I seem to be caught in an infinite loop of my own making, one in which I’m perpetually attempting to catch up with books, music and films that I missed when they originally appeared for an unforgivably long list of petty and ridiculous reasons. The Umbrella Academy is a case in point. When it first materialised a decade or so ago, and became one of the celebrated books de jour, I made a point of deliberately ignoring it because it was written by Gerard Way. It wasn’t that I had anything against Way as an author or a person as honestly, I wasn’t even aware that he was a writer. My reason for shunning The Umbrella Academy was a punk rock thing.
See, Way was the frontman for My Chemical Romance, a band I believed to be bland, musically flavourless and clichéd and who had adopted a watered down punk ethic as a crutch to aid them as they navigated the turbulent waters of the music scene. Punk rock can be complicated like that, especially for us lifers who see anything new as being a threat to the established order, which is sort of ironic given what punk is supposed to represent and be. Turns out I was wrong and following the first season of the show, that was based on the book, on Netflix and an afternoon spent devouring the initial volume of The Umbrella Academy I was forced to do a complete one eighty and admit that I’d let my punk rock snobbery get in the way of experiencing something special, different, exciting and unique.
What becomes immediately apparent when diving headlong into Dallas is that the debut season of the Netflix show incorporated certain elements from the first and second story arcs of the comic. Cha-Cha and Hazel, the agents sent to bring Number Five back to shadowy organisation that kept time in check which he was working for who were one of the show’s most glorious stand out moments? They don’t actually appear until Dallas’ middle act when the truth about Five is finally revealed in far more twisted, involving and gruesome fashion than it ever was on screen.
Dallas, as the more historically and politically astute have almost certainly already guessed, revolves around the assassination of the thirty-fifth President of the United States, John F. Kennedy and a torn and battered, following the climatic events of Apocalypse Suite, Umbrella Academy’s involvement in making sure that said murder doesn’t and does happen thanks to the tangled web that is Five’s life, ensnaring them all. Smart, snappy and wonderfully bizarre, Dallas is the sort of book that you wish more writers would create, while visually it’s haunting, strangely beautiful and draws inspiration from Mike Mignola to fashion a world that’s similar to, and yet entirely different from, our own. And as weird as it gets, you just know that things are going to get curiouser and curiouser before Way and Ba’s story eventually reaches its conclusion. Welcome to the Academy… Tim Cundle
The Umbrella Academy Volume Two: Dallas (Library Edition) is published by Dark Horse Comics and will be available on November 26th. Pre-order it here