The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: Apocalypse Suite
Author: Gerard Way
Illustrator: Gabriel Bá
Series: The Umbrella Academy, #1
Page Count: 184
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Original Publication Date: 2007
Genre(s): Graphic novel, Science fiction
In a strange, unexplainable event, forty-seven children are born at the exact same time, all across the world, birthed by women who had previously shown no signs of pregnancy. A rich inventor named Reginald Hargreeves finds seven of these children and adopts them as his own “to save the world.” From what? The apocalypse, of course. These seven children each have their own form of superpowers, and together form the dysfunctional Umbrella Academy. Though disbanded as adults, the group is forced together again after Hargreeves’s death. And so begins the apocalypse.
I love reading a graphic novel in between a long spree of reading novels. Finally reading the first volume of The Umbrella Academy series was a nice Saturday night treat for myself this past weekend. My girlfriend first recommended this series to me in college, having read them herself in high school and again during her sophomore year of college. Being a fan of both My Chemical Romance (the author’s band) and comics, I knew I’d be interested in the series, but never got around to reading it. I’ve had Volume 1 on hold at the library since the Netflix adaptation was released. It’s been a long, long wait…
But that wait is finally over. I spent my Saturday night curled up on the couch with Apocalypse Suite. Starting with the children’s births, the story follows the Umbrella Academy kids on their first mission to save the world from a zombie-robot, but then flashes forward to present-day where the group has been disbanded for years. When their father dies, a chain of events is set in motion that ultimately leads to the end of the world.
Apocalypse Suite is a fast-paced, action-packed adventure that doesn’t take long to inhale. The dialogue is punchy and the art is unique. This isn’t your typical superhero trope—this series is about a dysfunctional family with bizarre powers, each of them bordering on anti-hero rather than superhero. I found it interesting that Way doesn’t actually describe each person’s power, but rather drops subtle hints throughout the story that readers then have to interpret and decode themselves. I must not have paid enough attention, because I actually had to rely on Wikipedia to clue me in on everyone’s exact power.
In case you’re interested, too, here’s a quick rundown of each of the seven members of Umbrella Academy:
Number One — Spaceboy // Superhuman strength. Also, due to an accident, his head had to be re-attached to a Martian gorilla.
Number Two — The Kraken // Ability to hold his breath underwater, indefinitely. Also a talent of knife-throwing.
Number Three — The Rumor // Ability to alter reality by telling a lie. Also, due to an incident in the past, has a mechanical arm.
Number Four — The Séance // Can speak to the dead, channel the dead, possess people, telekinesis, etc.
Number Five — The Boy // Time-traveller. After figuring out how to finally travel back in time, his 55-year-old mind is stuck in the body of his ten-year-old self, never to age.
Number Six — The Horror // Possesses monsters from other dimensions. Is deceased.
Number Seven — No obvious talent or power, other than an interest in music and an affinity for the violin.
I would have liked a little more explicit detail about the characters in the graphic novel. There was some backstory, but not enough to really satisfy me. I have a feeling the Netflix adaptation will go deeper into each character, so I’m excited to see that. I’m a sucker for character backstory and development, so my only criticism of Volume 1 is that there wasn’t enough of that.
If you like stories with anti-heroes or dysfunctional families, Umbrella Academy is the graphic series you need to pick up. I got major Watchmen vibes, and really enjoyed reading it. Plus, it’s a good base before starting into the Netflix series (if you haven’t already watched it, that is). And speaking of… Now I have a series to go watch.