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Sunday Slugfest: Umbrella Academy: Dallas #4

Posted: Sunday, March 1, 2009
By: Thom Young

Gerard Way
Gabriel Ba (with Dave Stewart, colors)
Dark Horse Comics
"A Perfect Life"

Number Five and The Rumor have accepted a terrible mission, and after enduring torture and a brush with nuclear Armageddon, the rest of the surviving Umbrella Academy have to put aside their infighting to try to find their brother and sister, racing through history to do so.

Paul Brian McCoy:

Joey Davidson:

Jon Judy:

Troy Stith:

Paul Brian McCoy:

To Everyone Involved,

Can I just say that I'm a HUGE My Chemical Romance fan! HUGE!

Really, I'm like 300 pounds of suburban Goth dynamite!

I've also never read a comic book before! I've seen those smelly guys in the back of class passing them back and forth when we're supposed to be journal writing and the whole concept just seemed unsavory.

But when I heard that Gerard (can you hear my heart fluttering?) was writing a comic book, I figured I should hold my nose, find my local comic book store, and try to get in and out with as little contact with anything and anyone as possible.

Luckily I found The Umbrella Academy at Hot Topic!

It took me a little while to figure out this whole "reading-while-looking-at-pictures" thing, but I'm not a total idiot. I'm a 'B' student for Pete's sake.

The book is weird, but in a totally cool way. Like, there's one guy who's dead, but in part three he saw a black and white cowboy that was God, and then this issue, he saves the day. The dead guy; not God.

The gorilla guy has a very sweet dream that turns into the most horrible nightmare ever! And an old guy with a big mustache says, "You didn't really think everything was going to turn out all right, did you?" I don't know who he is, but I don't like him. He seems mean. Especially since the gorilla guy has his dead skeleton babies in his arms.

I don't think there's any reason to be mean . . . ever.

I was a little confused by the little kid who's going to go back in time to fight himself. Is that even possible? I also didn't know who the handsome guy in the boardroom was, but he was kind of a jerk . . . um, in a really hot way.

And don't even ask me about that last page! If what happened is what I think happened, then how can there even be a next issue? Oh wait! Everyone went back in time, so I guess that's where the next issue will start.

Oh yeah, the art is really weird, too. I kind of like it though. I could imagine it as a cartoon pretty easily, so that helped me keep track of what was going on.

So yeah, this book is awesome! I can't wait for the next issue, and the one after that. That'll be a sad one, though, since it'll be over then. But hopefully there will be more after that!

Joey Davidson:

I do believe that this marks my first opportunity to write a review for The Umbrella Academy here on Comics Bulletin. Whatís more, this is a Sunday Slugfest. Talk about luck!

Let me start here, then. Iím not a fan of My Chemical Romance. Honestly.

I donít mean to detract from Gerard Wayís ability as a singer, but Iíd like to remove that facet from my reviewing this book. In no way, shape or form is an affinity for Gerard Wayís band and performing career going to influence my review of this book.

With that said, The Umbrella Academy is a damn astounding piece of art.

Whatís keeping this story from achieving a perfect five bullets from me is a simple point in the plot. Itís simple because it occurs in what seems like mere seconds. Iím just going to come out and say it, if youíve yet to read this book and you donít want it to be spoiled, I suggest you skip the next two paragraphs.

Spoilers start now. Our murderous torturers . . . you know, the ones who wear giant animal heads and talk in quirky quips . . . they were my favorite part of Dallas. I say ďwereĒ because they die in this issue.

Itís not that they die that makes me upset, itís how they died. Sťance used his telekinesis to have one murder the other and then shoot himself. Bing, bang, boom . . . itís over. The two pieces of vicious comic relief deserved much more from Way. Hell, he created the bastards, so itís only fitting that he dispatches them as well. I just wanted more, I wanted quirky and ridiculous, not short and sensible. These guys werenít sensible, they were brutally absurd. Thatís why I loved them! Okay, spoilers end now.

But aside from that, this issue is solid. The story here starts to weave together time-traveling contingent, imperative plot points that will have you skimming over pages a few times. Sure, itís a little thick, a little confusing, but itís the stuff that will add up to a grander picture. We did our fair share of time travel in the first arc of The Umbrella Academy, so I know Way can handle the intricacies.

This issue serves as the setup for the remaining pieces to come. The impending narrative is all kinds of epic in possibility, so letís hope the creative team is able to keep this thing afloat.

The artwork in this issue is particularly stellar for a few reasons. First of all, thereís a copious amount of blood in certain spots. Yes, weíve seen Ba and Stewart handle blood before, and yes, thereís no real difference here. But the dark and bloody sequences stand in brilliant contrast with the opening moments. The first two pages are bright, alive, and homely. And Stewartís color work literally made me breathe ďwowĒ onto the first panel as I sat down with the book.

