Educating Steven – The Umbrella Academy vol #1

Educating Steven

In an effort to further his graphic novel and comic education, Steve Taylor-Bryant has been set "homework" of reading comics released throughout the years that he has missed out on. This week, he attempts to join The Umbrella Academy...

In an inexplicable worldwide event, forty-seven extraordinary children were spontaneously born by women who'd previously shown no signs of pregnancy. Millionaire inventor Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of the children; when asked why, his only explanation was, "To save the world."

These seven children form The Umbrella Academy, a dysfunctional family of superheroes with bizarre powers. Their first adventure at the age of ten pits them against an erratic and deadly Eiffel Tower, piloted by the fearsome zombie-robot Gustave Eiffel. Nearly a decade later, the team disbands, but when Hargreeves unexpectedly dies, these disgruntled siblings reunite just in time to save the world once again.

I have quite the list of books that I could have picked next thanks to those evil minions at Madius Comics but Netflix kind of made my decision for me by dropping their version of The Umbrella Academy and I was determined to read the book before I watched the show. My first few thoughts after finishing the last page were as follows…

How many drugs did Gerard Way have to take to write the most fucked up version of the X-Men ever produced?

How the hell are Netflix going to bring this level of insanity to the screen?

Second thought first – Netflix managed, go watch the show! But that first thought troubled me. You see, I stand by my thought; The Umbrella Academy is a fucked up and trippy X-Men type book, BUT that really doesn’t do what Way and Gabriel Ba have accomplished justice. I cant just be so flippant and leave my overriding thought to be one about drugs being the force behind the creative process because upon my second read through it becomes very clear that a great storytelling mind was behind The Umbrella Academy. It’s easy to dismiss anything that involves superpowers as normal comic book trope, but The Umbrella Academy is more than that, it is a story about family, about dysfunctional relationships, about grief and the non-uniformed way that siblings react to each other as individuals and as a group. On top of that there is the end of the world looming and a monkey butler.

What Gerard Way has written is actually clever, it’s a very deep investigation into family dressed up with superpowers to grab your attention. The narrative entertains and is paced well and the flashback sequences to when the siblings are children learning the superhero trade answer any questions you may have about future events. Added to an intriguing story is artwork by Ba, and colouring by Dave Stewart with lettering by Nate Piekos of Blambot, that not only compliment Way’s writing but hold the vision together with glorious panels and splash pages.

So, I suppose to the point of this article, am I educated? Yes, Madius are now two for two in their quest to make me like things comic related. I learnt that the more insane the vision the more grounded in reality it probably is. I learned the name of another artist that I must see more work from. I learned that apparently Gerard Way is a rock star, I didn’t click that it was that Gerard Way until I had finished. I learned that there is a lot more than just Batman comics in the world and I am so far loving my educational trip through the world of graphic novels.

Follow Steve on Twitter @STBwrites

Image - Amazon

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