appears to go looking for the brick.

Rita and Larry stay at the airport to deal with the aliens there while Ciff chases the dog alien to the hospital fighting it as they go.  When they reach the hospital, Cliff notes Father Leslie has a brick and upon the brick appear the words:

Danny The Brick:
"I have always relied upon the kindness of strangers."

Cliff grab's Danny and races off, still followed by the dog alien.  At the airport Rita and Larry hold off the blue aliens.  Larry manifests a new ability where he becomes Negative Man but retains his humanoid shape and does some punching. More aliens arrive through the portal. Cliff leads the dog alien back to the airport where he finally manages to take it out. 
Danny, partially resurrected.
The aliens demand he surrender the brick, they appear to be predatory real estate agents who take areas by force before selling them on. "Pan dimenisional gentrifiers" Crazy Jane calls them. The Patrol and the aliens continue to fight, amusingly Larry drops the brick down the front of Rita's top to keep it safe.  The aliens then pause their attack and when Rita retrieves the brick from her top she is freaked out when it greets her by name.  Crazy Jane then phones Ciff and after they talk, Cliff hurls Danny back to her, she tosses it into the air where she is by the beach and it transforms into Danny The Bungalow.

The aliens decide the loss of profit in having to fight for the brick and take over the Earth is not worth it and they depart through the portal, which the Doom Patrol go to destroy.  Father Leslie asks Crazy Jane who was going to come, now Danny is a bungalow.  Crazy Jane say's she forgot to ask, but very soon Ambush Bug turns up.  He is a Keith Giffen created character with some history with the Patrol and most well known for his fourth wall breaking antics.  He becomes Danny's new resident.
Ambush Bug arrives.
Cliff and Jane do some catching up.  Jane is going to stay on Oolong Island for the time being now Danny is just a bungalow. Niles Caulder is having an argument with the President of Oolong Island who says the German government want to extradite Mr. Black Hole, which Caulder says would be "unwise" as they have an agreement.

The action then cuts to Thayer Jost, the china doll woman has teleported to Oolong Island.  Dr. Larsen (Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man) is with him and Thayer wants him to kill the Titan Gar Logan, who is Rita Farr's adoptive son.  The china doll woman appears at the Doom Patrol base and attacks Caulder.  Mr. Black Hole protects him with a forcefield.  She manages to get inside Cliff so Larry zaps them both.  She keeps reconstituting herself, so Larry enacts a plan.  He zaps her again and then Rita dumps a pile of soil and rubble on her to keep her from putting herself back together. 
Scary doll woman.
While they ponder what the woman wants, Rita vanishes. Jost calls Larsen saying he doesn't need to target Logan anymore.  Then a woman in a mask called Toy appears and says she is sorry for being late.  Jost says on the contrary, she "couldn't have arrived at a better time" and we see Rita inside Jost's base fighting off scientists.

Later she is subdued, while china doll woman is also in captivity.  She is being held by the Oolong Island scientists, much to the annoyance of Niles Caulder, who wanted him for his own experiments. Jost gives a press conference blaming the Doom Patrol for an unprovoked attack and also complicity with all the deaths in Germany, as well as condemning meta-humans as a whole for their "self righteous arrogance."  Meanwhile Larry and Cliff decide to rescue Rita now they know where she is. They grab Ambush Bug who has the ability to teleport himself and other and off they go.
The search for Rita.
At Jost's headquarters, Dr. Beckett and Dr. Larsen are in costume, Jost say's his "Front Men" will come out of fighting the Doom Patrol well when they arrive to take back Rita. We then get a montage of places Cliff, Larry and Ambush Bug are teleporting to.  Cliff finally asks why haven't they just teleported to Jost's home site.

Ambush Bug: "I was saving that for last."

Cliff: "Saving?! Last?!"

Ambush Bug: "It's always the last place you look."

Before Cliff can lamp him, Ambush Bug zaps them to the toilets in Jost's headquarters and immediately they get into a fight with Dr. Larsen. Larry finds Rita, but she's covered in Dr. Beckett's botfly people and Beckett says if they don't stop fighting the botflies will strip Rita to the bone.  Back with Jost he has Toy restrained in a chair, and goes on a two page rant about becoming a "somebody" after being a "nobody".  Then he crushes Toy's head and reveals who he really is, once Mr. Nobody, leader of the Brotherhood of Dada (antagonists during Grant Morrison's run), now Mr. Somebody in control of Thayer Jost's body and financial empire.
Mister Somebody reveals himself.
Ambush Bug the zaps back to Oolong Island and grabs china doll woman and returns her to Jost's headquarters where she is traded for Rita. The Doom Patrol have figured out "Jost" isn't who he says he is, so Mr. Somebody reveals himself to them.  Then suddenly the Doom Patrol are punched out of the building by Dr. Larsen and Dr. Beckett. Rita and Dr. Larsen battle at huge size while Larry and Cliff take on Dr. Beckett and her minions.

