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Doom Patrol #6

Posted: Saturday, November 27, 2004
By: Ray Tate



"A Brain is a Terrible Thing to Waste"

Writer: John Byrne
Artists: John Byrne(p), Doug Hazelwood(i), Alex Bleyaert(c)
Publisher: DC

Mr. Byrne has not lost any of his artistic talent between issues of Doom Patrol, nor has he lost his near instinctive understanding of how super-powers work in a story. But between issues five and six, it appears that he forgot some elements of the plot that were vital.

Last issue Nudge happened upon a broadcast of Robot Gladiators. Brutal but legal. The presence of the Chief's previously thought dead old nemesis however warranted investigation. Under the guise of the sultry and sophisticated Baroness, Rita and Kwon Mi-Sun (Nudge) her servant enter the contest with her robot Blue Steel (Cliff).

The setup of the contest is that unbeknownst to the gamblers and fans, Verdalian is not actually pitting robots against each other but cyborgs. Human brains of "drug addicts and derelicts" actually die in the ring. To the gamblers and fans however only cow brains are used to spice up the match. Ethically questionable but possibly legal.

The conclusion damages this carefully crafted premise. In the previous issue, the robots including Cliff behave like docile, mute machines to reinforce the facade of legality. Indeed, in regarding Mi-Sun's reaction to the beating dished out to Cliff Verdalian states:

"Your companion's reaction seems somewhat extreme for a machine, Baroness..."

In the previous issue we discover that the full extent of Verdalian's cyborg creations are only known to those operating the games; probably there are levels to this aspect. The Baroness is an outsider. So it seems logical to me that Verdalian would keep up the pretense of no human being harmed in the matches. Instead, when he examines Cliff's hidden braincase--Byrne foreshadowed this in the previous issue so it is not a cheat--he speaks to Cliff as if he knows that Cliff is a human. Blue Steel talks a blue streak.

How can this be when the Baroness is supposed to be an outsider not privy to Verdalian's cyborg-technology, Mi-Sun is supposed to be out of the loop and Cliff is supposed to be pretending to be a machine, not even one that possesses a cow brain? Last issue, the Baroness expressed surprise at seeing a cow brain being mashed by Verdalian's thug. It just doesn't make sense.

Byrne conceives of great scenes where Rita uses her power. He forges some good continuity in flashback that shows how long Rita has been with the Chief--her relative youth explains why Verdalian did not recognize her as the Baroness--and the artwork throughout is what you expect from John Byrne, but this flaw in the story drops its value.



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