It's time for Comic Books! It's time for a Flashback! It's Time!
Our story begins with a violent, bloody car accident. Actually, it begins long before that, but that is where we jump into the flow. It is February 1989 and Cliff Steele, Robotman, is dreaming of his last day in a human body. Flames and force rip his body to shreds and only his brain survives. In the aptly titled "Crawling from the Wreckage," it is the first issue of Grant Morrison's run on DC Comics' The Doom Patrol. Welcome to Weird.
Grant Morrison's writing on the Doom Patrol is not solidly within the Horror genre. There is a good bit of whimsy mixed in and heavy doses of general strangeness. However, at the bottom of all this chaos is a repeating mantra that makes these stories especially unsettling and horrifying: You are not safe at any time. Your body isn't safe, it will change against your will. Your mind isn't safe, insanity waits around every corner. The World is not safe, the Universe around you will come unglued at any moment and reveal the vast gaping nothing underneath everything.
This is a book about cataclysmic apocalypse and in every sense of the word, Doom.
The poor heroes of the Doom Patrol struggle against a constant psychological undertow that threatens to drag them into hopelessness and oblivion. The adversaries the Doom Patrol face during this run especially typify this feeling of dread: The Scissormen of Orqwith, The Cult of the Unwritten Book, The Fifth Horseman, The Pentagon Horror, The Shadowy Mr. Evans, The Men from N.O.W.H.E.R.E., and finally the terrifying Candlemaker. These are just a few of the strange horrors contained within the pages.
With it's ambient oddness and continuous quiet feeling of nightmare, Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol has a subtle infectious quality that will linger with you long after you've finished reading. It is an unfinished puzzle with pieces forever missing, the terrible physical consequences of a car accident that you can never forget seeing, the hopelessness of a wet watercolor painting in the rain, the madness of a broken mirror. It is a strange dark bird to be sure, but if you are willing to let it carry you with its tattered wings, this book will haunt you.
One last thought: I recommend the early music of the Cocteau Twins as a soundtrack to this reading, specifically When Mama was Moth and other tracks from Head over Heels.
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