Writer: John Arcudi
Artist: Tan Eng Huat
The book opens with Cliff describing a dream that he's been haunted by recently, as it begins with the car wreck that took his life, but when he's reborn as Robot Man and is greeted into this new life by the original members of Doom Patrol, we see they transform into the present day incarnation of the team. We then look in on Shyleen & Ava, as the two are busy discussing the idea of Cliff being a soulless monster, and the two young woman each hold opposing opinions, with Ava making the claim that Cliff is responsible for all the trouble that has plagued the team since his arrival. We then look in on Ted who is in an uproar over the new Doom Patrol television show, as the show is using the original members as its characters, and as such Ted feels like he's been cheated out of the fame & fortune that comes with being a member of this team. We then see the situation explodes when in a moment of anger Ted makes mention of the claim that Cliff has no soul. When Cliff flies into a rage over this comment, we see Ava sends him flying, while threatening to kill him if he touches Ted ever again. This tension in turn causes the team to break up, with Cliff heading off to discover the truth about himself, while Shyleen & Vic take off in response to Ava's hostility toward Cliff.
This issue is one of those classic issues where the team breaks up, but what makes this issue quite interesting is the reason for the breakup is strong enough that I can't see the team getting back together anytime soon. This issue also seems to suggest that this breakup was orchestrated by Ava so she could have Ted all to herself, and the final panel that shows us these two enjoying their time alone together left me rather concerned, as Ted is easily one of my favorite new characters, and Ava looks to have formed an attachment to him that doesn't bode well for his future. This issue also makes it clear that Shyleen has herself an explosive temper, and that her powers are directly linked to her emotional state, which results in a pretty impressive cliffhanger finish. However the problem that Cliff is dealing with continues to be the most interesting aspect of this title, as the book is still teasing us with the idea that Cliff might not be what he seems. In fact, if the main idea of this plot thread holds up as the truth than the entire concept of Cliff surviving past his original death on the race track is left in doubt, and the question then becomes is Robot Man simply a machine that was tricked into believing it was a man.
The one thing that John Arcudi has managed to deliver on this book is a cast of characters who have more than one note that defines them as characters. I mean sure I could attach descriptive labels, like Ted is an obnoxious jerk, Ava is a moody mystery woman, Vic is a slacker, and Shyleen is a shy wallflower. However, over the course of the past fifteen issues, John Arcudi has made these characters deeper than these surface characterizations, as Ted's own insecurities have him locked in a pattern where he treats everyone like dirt in the hopes they won't study him too closely. There's also Vic's darker side, as we see he has some rather dangerous ideas when it comes to his relationship with Shyleen, or rather the lack of one. This issue also takes the time to expand on Ava, as we see she is no longer content to hang in the background, barely speaking a word, as she plays an active role in driving Robot Man away from the team. This issue also has Shyleen displaying another side of her personality, as we see when she becomes upset her powers make it dangerous for anyone to be around her. The idea that she doesn't really have any real control over her power also adds a nice tragic element to the character.
After a two issue break Tan Eng Huat returns to the book and he delivers his regular brand of highly imaginative panel work, as the opening dream sequence does a great job of making this rather familiar looking scene into a visually engaging display, that turns wonderfully surreal after the original members of Doom Patrol arrive on the scene. I also have to make mention of the power that that art manages to infuse the big impact scenes with, as when Cliff loses his temper and proceeds to take out his frustrations on Ted the art literally explodes off the page. The follow-up scene where we see Ava in her full battle gear mode is also a visually powerful moment, as it clearly suggests that Cliff isn't the true powerhouse in this group. There's also the little moments like the hurt puppy dog expression on Shyleen's face as she begs Cliff to stay, or the look of dejection on Vic's face when he learns why Shyleen wants him to come with her. I also had to smile at Ted's look of outright terror when he learns Ava is there for him. The sequence that we end this issue with is also pretty impressive, as we see Shyleen's explosive temper gets an impressive display, as she's like a tea kettle on a stove.
Cliff has never seemed all that comfortable within this latest incarnation of Doom Patrol, so his departure didn't really strike me as all that surprising. However, the reason for his departure made for interesting reading, as we see the question of whether he possesses a soul is still very much an unresolved question. I was also a bit thrown by the idea that the rest of the team broke apart after Cliff left. There's also a very real sense that this break up was actually a welcome event for Ava, as she is extra creepy in this issue, and one has to be a bit concerned about Ted, thanks to the scene where Ava expresses her interest in him. The issue also acts to shatter Shyleen's shy & quiet demeanor, as she literally explodes into a rage in this issue, and manages to offer up a pretty intense cliffhanger finish along the way. However, now that he's gone and broken the team apart, I can now enjoy John Arcudi's efforts of putting it back together, as right now this looks rather difficult.
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