Writer: John Arcudi
Artist: Tan Eng Huat
The book opens in the small general store that received the mystery package, and we learn inside the package was a mummified remains of a prince from ancient China. We then jump back to ancient China, where we see the current cast of Doom Patrol are playing the roles of key players in this tale. The book opens with the discovery of a infant, by a warrior prince (Vic), who brings this child home only to discover the child is the result of an affair that his wife (Shyleen) had with another man while he was off fighting in a war. As he banishes his wife, and her power hungry mother (Ava) from his realm, we see many years later he has cause to regret this rash act, as the mother has raised a demon army, and in spite of the best efforts of his personal bodyguard (Ted), the king is killed. However, before his death he does forgive his wife, and she steps forward to protect her child from her mother. We also see that the kingdom's blacksmith (Cliff) managed to fashion five sets of armor that act to trap the demons, thus robbing the mother of her army. However, while the prince is able to kill his evil grandmother, he dies as well when he is exposed to the poisoned blood that was coursing through the woman's veins, thus leaving the princess alone in her grief.
This was a fun issue that once again leaves me rather disappointed that this series never quite found the fan base it needed to keep it on the stands, as it's one of the more charming titles to come out of DC in quite some time. This issue brings the oddball factor to the mix that one expects from a series entitled Doom Patrol, as we are given the back story of the mummified body that has been bouncing around the U.S. postal system for roughly three decades. However, not content to simply tell us a story set in ancient China, this issue decides to effectively stage a play with the cast members of the current incarnation of Doom Patrol playing the lead roles. This in turn results in some truly amusing moments, like the decidedly unimpressive final words that Vic offers up to his beloved wife on his death bed. There's also Ted's ever amusing bluster in the heat of the battle with the demon army, and his commentary on the quality of the cigarettes in ancient China. In the end this issue managed to deliver the story that it needed to tell, but with the inclusion of the Doom Patrol cast, the entertainment value shot way up, as their modern day sensibilities, allowed them to amusingly disarm some of the more ponderous elements of this material.
It also doesn't hurt that the story being told is a pretty interesting little tale, that is very much in the spirit of the Chinese's fable. In fact the template that John Arcudi is using could very well be a one that already exists & I wouldn't really know, as I'm never really expanded my literary knowledge in that direction. The story does have all the components of the ones that I have been exposed to via films like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" & "Once Upon a Time in China", as we have a love story that the specter of death intrudes upon, and while the insertion of the Doom Patrol cast into the mix does blunt the more serious aspects of the material, the book does make for an engaging trip, where concepts like honor & betrayal of trust play a key role in the material. The book also does some nice work placing its cast into the roles that play off their various character traits, as we see Cliff is cast as the mentor figure, while Ava is cast as the evil mother with a lust for power. There's also Ted amusingly cast as the king's chief protector, and Shyleen's sweet nature is a perfect fit for the princess, as how can one not love her reaction when the baby is brought into the room, and she has to explain that she was unfaithful to her beloved while he was off fighting a war.
The one real concern that I have with this book's cancellation, beyond the simple fact that I'll be losing a title that I find quite enjoyable, is that while I can still get my monthly dose of John Arcudi's writing over on Marvel's "Thunderbolts", Tan Eng Huat's next project has yet to even rate a mention. His art is easily one of the most visually interesting work I've come across in quite some time, as he's one of the few artists who manages to use every part of the art to convey the action. The unique panels designs act to draw the reader into the story and even the sound effects get in on the fun. Now I would suggest that Tan Eng Huat is an ideal fit for Marvel's new "Tsunami" line, but I do believe he's signed to an exclusive contract with DC, so that is where I should expect to see his next work. If nothing else he's shown he can meet the demands of a monthly title, and his art is geared toward an action heavy book, so I'm hoping he finds his way on to a book like "Batgirl" or "Nightwing", as he would be a wonderful fit. His flair for the big impact moments such as the tiger attack on page 17 of this issue also act to leave me hopeful that DC does have plans for him beyond this series. I also have to say that he's one of the better cover artists currently working, as the images he comes up with really act to catch one's eye.
An entertaining adventure set in the past, as this book continues its rather odd method of delivering a plot by placing the various members of the new Doom Patrol into a story that is set in ancient China. This in turn results in a very funny tale, that also does a pretty good job of delivering the information that I'm guessing will play a key role in what looks to be this book's final arc. This issue is an amusing exercise that has fun with the idea that the cast of this book have been placed into ancient China, but they can still draw upon their modern day sensibilities, so that the personalities of these characters are not changed so they would be a better fit for this era. Now this does result in a rather mixed up story, and there are times where one is drawn out of the era by a comment that doesn't suit this time period, but in the end this is an entertaining read, and it's yet another issue where I'm fully convinced that this series is one of the best series to come out of the regular DCU in quite some time.
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