Writer: John Arcudi
Artist: Tan Eng Huat
The book opens with the members of Doom Patrol in Hell, or at least a reasonable reproduction of the place, and like most visits to the underworld, we see that most of the team is being subjected to their worst fears. As Ted finds himself talking to another version of himself, we learn that Ted is ashamed of his lack of education, and that he lashes out at others to place himself in a self-generated position of superiority. We then see Fever is facing a demon who is relishing the idea that the young hero is afraid that the others will discover that she's scared out of her wits most of the time. We then look in on Vic, as we see that unlike the others he's not being tormented, by rather he's being pushed into down a rather disturbing road, as his demon recognizes that Vic is frustrated by the lack of attention Fever shows him. We then see that Ava & Cliff are seemingly immune to the nightmares, and why Ava stays with the others to keep them from hurting themselves, we see Cliff takes off to find the head demon. However, while Cliff locates a giant spider-like creature, he's crushed underneath of mountain of falling rocks.
This book has quickly become my favorite DC title, and it's done so by using almost none of the gimmicks that I expect most writers would utilize to ensure their new series would thrive in today's "do or die" marketplace. I mean the villains the team have faced in this opening year have been entirely new creations, and as such no readers would be drawn in by the prospect of seeing their favorite baddie. The book has only made three concessions to the fans of the old Doom Patrol, by adding Cliff to the team, a guest-appearance by Beast Boy, and delivering an issue that showed us what happened to Dorothy. The rest of the focus has been squarely upon an entirely new group of characters who before that first issue had never been seen in the DCU before. Now as I hinted at above the book did call upon the guest-stars for one of its arcs, but the guest-characters were never feature prominently on any of the covers, nor were they exactly the type of characters who would draw a sizable crowd to the book. Yes this book has done it all with its engaging plots, well-fleshed out cast, and an artist who deserves far more attention than he's getting.
I've read enough comics that I'm well aware of the idea that almost every trip to the underworld will feature the heroes facing their worst fears. However, thanks to the idea that most of the members of this group are new creations, the scenes detailing their nightmarish encounters prove to be the most interesting part of the book. We learn why Ted is constantly lashing out at others, in a bid to tear them down, as we see he's terrified his own weaknesses will be exposed. We see that Fever's tentative nature is largely due to the fact that she is scared out of her wits most of the time. However the biggest, and most disturbing scene is when we get a look inside Vic's head and see that unlike the others he's not being tormented by his weaknesses or failures, but rather he's being lead down a very dangerous path, that has him contemplating some fairly unsettling actions. There's also the mystery of why Ava was spared the effects of the nightmares this time, and there's also a rather unexpected revelation about Cliff that we can already see will cause the rest of the team to cast a very wary eye his way in future issues.
Tan Eng Huat has some how escaped the notice of most of the industry's fanzines, and this strikes me as rather strange as his work is certainly one of the more engaging styles I've seen is a very long time. Now I understand that he's done almost all of his work on a book that has fallen under the radar of most readers, and that if he was working on a Marvel title then his work would likely be heralded as the second coming. However, in this case I do think that I prefer the idea that DC is keeping pretty quiet about this artistic find, as Tan Eng Huat is an ideal fit for this book, and I kind of like the fact that I can enjoy his work without being told by someone else that I should be enjoying it. His art's a bit like that twenty dollar bill that you find in your pocket that you never knew you had, or a movie that you went into with no expectations, that turned out to be a blast. His art is a discovery waiting to be made by others, and I can take solace in the idea that I'm already on the bandwagon, so I got myself a comfortable seat. This issue is yet another great looking issue with its fine eye for action, and inventive panel design.
Another entertaining issue that is helped by the fact that this book's cast are entirely new creations, and as such John Arcudi can still add new layers to the characters. This issue adds some new elements to the characters, as we get a better understanding of why Ted is such a grade A jerk, and the reason does serve to make that character more sympathetic. We also get a great little sequence that moves Vic out of the background, as we get a look at what really going on inside his head, and it's not very pretty. There's also a interesting little bit where we learn that Cliff still might not be back to his old self, as Ava makes a rather unsettling discovery about Cliff that she shares with the others. Add to this a solid little cliffhanger, that has Cliff being crushed under a rock slide, leaving the rest to fend for themselves, and you have yet another issue of this series that earns my utmost recommendation.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!