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Doom Patrol #20

Posted: Tuesday, May 13, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: John Arcudi
Artist: Rick Geary

Publisher: D.C. Comics

Plot:
The book opens with Robotman, Negative Man & Elasti-Girl doing battle with the shape-shifting villain, the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral-Man, and the entire battle has a very episodic feel to it, as the characters even offer up dialogue where it would appear they're asking questions of the reader to advance the story. We then see this entire opening exchange is a proposed script for the new Doom Patrol television series, and this script is rejected as it would break the bank to film such an action heavy, effects laden script. We then return for a second draft that is far more dependent on the development of suspense, and in this overly melodramatic encounter we see Robotman reveals that the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral-Man is his wife (in this version of the script the villain has switched genders). We then see the research analyst is practically tearing his hair because of the liberties that are being taken by the writers, as he wanted the television show to be more reflective of the real Doom Patrol. We then are treated to the real encounter, where we see Cliff, Rita & Larry were bringing the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral-Man into custody, when the villain confronted the trio with the idea that the Chief was simply using them as his own personal freak show, and as much as they deny this accusation, the idea does have a disturbing ring of truth to it.

Comments:
It's truly annoying that this book is getting canceled, and I'm starting to feel it would've been better to have the book suddenly disappear from the shelves, than to know that the final issue has been set. I mean when a book isn't really grabbing my attention then news of its cancellation is almost welcome news, as I average about ten-fourteen reviews a week, so I welcome the time that frees up when there is one less unimpressive title for me to review. However, then there's a book like Doom Patrol, which is a delight to review month in and month out, and knowing that it's days are numbered is actually painful. I mean every issue is a showcase of John Arcudi's wealth of talent, and with Thunderbolts also on the chopping block over at Marvel, I'm actively dreading the prospect that in a couple months there will be no John Arcudi written material for me to enjoy. Now there's always the back issue bin, and I'm sure an online search will point me in the direction of the books he worked on before Doom Patrol. Still, I truly hope both Marvel & DC recognize that John Arcudi is a very talented writer who is able to think beyond the conventions of a normal story, and that he's already got a number of projects already lined up from both companies. In fact I'd love to see him on a book that was effectively immune from cancellation.

Now that I've wasted a column lamenting this book's cancellation I guess I should start discussing the reasons why I feel this book deserved a better fate. Basically this book is DC's answer to Marvel's "X-Statix", as the idea of a group of heroes being marketed to the public is very much at the forefront of this book, and this issue in particular has a grand old time playing with the idea of Doom Patrol, the television series, as we see two different versions of an encounter with the truly bizarre Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, before we get a look at what really occurred. Needless to say the televised versions of the event are truly hilarious, and when the book shifts back to reality John Arcudi really gets to showcase his talent, as the conversations about budget & the importance of research have a wonderful sense of realism to them. However the highlight of this issue would have to be the look at the real encounter, as it's not often that a villain is allowed to present such irrefutable logic, and by the end one does look upon Niles Caulder as a bit of a monster. Then again it's not like the trio of Doom Patrol members in this issue couldn't have turned down his offer, or walked away at any time, so there has to be something that kept them together. Still, there is something rather sad about the answer that is offered up by Rita, when she's asked why Doom Patrol exists.

Since Tan Eng Huat plays such a vital role in my enjoyment of this series, I have to say that having his name listed on the cover, and then being treated to a guest-artist inside was a bit of a disappointment. Still the guest-art of Rick Geary delivered the work with a nice sense of clarity, and there's almost a cartoonish look to his work the nicely serves the more goofy aspects of the televised versions of the event. I also have to credit the book for capturing the sheer oddball factor that is the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, as the budget busting version of the story that opens the book is a delightful display of this character's truly odd power. However, where the art isn't quite as impressive is during the scene in the final pages where the villain is effectively tearing away the illusion that Niles Caulder has built to exposed Doom Patrol for what it really is, as the art is quite unconvincing when it comes to detailing the reactions of the cast. I mean the dialogue manages to sell the idea that the members of Doom Patrol have had a seed of doubt planted in their minds, but the art is too lighthearted to truly convey the impact of this scene. Still, I do like that this book does play host to guest-artists who bring a truly unique look to a book, and this is yet another reason why the news of this book's cancellation is so disappointing.

Final Word:
A very entertaining issue that starts out as an amusing look at Doom Patrol being turned into a television series, before the final scene steps in to deliver the real emotional punch of the story, when the question of why Doom Patrol was created is brought up, and a rather unsettling answer is proposed. Now I must confess my collection only includes a handful of issue that starred the original Doom Patrol, and most of my exposure to the group came about during the second series. However, this lack of familiarity with the original cast didn't hurt my enjoyment of the material in the slightest, as the book is clearly told, and it's objective is perfectly realized. The opening scenes are a delightful look at the team as seen through the eyes of people interested in various aspects of the television series, and the conversations where the scripts are discussed are very entertaining. Then there's the final scene, where the issue takes a very serious look at a question that is still playing a very strong role in the new series.



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