When it was announced that Gerard Way was heading up an imprint of comics over at DC called Young Animal (“comics for dangerous humans!”), I felt two major parts of my life colliding. There’s the now, where I’m excited to hear about great creators using their platforms to do new things in comics. And then… there’s the me who ran over to the front of the crowd to see My Chemical Romance playing at Warped Tour. Gerard Way was a rock god to me, and seeing him do his thing live, not two yards from my face, was one of the purest and most electrifying feelings in my life. This was me on that day, right before the My Chemical Romance performance over ten years ago.
(As a general note, no, I was not actually from the west side and yes, I did somehow survive that sunburn.)
Now, it’s bizarre to say, because it doesn’t seem true, but I’m in the same industry as Gerard Way. Not music – that, I tried. I was the lead singer (read as: screamer) of a band called Novela Kiss, who are now rebranded as Paint the Target. They’re still friends, and their band is actually really good! Music was a passing passion for me, though, as the aspect of it that always interested me most was writing. I loved the epic scale of Gerard Way’s storytelling in his lyrics, and his music indeed served as an inspiration for me as I pushed to make writing a career. We’re both writing comics now, funny enough, and I’m happy to be a fan of his work in an entirely different medium – a medium that, to me, is in need of a voice as powerful as his.
So, let’s see what Young Animal is all about!
Gerard Way – Writer / Nick Derington – Artist /
Tamra Bonvillain – Colorist / Todd Klein – Letterer
Doom Patrol was the first Young Animal book I read, and it followed through on exactly what I hoped it would: doing something new in comics. Fans of Gerard Way’s Umbrella Academy will recognize the way his storytelling plays with the surreal and the absurd, but this story, which focuses on ambulance driver (read as: ambulance speedster, pretty much) Casey Brinke, surprises with freshness and hilarity at every turn. The exchange that really did it for me, summing up the feel of the issue is this exchange between Casey and her soon-to-be-former roommate:
CASEY: It isn’t trash. It’s a robot man.
ROOMMATE: Of course it is – because you don’t make any sense.
CASEY: (petting her cat) Who’s a sheddy kitty?
Casey, to me, is the essence of what Young Animal is. She goes against the grain, but not in the too-cool-for-you, I-don’t-like-labels way. No, Casey is 100% genuine, wearing her weirdness and interests on her sleeve, and she doesn’t really mind that folks think she’s strange – because before they’re doing criticizing her, she’s already forgotten that she’s talking to them.
The issue opens up a great deal of story threads, introducing a huge cast of characters while still keeping the narrative satisfyingly focused on Casey, and Way’s narration is lyrical, with the same poetic flair that made me fall in love with his writing in the days of My Chemical Romance. Paired with Derington’s lively and immersive artwork and Bonvillain’s lush colors, Doom Patrol #1 couldn’t be a better debut.
SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL
Cecil Casellucci – Writer / Marley Zarcone – Artist /
Kelly Fitzpatrick – Colorist / Saida Temofonte – Letterer
Shade the Changing Girl is as complex and strange as Doom Patrol, but in an entirely different way. While Doom Patrol utilizes its surrealism to build character, leaving most of its plot threads open by issue’s end, Shade the Changing Girl is an issue with a mystery that unravels as you read. It’s a comic that, because of the way it’s written, narrated by an alien and utilizing nonlinear structure, withholding information from the reader until the proper moment, asks a lot of its audience. In exchange for that heightened level of participation, though, the story gives a great deal of payoff when everything clicks into place. Though it’s clearly the beginning of a larger story, I was surprised by how satisfied I was by this issue. True, like Doom Patrol, it’s just getting started, but there is a certain level of narrative and thematic completion here that makes this work as a standalone in a way I didn’t expect.
I’m also pretty pumped on the art. Zarcone and Fitzpatrick’s work looks way more left-of-center than almost anything I’ve seen DC publish, which is incredibly exciting. I’d love to see Young Animal push the boundaries of what mainstream comics can be, and if these two titles are any indication, DC Comics under the guidance of Gerard Way and his team of creators can be just as subversive, relevant, and counter-culture as anything on the independent market. It wouldn’t be fair to call Young Animal a new Vertigo, because the spiritual ethos behind Way’s imprint is very much about the new and about the now rather than copying the past. Be that as it may, one thing Vertigo did capture was the feeling that comics can be anything… and now, in 2016, Young Animal is reminding us just how true that is.