The Umbrella Academy style is retained, so if youíve loved the art in this series to date, then you shouldnít be disappointed. However, the oh-so-dramatic-and-dynamic colors behind the opening of this issue provide a fresh look at the possibility of a pleasant and happy Gabriel Ba and Dave Stewart.

Then I remembered this was Umbrella Academy; itís meant to be dark. The art fires on all cylinders there as well. Artistically speaking, I think this issue is the perfect package--if youíre into the style.

Iím big into this book. The art rocks, the writing is solid, the narrative itself is set to deliver one whole megaton of epic; this thing is getting great. The Umbrella Academy becomes a recommendation for all of those points. But these are one manís opinions; youíll have to read what my colleagues have to say if you want a consensus.

Jon Judy:

If the quality of Umbrella Academy: Dallas #4 is lacking, it's only by comparison.

Way and Ba wrap up the second act nicely, moving Number Five and The Rumor as well as Spaceboy, Sťance, and The Kraken toward Dallas, simultaneously, and ending with a bang--of sorts.

Oh, one could nitpick about the issue on its own merits. Opening with a five-page dream sequence that adds nothing to the story itself could be seen as a fault, I suppose. Yes, it's a nice bit of character exploration to take a dip in Spaceboy's subconscious--and it also adds a nice bit of foreshadowing.

But did we need five whole pages to learn things we already knew about Spaceboy, or to foreshadow the issueís end?

However, that is really just nitpicking.

The sequence is well executed, and manages to be funny, creepy, and sad all at once. Besides, the double-splash to end the sequence is just terrific, a very powerful image perfectly placed and paced for maximum effect.

This team knows splash pages. I don't think I've ever been disappointed in their use of one, and that double-splash is no exception--nor is the splash to end the issue. Again Way and Ba manage to create two effects at once: The "Holy-crap-what-a-great-ending" reaction, and a laugh (via an incongruous sound effect).

Most creators can't get any reaction out of a reader, and these guys can get multiple reactions multiple times.

Which leads to my only criticism of this issue, which is that it suffers by comparison to the previous issues.

Spoiler Ahead!

First, Hazel and Cha Cha are dispatched with such speed and seeming finality that there was no satisfaction or closure there. These guys were such a major part of the series--and such a freaking creepy part--that for them to be dealt with so quickly and easily just felt wrong. Of course, this is a story about time travel and superpowers, so one can hope we'll see more of them.

Nevertheless, the lack of Hazel and Cha Cha in this issue meant it was seriously short on the creepy factor of the previous issues--which, of course, meant something had to fill that void (and that something is humor). This is a seriously funny comic book.

From Spaceboy's greeting upon returning home to Seance's reaction to the deaths of his killers to Kraken riding the subway to Number Five's reaction to the guns being pointed at him to everything ending with neither a whimper nor a bang and beyond, this book is, well, funny.

On the other hand, previous issues were funny and troubling and even, at times, touching. Plus the last issue had a cameo from Bob Dylan. Hard to top that.

Still, casting Bob as God only begins to make up for the abortion that is My Chemical Romance's cover of "Desolation Row." I'd suggest that crime against humanity warrants the death penalty, but then we'd get no more Umbrella Academy.

But even if earlier issues of the series were more effective, I have every confidence that this is just the lull before the third act--and if that's so, then it's pretty packed for a lull.

Besides, if the worst thing you can say about a comic book is that some of the previous issues were better, than you've got a really good comic book on your hands.

Troy Stith:

Umbrella Academy: Dallas #4 literally drops a bomb on you at the beginning and does it again as you finish reading. As Iíve praised all along, Way and Ba never seem to let you down. This issue really delivered the answers that weíve been waiting on, but it leaves you with plenty of things to think about. I was saddened to see the demise of Hazel and Cha Cha, but their deaths fell right into place in the picture Way is painting.

After Spaceboy and The Kraken free themselves from Hazel and Cha Cha, the book continues itís frenzied race to the end. Donít think that itís fast pace doesnít fill you in on whatís going on, quite the contrary.

This issue seems to fill you in on everything that has lead up to this issue, including the explanation of the story title Dallas. Although, it does it in such a way that predicting what will come next isnít really an option--i.e., the cliffhanger ending in issue #3 and the resulting setup for issue #5 involving The Rumor and Number Five.

Way also continues to shape and mold each of his characters, revealing information about the character and his or her background slowly and creatively. While Iíve mentioned my fondness for Number Five before, Iím really starting to like Sťance more and more as his character is expanded. Plus, who doesnít like a guy who has taken a bullet to the forehead and continues to lead the team along the way.

I had gotten to the point with this series that I thought I couldnít like it any more than I already do, but each issue I find something new about it that I hadnít noticed before or that has been added to the story along the way. I think what it really boils down to is how Way makes you think that you have his reality in the book figured out, and thatís when he flips the switch to throw the next twist at you.

The only thing I have to say about Baís art is, ďThank you.Ē

Needless to say, issue #5 will be purchased by me next month.

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