In the Umbrella Academy – Apocalypse Suite we are introduced to a broken family reuniting in the wake of their father’s death. It’s a pretty well-worn starting place for stories about families. This family just happens to have superpowers! Written by Gerard Way, with art from Gabriel Ba this comic is a fascinating tale following seven extraordinary children who overcome horrible circumstances to save the world.
This all may sound familiar to you if you’ve been watching The Umbrella Academy series on Netflix, which is currently up to season 3 on the streaming platform. If you’re unfamiliar with the source material for the show, then you may want to check out my review. (Part 1 of 3)
[Warning: my review of The Umbrella Academy – Apocalypse Suite contains spoilers!]
An extraordinary start for The Umbrella Academy
The story begins with a rather extraordinary circumstance. On a particular day, at 9:38 p.m. forty-three extraordinary children were born. This might not seem amazing, children are born every day, but in this case, none of the mothers had started the day pregnant so it really was strange. It’s an intriguing beginning, to say the least. Adding to the mystery, Reginald Hargreeves immediately set off to collect as many of these children as possible. In the end, he manages to obtain 7 of them.
Meet the family
The special nature of these children is gleaned slowly throughout the book. Their names are also leisurely revealed as the story builds. To make things easier the 7 children Hargreeves manages to acquire are:
- Number One: Luther – Spaceboy – superstrength plus surgically grafted onto the body of a gorilla
- Number Two: Diego – The Kraken – can hold his breath forever and can curve anything he throws
- Number Three: Allison – The Rumor – can control minds and shape reality by saying “I heard a rumor…”
- Number Four: Klaus – The Seance – can communicate with the dead and temporarily reanimate them
- Number Five: Number Five – The Boy – can displace himself in time and space (leading to being a 58-year-old man in a child’s body)
- Number Six: Ben – The Horror – can summon tentacles from his body
- Number Seven: Vanya – The White Violin – uses sounds to cause destruction (powers not discovered until an adult, believed to be ordinary before this)
A dysfunctional childhood
Hargreeves begins training them in the Umbrella Academy to become superheroes. Notice that I used words like “collect” and “obtain” to describe his attempts to secure the children. I used these words because Hargreeves may have adopted these children but he certainly didn’t become a family with them. The first book doesn’t go into too much detail about the children’s upbringing but it does make it painfully clear that none of the children felt loved or part of a true family.
The situation was bad enough that they had all gone their separate ways by the time they were adults and only gathered because dear old dad passed away. One of them ran so far that he was lost to time. Poor Vanya had it the worst. She was constantly made to feel less than her siblings. It is honestly amazing that they are able to come together as heroes instead of being a family of villains.
So moving forward, the family comes together for Hargreeves’ funeral. Even Number Five, the brother lost to time, returns, warning of an apocalypse. Of course, their reunion sets off a revenge plan from an old rival. The kids manage to come off the winners of the ensuing battle but their weaknesses are exposed too. They are supposed to be a superhero team but they just don’t work as a team. Still, they call it a win and even believe they’ve successfully stopped the apocalypse.
The art of the apocalypse
Gabriel Ba uses a very cartoony style to create the Umbrella Academy’s world. He uses sharp angles and dark outlines that somehow manage to come across as childish and more dramatic at the same time. This fits the story well because the world is ending, it is very serious. But at the same time, a lot of the drama is caused by the childish ways the children respond to events. Ba’s work is very heavy on shadows and dark. It gives a more menacing feeling to the story. Overall, Ba’s cartoony approach isn’t my favorite but it does fit the mood of the comic perfectly.
Somebody call a therapist for the Umbrella Academy
However, in the process of saving the world, they hurt Vanya to the point that she makes some very bad decisions and the true apocalypse kicks off. It’s a good old-fashioned family feud taken to the superhero level. Can the Umbrella Academy come together as a family to save not only the world but their sister as well? It’s worth finding out.