Thursday, August 19, 2010

Doom Patrol #56

TITLE: Doom Patrol #56


COVER DATE: June 1992


24 pages


So there are things that I strongly remember about this title during the 90's, and there are things that I have no recollection of.

With the latter, one of the big mysteries is why I started reading this title in the first place. I'm pretty sure I had never read a Doom Patrol story before, nor had I ever read a Grant Morrison book prior to this one.

The only thing I can think is that I had just started reading Sandman the year before, which turned me on to comics of a more cerebral nature. It seems natural that this title, which had been getting its fair share of critical praise at the time, would be the next logical step.

What I do remember, however, is that this title turned me into a Doom Patrol fan to this day. I don't really have the budget to do much active collecting these days, but when I do there's still three titles that I look for -- Superman, Dr. Strange, and Doom Patrol.

This title also made me into a Grant Morrison and Richard Case fan. Both of these creators I still read to this day, although Case has been keeping a relatively low profile since Hunter: The Age of Magic wrapped up.

So what about this actual issue? It's funny, as I have fond memories of enjoying the heck out of this series when it was being released. When I think of good 90's comics, this one is always in the top ten. But I haven't ever re-read this run, and my memory of actual events that happened within it's pages have faded. Maybe I'm more sober now than I was in my mid-twenties, and the brain cells that got sacrificed were the Doom Patrol ones. I guess we'll never know, so let's just read this thing.

Down In The Well
  • Writer: Grant Morrison
  • Layouts: Richard Case
  • Finishes: Stan Woch
  • Colorist: Daniel Vozzo
  • Letterer: Jon Workman
  • Editor: Tom Peyer
So here's the thing...Grant Morrison is a very polarizing writer on the best of days. He tends to drive fans to one of two extremes, with readers falling into either the "love him" or "hate him" camp. I happen to fall into the love him category, but I appreciate the fact that his stuff is not for everybody. I also appreciate the fact there are two different styles of Grant Morrison books. There's the relatively mainstream and straightforward stuff like his JLA run and...well...I guess his JLA run. I guess if we're in a charitable mood, we can throw his Batman run in there too, at least up until the Zur En Arrh stuff.

The other style involves his experimental stuff where he tends to bend the rules of convention and reader expectations. The Doom Patrol definitely falls into the latter category, so I'm actually going to break the review up into two sections. First up is the safe for all audiences, Reader's Digest version. If you get to the end of that, and feel like experimenting a bit further, there'll be a more in depth review for your entertainment.

The issue opens up with Crazy Jane, who has gone missing from the Doom Patrol on a quest to confront her father who had abused her as a child. When we catch up with her, she is holed up in a cathedral in Metropolis and has gotten herself in trouble with the local police force. Using her powers, she bursts forth from hiding, laying waste to the assembled police blockade out front.

Back at DP headquarters, Robotman and Danny The Street talk about recent events. Danny is concerned about an evil presence he has felt in the recent past that has suddenly gone missing. Robotman takes that as a good thing, brushing aside Danny's concerns in favor of trying to find out what has happened to Crazy Jane.

During his investigation into Jane's disappearance, Robot Man consults with one of her old doctors and finds out that her father has been dead for ten years! She suggests that Cliff heads to Metropolis, as that is where her Crazy Jane persona first manifested itself. If she's gone off the deep end, it's a good place to start.

It's too late, of course, as Jane has already fled Metropolis after her battle with the police. Her next stop is her childhood home, which is nothing more than an abandoned farm these days.

The memories of her abuse, along with her multiple personalities, start cascading through her mind. The main image triggered is from a time when her father threw one of her stuffed animals down the well to punish her. One of her stronger personalities comes to the forefront and forces her down the well to find it, which she does.

With her animal finally safe, she has visions of being at her father's deathbed, telling the doctor's to turn off his life support. With his evil finally behind her, she emerges from the well to a vision of a fairytale landscape, complete with an enchanted castle in the distance.

See? That wasn't so bad, was it?

That's the end of the SFW part of the review as we now say goodbye to the feint of heart. We'll catch up with you in a day or two for another random book to review, but for the braver among you, let's dig a little deeper into this issue.

So when I started reading this issue, I didn't remember a whole lot of what happened. I have to say, however, that as soon as I got into a few pages it all started coming back to me, and this particular issue is kind of an important one for Morrison's run.

Going back to the beginning, we find Crazy Jane in Metropolis at the cathedral where she was raped in the past. That trauma led to the first onset of her multiple personalities, which eventually gives her super powers, as each of her personalities has a different super power.

