As I sat at the computer looking back at the year in comics, horror particularly, I came to the realization that there had been so many great stories told in 2009. So many great story tellers and their equally talented artists had lent their talents to titles such as “The Walking Dead,” “Freddy VS Jason VS Ash,” “Locke & Key,” “Deadworld,” ect…that it was really a mixed bag. But even with such titles floating about in my imagination my pick for story of the year had been made months before when I picked up the final issue of the 6 part mini-series. “The Umbrella Academy: Dallas,” written by My Chemical Romance front man Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Ba, did something that not many ever really thought it could; it surpassed its Eisner award winning predecessor and set the bar for macabre sci-fi laced comics higher than they already had been.
Dallas finds us just months after the events of the first series with our heroes still nursing their wounds (physical and emotional alike) from their last battle. The loss of Pogo has left the group in shambles, with each member dealing with their primate mentor’s death in a different way. White Violin is still bedridden from the head trauma she suffered in the last fight, with her sister Rumor at her bedside keeping vigil as she rests her lost voice. (Unfortunately, this is also the source of her powers) Kraken on the other hand has turned to food to sooth his pain, gorging himself to the point of Biggest Loser proportions.
The story itself though seems to revolve around Number 5, who has turned to gambling as his poison. Much is revealed in this story about the teams’ youngest member, and to say much else would ruin the story entirely. But suffice it to say Number 5 is easily one of the most sinister and dangerous characters in comic HISTORY.
Way’s writing is as sharp as ever. Each character, no matter how ridiculously odd they might be, is decidedly human with all the flaws needed to make them interesting. In fact it is Way’s talent for writing these human characters that is arguably the reason why The Umbrella Academy has been so lovingly received by the comic community. The tone of this story is much more serious than the first, and it shows through the content in every way. The colors are a hint darker, the characters are beaten and dealing with a serious loss, and all the while we are trying to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy by Number 5.
That being said, a more serious twist on the story was a memo that Ba obviously invested himself into because there is blood and guts everywhere. From the first issue we see an entire troop of men having their brains sprayed all over the pavement by one character, as two assassins wearing the goofiest headgear this side of Afro Samurai torturing another. Each and every panel depicts the violence in Ba’s patented bright and vivid style making it 1 part absurd and 2 parts realistic. Everything is sharp and fluid as Ba doesn’t miss a beat in any of the stories 6 issue run.
With DALLAS the team at Dark Horse has found their niche. Way has gone from being a theatrical, enigmatic rock singer to one of writings greatest new talents. And I’m not just referring to comics. And on the other side of the coin Gabriel Ba has cemented himself a resume that is slowly but surely putting him in the ranks of some major talents. Now the question is no longer whether or not the duo are one hit wonders, but where will they take us next? Way has stated that there will be 6 separate mini-series in his story, and if that is true then the next 24 issues cannot come soon enough.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Skulls