If you have followed my reviews of comic book derived movies and TV shows, you might notice that I can be rather critical of attempts to adapt some of my favourite comics.
Thing is, while what is presented in the adaptation may seem fresh and exciting for newbies, for an old geek like me, it all seems like “been there, done that”, especially so if the idea in the comics came out over two decades ago.
Such is the case with the 1st season of the DC Universe streaming series, Doom Patrol. Ostensibly, the series takes its cues from writer Grant Morrison’s clever reboot of the by-then 30 year old title in the 90s.
Hugely influenced by Alan Moore, Morrison’s approach was entirely deconstructive with a touch of surrealism into the mix to produce what was then a ground-breaking superhero comic.
In fact, the lynchpin of this streaming series is Crazy Jane (Diane Guerrero ) – a character created by Morrison with artist Richard Case – suffering from multiple personality disorder, with each personality endowed with a particular super power. Not only that but the over-arching villain of the piece is Mr Nobody (Alan Tudyk), re-imagined by Morrison and Case.
So there’s little doubt that Morrison’s run is the prime inspiration here. To that end, there are freaky quirky plots, loads of 4th wall penetration (by Mr. Nobody mainly), and for some reason, huge dollops of sex and profanity!
Perhaps, the TV series that comes closest to this offbeat goofball feel is Noah Hawley’s Legion. Both series try their best to distinguish themselves from the mainstream superhero TV shows out there – whether it be the silly shenanigans of the DC-CW shows or the dark, visceral impact of the Marvel-Netflix series.
Sadly, Doom Patrol is sorely let down by its humdrum plots. Spending too much time on tangential narratives that never quite make sense in the general scheme of things. Thus, it gets very frustrating most of the time, especially when nothing seems to happen and it all gets very ponderous.
The Morrisonesque pastiches are exactly that – never quite sincere enough to hit the mark. The surrealistic tone comes across as superficial, with most everyone involved not really committed to the conceptual basis of the series. That said, April Bowlby (as Rita Farr/Elasti-Girl) was the shining star throughout.
Not only that but the presence of Cyborg (Joivan Wade) is a wild miscalculation. Making Cyborg a part of the team is totally mystifying and this version of Vic Stone is unremarkable – the character is unconvincing, especially visually, and is a waste, in the final analysis. Why was he even necessary, when his character is virtually the same as Robotman!?!
Sure, there were certain highlights. The “Doom Patrol Patrol” episode with Mento and the others was particularly poignant and the episode in the “underground” of Crazy Jane (“Jane Patrol”) was worthwhile as well. Morrison’s Flex Mentallo makes a brief appearance to good effect as well.
But overall, Doom Patrol is deeply flawed and never delivers on its promise. Considering the way the 1st season ended though, I fully expect a 2nd season to be announced soon.
Watchable – much better than the various DC-CW series – but keep your expectations low.