"Hearts of Darkness"
Writers: John Byrne
Artists: John Byrne(p), Doug Hazelwood(i), Alex Bleyeart(c)
Doom Patrol breaks two cardinal rules of comic books. If thou art woman, thou shall be impregnated, raped and killed, though not necessarily in that order. If thou art woman and fight crime, thou shall be crippled, raped and/or killed, though not necessarily in that order.
John Byrne's revamp of the Doom Patrol fairly balances the gender of the team's roster, all three women fail to drown in the muck of Meltzer misogyny masquerading as a mature masterpiece. Byrne portrays the women of the Doom Patrol as courageous, confident, cogent and powerful. If any one of these ladies happened to have been on the JLA Satellite when the traditionally loser villain acted completely out of character by attempting rape, the vain assault would have amounted to a giant fist slapping him through the Satellite hull or a telekinetic blast smooshing him against the walls.
You're probably wondering why I'm talking about Identity Crisis in a Doom Patrol review. The truth is I can't help it. They're tied together in a positive matter and antimatter fashion, and Doom Patrol happens to be more mature than the much hyped continuity humper.
Identity Crisis would have nothing if not for shock. Take away the shock, and Identity Crisis suddenly would become nothing special. Doom Patrol does not rely upon shock. Instead, the book relies upon deft writing techniques, characterization that makes sense, good plotting and really, really fantastic non-exploitative artwork.
Doom Patrol opens with a reworking of Larry Trainor's/Negative Man's origin. Byrne more stringently ties Larry to the Chief. He adds more technosavvy to the craft carrying Larry to his destiny. He brings in a neat little twist, which reflects a better understanding of cosmological phenomena. He immediately builds through compelling dialogue upon the characterization of the Chief and Rita and with jargon; he enhances the setting and Larry's role as a pilot. Byrne isn't above adding humor to the situation that has already defused the tension. He hatches a lovely little artistic Easter egg referring to Man of Steel. See if you can spot it. Larry's origin has a purpose for being in the book. It without exposition explains the behavior of Negative Man in last issue's cliffhanger and the later scenes this issue that resolve the cliffhanger.
After the origin, Byrne cuts to "the present" where Rita is being thrown through a wall. Even here, Byrne does not patronize his fans. The scene may look familiar, but it's not the same scene. Byrne is not cutting and pasting. He chooses different angles to set the scene, and this refreshes the traditional concept of the recap.
Rita's impromptu entrance results in some vampire ass-kicking. I'm certain Byrne has seen Buffy, Angel or Hammer films, and there's definite similarities to certain plot elements in the former. However, the additions of the super-hero facet as well as Byrne’s artistic designs say something new while attending to Hollywood vampiric conventions.
You may not consider a story, which has a plot involving vampire ass kicking mature, but it is. It's a maturely structured story. Identity Crisis depends upon piled on contrivances. It asks the reader to accept too much. It asks you to believe that this villain is anything but the loser that he consistently portrayed. It asks you to believe that not only isn't he a loser, but he is also capable of boarding the JLA Satellite, one of the most fortified structures next to the Batcave in the DCU. It asks you to accept that the loser villain is also a rapist rather than a scientist who traditionally was only interested in grand larceny. Identity Crisis asks you to accept that the loser has a vendetta against a particular hero--a vendetta he never had. It asks you to accept that in a period where not one post-Crisis female super hero had yet been put in the fridge one of the few non-powered associates just happened to be on the JLA Satellite when the loser villain attacked. It asks you to accept that this non-powered associate has not learned one judo throw despite the fact that one of the people she knows is Batman.
Doom Patrol asks you to accept traditional vampires given a twist and a group of super-heroes kicking their asses. What interests the reader is how the Doom Patrol will win and the play of the narrative timing. Doom Patrol is the more mature book because it takes in account the totality of the super-hero shared universe. The tragedy that happened to the non-powered associate of the JLA would not happen in Byrne's book. It doesn't make sense. Byrne even shows that the Doom Patrol while having a brand-spanking new continuity do not exist in a vacuum. He concludes the story with a splendid JLA cameo, which features some more of Batman's characteristic humor. I loved every second of The Doom Patrol.
In summary, Doom Patrol good. Identity Crisis bad.
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