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Philosophical Monday: THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY: APOCALYPSE SUITE by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba

I’m so excited to kick off BOOK WEEK with the very first book I read on my iPad (best Mothers Day Gift ever), the graphic novel; THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY: APOCALYPSE SUITE by Gerard Way (yes, written by that Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance fame) and Gabriel Ba (art).

Why I Decided To Read It: I actually found this through my old job as the writer for American Top 40 with Ryan Seacrest. My Chemical Romance kept on charting, so I had to keep on finding things to say about them, and the story popped up that the lead singer had struck a deal to write a comic book series. I simply adore MCR — they’re my favorite of all the emo bands. I declared The Black Parade brilliant on first listen, and if they do go through with their threat to make the next album a stripped down rock album (seriously why do so many electronic rock bands do this? I’m looking a you, MGMT!), I will just pretend that they stopped at The Black Parade. Anyway, I kept on forgetting to give this series a read, then lo and behold, I found the entire graphic novel on the Dark Horse Comics app for iPad.

What It’s About: In either our future or some kind of alternative future or some kind of parallel world, 43 mostly single women around the world with no signs of pregnancy spontaneously give birth. These babies all have powers, and an eccentric, swashbuckling alien adopts seven of them. These two girls and five boys are our main characters and according to their adoptive father, meant to save the world. After a few glimpses of their pretty effed-up childhood (the alien while swashbuckling is also emotionally distant and withholding), the seven reunite as adults at his funeral.

What Makes It Different: This book subverts X-men in a compelling and cynical way.

What I Loved: Much like electronic rock, this graphic novel felt very discordant but enjoyable. Also reading a graphic novel on the iPad is way nicer for me than reading one in  it’s physical form. No unwieldly, weirdly-sized book to carry around, and turning the page was a breeze, even with a baby under one arm. It felt like being in one of those infomercials, where you didn’t know how hard doing a simple task was before something gadget came along to make it easier. Also the characters were well-drawn (both literally and figuratively), and the situations compelling. Most of all, I loved the many details that either went happily unexplained or will most certainly Easter Egg in future UA comics. The movie rights for UA:as have been optioned with a tentative release date of 2012. I approve!

What I Didn’t Like: In general, Dark Horse needs to step up their game with the iPad. Don’t offer one graphic novel and then not offer the follow-up. I’m sure Dark Horse felt that by offering UMBRELLA ACADEMY: Apocalypse Suite but not offering its sequel UMBRELLA ACADEMY: Dallas that this would drive sales of the UA:D hard copy. Instead it just made me all sorts of stabby. Now, that I’ve had the iPad experience, I doubt that I’ll ever buy another physical graphic novel again. They’re too hard to negotiate and I prefer the convenience of an iPad. Dark Horse is missing out on sales by not offering UA:Dallas and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: Season 8 for the iPad. And it seriously makes me want to headdesk.

Also, no characters of color. Annoying and a bit shocking because there are so few comic ensembles these day that just completely eschew PoC. And since all seven characters were adopted, I didn’t see why they all had to be white.

Writing Lessons Learned:

Go real dark to find the comedy. This book is so dark and brooding, it’s funny. It reminded me that you don’t always have to craft a laugh. Often making your characters extreme versions of what they already are gets a laugh better than dialogue.

Leave something for later. Right now I’m working on the third draft of my rogue sci-fi novel novel, and it’s tempting to try and explain everything. But UA inspired me to think about what I actually need to include and what I could either Easter Egg or leave the reader to explain for herself.

Use your skill set in a different genre. I’ve been a frustrated comic book writer inside my own head for awhile now. Seeing Gerard Way apply his skill set to another genre made me want to take my back-of-the-head dream a little more seriously. No details yet, but something’s percolating.

To Whom Would I Recommend This Book: MCR fans, Lovers of Greek Tragedy, People with Effed Up Families, Celloists, Anyone Working On An Ensemble Piece

Click on the cover pic to buy the book!