Cornered by the police, one of her personas moves to the forefront to deal with the situation. Consulting her wikipedia page, I'm guessing it's either Scarlet Harlot or Flaming Katy.

She leaves the assembled police force in ruins, which gives Cliff all sorts of headaches when he arrives in Metropolis to find her. For Jane, however, it's on to the next site of her trauma tour as she leaves Metropolis.

Before Cliff can begin his search, he has a little unfinished business with Danny The Street to take care. For those of you not in the know, Danny The Street is one of the stranger hero's in Morrison's Doom Patrol, which I guess you could say is the highest of compliments. True to his name, he's a street who happens to be sentient. His role in this story is limited to basically a harbinger of impending doom, as he tries to warn robot man of an evil presence that has gone m.i.a.

That's not the only foreshadowing of bad things to come, as we next find the irascible Willoughby Kipling being called to a meeting of the Knights Templar. He's late for the meeting, but is soon brought up to speed by the dentures of one of the older knights.

That's right, if the sentient hovering dentures of a templar knight tell you that Nostradamus' apocalypse is coming, you better listen. It's just Willoughby's luck that he's drawn the short straw and is tasked with helping the Doom Patrol deal with it.

We now get to the meat of the story, as Crazy Jane arrives at the farm that was her childhood home. Crazy Jane's story is a tragic one, and here is where it all started. When she was a little girl, she was molested by her father. As she walks in and around the crumbling farmhouse, the initial memories of that abuse start returning. One particularly painful memory was when her father punished her by throwing her stuffed lamb down the well.

Now that she's back at the farm, her multiple personalities struggle for control, eventually pushing her down the well to rescue her long lost stuffed animal.

Falling down the well, Crazy Jane spirals past multiple for every personality, I would presume. She eventually reaches the bottom of the well, where she does indeed find her long lost lamb, Harry.

Once reunited, Crazy Jane seems to find a new found peace. Perhaps it's the fact that she was able to do this for herself, without using one of her super-powered personalities. Her journey's not at an end just yet, however, as there is one more thing that needs tending to. With Harry safe and secure once again, it's time to bury the memory of her abusive father once and for all.

Her mind transports her to the vision of her father on his deathbed, stricken with cancer. She turns to the doctors in attendance and tells them to switch off his life support. With his memory truly and surely dead, there is just one final door at the bottom of the well that she must go through. Opening it, she finds a fairy tale world awaiting her, complete with enchanted castle.

It looks like there may be hope for Crazy Jane after all.

It's not all unicorns and rainbows for the rest of the Doom Patrol however, as the issue ends with Robotman returning to DP headquarters after failing to find Crazy Jane. What he does find is the dead body of Joshua Clay, a onetime member of the Doom Patrol who used to go by the name Tempest. He had retired from super-heroing but was here as the defacto team physician, a job which would ultimately lead to his rather grizzly death.

Who killed him? Let's check in with the last page for the cliffhanger ending...

That's's Niles Caulder, a.k.a. The Chief.


Come on in, the water's fine!

If you're going to jump right into Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol, you could do worse than pick this issue. Yeah, it's the culmination of a thirtysome issue long arc for Crazy Jane, but you really get everything you need to know with this issue.

The other high point, is that this issue sets up so many other storylines that really set the stage for Morrison's final arc. You get the death of a Doom Patrol member, the crazy Chief getting even crazier, Robotman in over his head...

I know I had a bit of fun with the blog posts leading up to this issue, but truth be told, this was surprisingly coherent and eerily straightforward. The big surprise was just how touching and heartfelt this issue was concerning Jane's journey. It started out incredibly depressing and morose with being forced to relive the beginning of her father's abuse. Throw in a raggedy stuffed lamb, and that just amped up the emotional investment. Luckily for Jane, and us, she finds the inner strength to deal with her trauma and come through stronger for it.

A big part of the effectiveness of this story belongs to Richard Case. There are a lot of artists that are lauded for their skills with making their characters act. Steve Dillon and Kevin Maguire are two that instantly pop to mind. I think Richard Case belongs right up there with the best of them, as there isn't a page in this issue that doesn't drive the emotional center of the story. And when all you have to work with for part of the story are a robot and a sentient street, that's saying something. It's too bad that Richard Case doesn't have a monthly book these days, as I'd definitely be on board for more of his visuals.

Looking back, I can easily see how this run turned me into a Grant Morrison and Doom Patrol fan. If I didn't have a "to read" stack that's sagging my bookshelf right now, I'd be back down in the longboxes pulling the remainder of Morrison's run to finish reading.

All characters and artwork reproduced are (c) DC Comics

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