Grant Morrison was a huge influence on My Chemical Romance frontman/”Umbrella Academy” writer Gerard Way. So it’s probably not too surprising that Way has decided to put his own spin on Morrison’s groundbreaking “Doom Patrol” run as the inaugural title for his Young Animal imprint. It also means there’s a lot of hero worship for that run on display in this first volume even as it introduces us to plenty of new things, starting with ambulance-driving protagonist Casey Brinke. She’s one of the best out there, which is good because her life is about to get a whole lot weirder. It all starts with an exploding gyro in a trashcan which heralds the return of Cliff “Robotman” Steele only to see him smashed to bits by a garbage truck. This is only the tip of the weirdness iceberg as we find out that a cabal of alien corporations wants to use Danny the Street to provide an endless supply of meat for their burgers, Larry Trainor has had a falling out with the Negative Man and now subsists on negative energy, and a singing telegram girl causes Casey’s roommate to explode into a mix of birthday cake and confetti.
Way keeps piling the strangeness on throughout the volume, to the point where I imagine some people are going to find it hard to care about what’s going on let alone understand it all. This is even in spite of the fact that he does have the good sense to keep it all grounded in Casey’s journey of self-discovery which is easy enough to relate to. One good thing about all of the craziness of this volume is that it really shows what artist Nick Derington is capable of. Derington has a very appealing cartoony style that’s perfectly suited for the weirdness of the “Doom Patrol” and it’s very easy to appreciate his art in this story if nothing else.
It’s also worth mentioning that the shadow of Morrison’s run looms large over this volume. While Way isn’t content to simply rehash what that writer has done here, “Brick by Brick” is soaked in references from that seminal run. To the point where if you haven’t read it I think it represents a real barrier to entry here. Particularly since you’ll have no idea who the person is in the cliffhanger ending to issue #5 and why she’s important (to be fair, until you flip the page and read the next issue). Still, providing a reason to go back and re-read Morrison’s “Doom Patrol” isn’t necessarily a bad thing in my book. It does look like we’ll have to wait until vol. 2 to see if this series has anything more to offer than quality references, weirdness, and great art.