The Umbrella Academy, Volume 1
written by Gerard Way
illustrated by Gabriel Ba
The Umbrella Academy is so delightfully offbeat that it’s easy to overlook its few flaws. It’s not a perfect graphic novel (the story sometimes meanders and doesn’t ultimately make a whole lot of sense), but it’s entertaining and inventive in so many ways.
The entire story is a bit complicated, but here’s a brief synopsis: One strange day, 47 women unexpectedly give birth, despite having previously had no signs of pregnancy. As if that weren’t weird enough, seven of the children are immediately adopted by Dr. Reginald Hargreeves, an eccentric scientist who trains and takes care of them all. The kids develop strange and wonderful powers as they age, and by the time their nearing adolescence, they have become a superteam. Hargreeves refers to them all by number, so they don’t see themselves as humans so much as things. They all have unique abilities, though, powers that are cool and potentially terrible at the same time.
Many years later, the kids reunite at Hargreeves’ funeral. There’s a new threat to the world to face, and the kids, now full-grown, have a lot of bitterness (toward themselves and their late stepfather) and dysfunction to work through before they can get to saving the world. And one of them may be more menace than help in that department.
It’s all intriguing stuff, with a British sci-fi twist on the superheroics, and it comes from Gerard Way, the lead singer of the rock band My Chemical Romance. The art from Gabriel Ba is loose and inventive, deviating often from traditional straight lines and linear storytelling.
So many loose ends are left untied at the end (in a positive way; the ambiguity is part of the story’s charm) that the doors are left wide open for a sequel. That’s a good thing, because Way and Ba have created an offbeat superhero team worth following. It’s a superteam for adults and older teens, since it relies on some adult themes, and it will be a pleasure for adults to read. The Umbrella Academy is creative and intriguing, a deliciously weird offering of incredibly satisfying storytelling.