One of the astounding facts about The Umbrella Academy is that Gabriel Ba's art looks even better here than it did in Casanova, and it looked GREAT in Casanova. I'm more astounded by that than I am about the story, written by Gerard Way. I had no preconceptions about Gerard Way at all. I remember reading about My Chemical Romance a few years ago in a Spin feature article and thinking that they sounded like cool guys with their comic book references and all, but they looked like douchebags with their art-student-rockstar-foppish-dandyness. But I never heard any of their music until "Welcome to the Black Parade," which I though was one of the great pop songs of the year. And they were really popular with the local Hot Topic crowd. None of which predisposed me to assume anything about Gerard Way's comic writing skillz.
Umbrella Academy, all four issues of it so far, is good, though. Quite good. Maybe the only thing keeping it out of the Top 10 is that I don't know how Way and Ba are going to end this sucker, especially if Way has plans to continue the series as a set of miniseries over the next decade (as he has stated in interviews). The overall flow of the narrative has seemed a bit uneven, too, with an incredibly strong first issue followed by a bit of a stall with issues two and three and then an explosion of awesomeness in issue four. Once the series is completed, the pacing might work perfectly when everything is read in succession, but as monthlies, it feels just a bit off.
But I have faith that Way and Ba can pull it off. The comic boldly flashes its influences, with a heaping of Grant Morrison here, some Wes Anderson there, a side of Mike Mignola and a hint of Matt Wagner, but those are all creators I love as well, so I can understand where Way and Ba are coming from.
Umbrella Academy might end up being one of the great comics of all time. It's got the potential, and it makes a damn fine ambassador for what makes comics so cool. So all the Hot Topic kids buying it just because Gerard Way's name on it might find a gateway drug to American superhero comics. I just hope they don't accidentally pick up anything by Daniel Way. That stuff might turn them off the medium forever.
Umbrella Academy is good. Read it.