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Doom Patrol #21

Posted: Tuesday, June 17, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: John Arcudi
Artist: Tan Eng Huat

Publisher: DC

Plot:
The book opens with Cliff arriving at the headquarters of the new Doom Patrol, but he discovers he's arrived too late, as the entire team has been possessed by the seven ancient warrior spirits that Tycho is trying send into their next lives. Needless to say the spirits don't exactly welcome Cliff's intrusion upon their ceremony, and as they move to take him down, the book jumps back a bit to look in on the members of Doom Patrol before they came to be possessed. It is during this flashback that we learn the team had gotten back together, and that most of their problems had been resolved, though Ted was using medication to effectively nullify his power, as he pushed it too far, and his future visions were driving him insane. However, the team isn't allowed much time to play catch up as they are set upon by Tycho & his group. The team is then quickly defeated, and is soon playing host to the ancient spirits. We then return to the present where we see Cliff decides to sit back and trust that Tycho isn't doing anything terribly evil, as he's promised that the possessed members of Doom Patrol will be released, when the spirits depart into the next realm. Now while Tycho's promise is kept, the promise the spirits made to Tycho isn't, as he is left blinded for life. We also see Kolodenko, the resident inventor didn't fare all that well in the aftermath of his possession.

Comments:
There's a odd little moment in this issue that caught me completely off guard, as John Arcudi breaks one of the most sacred rules of the super-hero game by having Cliff take a step back to let the villain finish up whatever evil master-plan they had cooking up before he arrived on the scene. I mean most heroes would've automatically arrived at the conclusion that whatever the villain was looking to accomplish was bad, and when faced with a battle in which they looked to have no chance of victory, they would still fight the good fight. Now one could say that he was simply using his head, and that he understood that there was no way he was going to be able to hold his own against Tycho and the rest of his possessed teammates, so in the interests of self-preservation he conceded defeat before the battle could even begin. On the other hand one could say that he was simply hedging a bet, and that his years of experience dealing with the bizarre & surreal told him that Tycho was telling him the truth. Whatever the case may be the simple fact of the matter is that Cliff's decision to take a step back & give Tycho the three minutes he needed to complete the ceremony was a very unexpected plot development, and it nicely plays up the idea that you never really know what these characters will do when they are backed into a corner.

The back-story for the villains of this story are also quite interesting as we learn how Tycho came to be involved in this plot to release the seven trapped souls, and why he was working so hard to accomplish this goal. Plus in the end he's betrayed by the spirits as they reneged on their promise, and leave him with nothing for his efforts. To this end we see the final panel reveals that Doom Patrol looks to have paid a pretty steep price as well, as one of their own didn't bounce right back after the spirit left his body. This makes Cliff's decision to stand back and let the show play out look less than impressive, but then again the damage had already been done before he arrived on the scene, so in the end the final result would've been the same, with the only difference being that the spirits simply would've found another poor sucker to do their bidding for them, and as such another seven souls would've been placed in danger. The issue also offers up some flashback material to detail how the members of Doom Patrol came to possess the spirits, and it's rather nice to see the team didn't really fair all that well in this contest, as there are times when seeing a team get their heads handed to them acts as a method of building up a sense of excitement, as we can now enter future battles with the knowledge that this team can be defeated.

Tan Eng Huat is a wonderful artist with a lovely design sense and I truly hope that he's lined up for another project at DC, as I do believe he's signed an exclusive contract with them. If nothing else he's proven he's able to handle the demands of a monthly title, as he's delivered 18 of the 21 issues, which is a pretty impressive feat in today's industry. The art itself is what's impressed me though, as this book does call upon the artist to deliver some pretty unusual visuals, and Tan Eng Huat is able to meet the demands of the writing. From the rather unsettling discovery that Cliff first makes when he enters the headquarters of Doom Patrol to the visual explosion in the final pages as the ceremony is completed and the spirits depart, this is another visually impressive show. There's also some nice work on the little details, like smoke rising from the ashtray as Ted quickly discards his cigarette when Ava walks in the room, or Ted's seedy look as he questions Vic about his look at Shyleen's goodies. The suddenness of the attack upon Doom Patrol was also nicely captured by the art, as the opening attack by Gar kicks everything off in a highly charged manner, and the scene upstairs where Vic opens his door and is quickly run through is also quite impressive. The visual designs of the altered members of Doom Patrol is also quite strong, with Vic's lizard-crab man being my personal favorite.

Final Word:
A fairly entertaining issue that managed to catch me completely offguard when Robot Man essentially decides to take a step back and let the villains of the story carry out their mysterious plan. Now while the aftermath would seem to suggest that this was the right move to make, the simple fact of the matter is that one simply doesn't expect a hero to give up, and concede to the demands of the villains. In any event, while this issue arrived at its big climax in a rather unconventional manner, and the slugfest happy fanboy in me is somewhat annoyed that we were cheated out of a fight where Robot Man would get an opportunity to display his fighting prowess, I will give this issue credit for originality, and if nothing else it does play up the idea that Cliff has always been a bit of a reluctant hero. I also enjoyed the fact that the issue continues to present this team as quite inexperienced at the super-hero game, as they are taken out of the fight very easily, and this acts as further proof that Cliff's years of experience are invaluable to this young group.



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