There are plenty of comic books with dark and dysfunctional superheroes, but none have the wild, zany feel as The Umbrella Academy. Written by Gerard Way (lead singer of My Chemical Romance) and illustrated by Gabriel Ba, The Umbrella Academy, vol. 1: Apocalypse Suite starts the weird, wonderful journey of these superbeings.

The adventure begins when 47 women spontaneously give birth, despite having shown no signs of being pregnant. Seven of these children are adopted by Reginald Hargreeves, a.k.a. The Monocle, a philanthropist, inventor, creator of intelligent chimps, and alien. He trains the children, who have different powers (except the seventh, a girl Hargreeves had no problem telling she isn't special), and at age 10 they defend Paris from a rampaging Eiffel Tower.

Jumping ahead several years, the kids have grown up and apart. Spaceboy watches the stars for threats and has a robot-gorilla body. Kraken is a knife-throwing secret agent. The Rumor -- well, we don't know what her power is. Seance still speaks with the dead, The Boy travelled to the future and is a 60-year-old man in the body of a 10 year old, the Horror died, and Vanya (the powerless one ) plays the violin and wrote a tell-all book about them. And Doctor Pogo, the chimp who helped raise them, is still there.

The kids are reunited by the death of their adopted father -- and the Boy saying that the end of the world happened three days after the Monocle's death. An orchestra made up of villains wants to recruit Vanya to destroy the world.

Apocalypse Suite is a terrifically original work. There is plenty of darkness and violence, but also a funky zaniness that reminds me of some of the psychedelic t.v. shows of the '60s. Way demonstrates that he can write interesting characters and very original plots, and Ba's art style, reminiscent of Mike Mignola, works perfectly for this world. A large cut above standard superhero fare, The Umbrella Academy, vol. 1: Apocalypse Suite is a very entertaining adventure.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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