Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Putting My Bias Aside (The Umbrella Academy)

My Chemical Romance is a popular pop-punk/emo band (although I don't think they can really be considered either) known for it's popularity among what is commonly known as the "Hot Topic" crowd. I will openly admit that I did like a couple of songs from their first and second album (Give'em Hell, Kid was one of them) but found them for the most part not interesting enough to consider myself a fan of any kind. Eventually, the band got really popular and relied way too much on theatrics rather than music, which led to me disliking them. This is the same reason for which I do not like a lot of other bands that rely on an appearance or theatrics to gain popularity only to change the style once the fad is over. Anyway, this blog is mostly about comics and there is a reason why I am writing about My Chemical Romance. Front-man and lead singer, Gerard Way, wrote a comic series for Dark Horse called Umbrella Academy.

When they first announced it, I found myself groaning (a big part of the music community was groaning too), thinking that this was just another blatant attempt to cash in on the popularity and image of the band, and that the storyline was probably going to pander to lower common denominator of their teenage-girl fan base. The comic, written by Way and illustrated by Gabriel (from Casanova), eventually came out and started getting very good reviews. At first I just dismissed it, maybe out of the dislike for the band or maybe out of lack of interest. But I kept coming across people mentioning how good it was, so I finally decided to check out what all the buzz was about. I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Umbrella Academy - Apocalypse Suit.

The story, in it's core, is about a very dysfunctional family of superpowered individuals that do not get along. Pretty straightforward basic set-up, something that the Fantastic Four did more than 40 years ago. Using this formula, Way delivers a very fresh of breath air, even if the characters are a bit of cliches (the rebel, the good guy, the loner, etc) their strange superpowers and personalities help make this family stand out from the comic book racks. When you see the way the siblings argue, you know exactly how they feel because we have all been there in one point or the other in our lives (unless you are an only child). The world of Umbrella Academy is very fantastical and left (purposely) open to interpretation so either the reader can guess how the world got there, or leaving options open to explore further in other series (another series, The Umbrella Academy - Dallas is being published now, although I have not read it). There's a few missteps here and there like some disjointed storytelling or some lines that were just a little too cheesy, but overall, I have to say that it was a very fun read. Bá's art was also very fitting to the story and delivered a really memorable team. There's all kinds of insane and surreal things that inhabit this world, and delivers plenty of material to entertain the art and compliment the plot of the series. I do not want to go into a full summary, because there is a lot going on and you will probably enjoy it more from reading it yourself.

As research for this story, I checked the sale numbers that this series had and they were surprisingly low. The first issue sold about 37,000 units, not exactly a hit but not a complete bomb either, and the collection of the series sold around 7000 books, the fifth highest selling on that month, but numbers quickly and abruptly dropped the month after that. I have to say that this comes as a surprise for me, because My Chemical Romance (and Gerard Way by default) has some very rabid fans that would probably buy anything related to the band. While I did not expect the book to be the highest selling comic that month, I sure expected some bigger numbers on the collection. But then I realized, the numbers posted on the website I use for research are for "comic specialty stores", which I am guessing does not include Borders or big bookstores like that. As I mentioned before, My Chemical Romance is very big among the "Hot Topic" or sometimes called "Mall" crowd, so I would not be very surprised if a good majority of the sales (and I particularly remember both Borders AND Hot Topic carrying single issues of Umbrella Academy) came from stores in malls, that to my knowledge do not count as specialty stores and therefore do not post their sales on Diamond.


  1. I was honestly stunned at the quality of Umbrella Academy when I read the trade. Stunned. Who would have thought.

  2. Glad to know I am not the only one that liked it.