Mr. Somebody starts editing the fight footage he's receiving from tiny airbourne cameras in the area to make his Front Men look good.  Larry continues fighting Beckett, while Cliff takes on the china doll woman.  Suddenly Larsen slices into Rita revealing not skin and bone, but that she's made up of pink goo.
FIGHT!
Back on Oolong Island, Caulder is reviewing the footage of the battle which is indeed making the Patrol look bad.  "Thayer" contacts him and tells him that each of his Front Men's uniforms is primied to kill the wearer in a manner that will make it look like the Doom Patrol did it, if he does not call the Patrol off.  Their usefulness to him is at an end.  So the Doom Patrol do indeed run off and come back to Oolong Island.  Cliff wants them to talk things out when they get home, not all retire to their seperate corners.

Cliff: "We just got played big time.  Again!  We got played. Us."

Rita: "If you hadn't come after me..."

Cliff: "What?  The world'd still love us? Rita, the world never loved us."

They share a bonding moment, while Caulder reviews the footage of the Patrol leaving the battle and Jost's call for meta-human regulation.

The final chapter in the book spotlights Rita and gives us the background on how she became made of goo.  When she died, Caulder combed the area she was blown up at (the first time the original run of the Doom Patrol ended) and found a piece of her skull.  It was enough to pull DNA from and Caulder improvised a synthetic protoplasm to bond with the DNA and grew her from scratch.  Rita bitterly tells her friend Karen that Caulder wanted a more "durable" model Rita.

Rita: "He brought me back to life as a mass of sentinet protoplasm.  Silly putty with a sense of purpose."

Bad mornings for Rita. Squick.
This is an interesting turn of events as the reason Grant Morrison gave for not resurrecting Rita for his run on the book was that she was too normal for a team made up of freaks.  Now she's as freakish as the rest of them.  When she sleeps her sense of self receedes and she wakes up as a blobby thing and has to look at photos of herself to fine-tune her appearence.

Karen asks if Steve knows, and Rita says how could he not.  His mental image of her is crystal clear while he took her out for test drives in her sleep.  Rita then goes to Steve to confront him over the mental stalking, Cliff and Larry discuss her and how much they care for her.  Larry says she's the only reason he came back to the Patrol.

Steve returns home to find Rita waiting.  We get a short flashback covering how Rita mark one got her powers which was exposure to strange gas during fliming of a movie she was starring in.  Back with Steve she tells him that he has to stop getting in her head.  He goes to get her a drink and says he couldn't help it and only wanted her to be happy, but he'll stop.  Then Rita realises he knew she wanted a drink without asking and this sends her into a rage, she grows huge and grabs him and on that image the book ends.
Alas for the books this was the end.
This version of the Doom Patrol was, through no fault of it's own, well... Doomed.  Even if it hadn't been cancelled to make space for the slew of miniseries tying into the 2011 crossover series Flashpoint, it would have died a few months later when The New 52 universal DC reboot took hold.  The fact that far more obscure series have been resurrected (and swiftly cancelled) since then without the Patrol get a book of their own, only compounds the injustice.  The Doom Patrol do officially still exist in the new DC universe but only as guest stars in other books so far.  It's also a real shame the rest of this run was not released as a third trade paperback, it was really hitting it's stride with this volume and carving out an identity of it's own.  In fact it's a real pity that apart from the original sixties run and all of Grant Morrisons intellectually taxing but rewarding run, the rest has either not been collected fully (this run) or not collected at all (the rest of them). I hope at some point in the future this changes, I'd certainly be putting my money where my mouth is and buying up anymore Doom Patrol collections that DC sees fit to bring out, hear that DC? Until that happens, I will at least pick up the rest of this run as single issues via eBay and may come back to it at some point in the future when I have done so.

4 comments:

  1. wow, the new 52 sucked even before it started. also they should release the rest of doom patrol, it looks pretty cool from these blog posts.

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  2. Thanks. The New 52 would be better if they didn't keep debuting really good series then cancelling them 16-24 issues later. If you're not a Bat family or Superman book, you're on borrowed time it seems. Bah.

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  3. You've made me want to read Grant Morrison's run on Doom Patrol.

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  4. I still need to grab volumes five and six, but when I do you are welcome to borrow them from me :) Worth it just to see Danny the Street and in all his flouncy glory!

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