Book Review: ‘The Umbrella Academy: Vol 2’ by Gerard Way & Gabriel Ba

Creators: Gerard Way & Gabriel Bá

Originally Published in 2008-09

Review by Miriam Atkinson

I recently got my hands on the first two graphic novel volumes of The Umbrella Academy. If you’re interested please check out my previous review for my thoughts on volume one.

Now for volume two…

After mostly saving the world (and failing to save the Umbrella Academy building) half of the Academy’s members are ignoring the world following their relocation to an underground bunker. The remaining members of the Academy are instead trying to make the best of the new world. However external forces have other ideas and soon the siblings are forced to work together again to prevent a new wave of destruction. A journey that takes them to 1963 Dallas.

There wasn’t space in my first review to talk about the art style of The Umbrella Academy graphic novels. Gabriel Bá uses an angular, almost harsh, line of drawing that matches with the dystopian theme of the story. Bá also make sures that each of the Hargreaves siblings are immediately recognisable from just their outline or silhouette (such as Luther’s hulking spacesuit). This gives the reader clarity while also making each character feel and look like a distinctive individual.

The darker and muted colour scheme created by Dave Stewart compliments the darker tone of the story. Here soft lines and bright colours would not fit with the story’s tone. That being said colour is used to show the occasional moment of contrast – such as Allison’s purple hair or Klaus’ Hawaiian shirts. To me these flashes of colour suggest that some of the characters have moments of hope for a better life (free of their siblings and responsibilities) but they always get drawn back into the trouble of the real world and turmoil of the Academy. Reality is a lot greyer than their dreams.

Like a lot of new readers to The Umbrella Academy graphic novels I started with the Netflix adaption first. For the first volume I enjoyed the differences between the two formats as much as I did the plot points they had in common. For volume two I actually prefer the season two adaption to the original.

For me the plotline of volume two feels too quick and there is no time to pause. This is understandable as there is a lot to pack into a six issue story however the fast pace combined with the large ensemble of characters does mean that some characters, like Vanya, have less to do than others. For me this is where a television format works better as it allows for a longer story arc with quieter character moments rather than being all action.

I was also surprise that, despite this volume being titled ‘Dallas’ the characters actually spend very little time in the city. Most of the issues build up the journey towards needing to go to Dallas rather than the plotline jumping there straightaway. As the entire second season of The Umbrella Academy is set in 1960s Dallas I was interested to find out that in the original story this jump was only intended as the climax to the volume rather than being the main focus of the plot.

Despite my mixed feelings about volume two I still really enjoyed reading the graphic novel and getting to see how Gerard Way & Gabriel Bá originally envisioned this story. I’m looking forward to seeing how the story evolves once I get a copy of volumes three and four.

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