Series Rating: ★★★★☆ (3.75/5 stars)
Comic books are not my forte, but I fell in love with the Netflix edition of The Umbrella Academy, so I had to pick up Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba’s comics. This is one of the odd takes where I can say that I like the TV show better than the book.
Perhaps it’s because I’m not accustom to comics, or since there are only three volumes and I didn’t purchase any of the supplemental materials, but the benefits of the Netflix show was the ability to explore the relationship between the seven siblings in a much deeper light. The comic left some of that to the imagination, and having watched the TV show first, I was able to fill in the gaps.
The comics themselves are super fun. In fact, I’d go to say that while the TV show takes weirdness to heart, the comics out-do it! I never thought I would say that, but somehow the comic puts the multiplier on x10 to weirdness.
The first two comics, Apocalypse Suite and Dallas, are much more polished than Hotel Oblivion, and I think that comes from the fact that the volumes 1 and 2 were written years ago, while Hotel Oblivion was only written in 2019 (perhaps to provide more content for the TV show). The less impressive third volume – with a cliffhanger that I hope will be addressed in a fourth volume – is what gives the comic series the rating of 3.75 overall.
From here on out, there may be a few spoilers for those who haven’t watched the TV show or read the comics.
It is fair to note that the TV show does not follow the comics to the letter, bouncing around and changing how things occur – as well as altering some characters for the sake of variety and sanity (such as turning the Handler from a talking goldfish into a woman in a sleek business outfit), so I won’t be analyzing all that too much.The heart of The Umbrella Academy is truthfully, the characters. The Netflix series manages to make most (I say most, which I’ll address shortly) of the siblings far more likable, giving them a well rounded humanity that isn’t as evident in the comics. This is probably true of other comics as well. I think the best way to approach this would be to look at each of these characters briefly.
Starting with Number One: Spaceboy, Luther
He’s the reason why I say that “most” of the characters are more likable in the Netflix series. In the comic, he is the titular Number One, a leader with daddy issues. True, he holds onto this in the Netflix series, but he is just not as likable, holding his trauma above all the others. It might be that he really hasn’t changed much between the comics and the show, and while the show makes the other characters more easily to connect with, Luther stays the same.
Next, Number Two: The Kraken, Diego
In the comic, I’d hate to say it, but Diego is actually quite flat. He’s angry. He can hold is breath for a long time. And he likes knives. By the end of Dallas, you start to see some of his emotions come out, but unlike the Diego in the Netflix series, he does not carry the weight of loving his mother, a stutter, or defending his family for his dear life.
Number Three: The Rumor, Allison
Allison doesn’t change too much between both the comic and the TV show. I’d say there’s a deeper sympathy for her though in the TV show since we see a glimpse of time with her daughter, how her and Luther’s relationship formed, and her sisterhood with Vanya. In the comics, there’s a bitterness there…which begins to fall at the end of Dallas where she forgives Vanya for nearly killing her. Her motivation always remains the same though: she wants to do everything for her daughter, and that in itself is noble.
Number Four: The Seance, Klaus
Oh Klaus, you sweet disaster child. In both the comic and the TV show, he is probably the most likable and the biggest disaster of the bunch. He’s my favorite by a long shot. The TV show does investigate his drug addiction and the fall out of his powers a bit more, as well as his relationship with Ben (more on that later), the comic actually gives us a deeper dive into his powers and personality beyond the drugs. He’s smart (not as book smart as Five or emotionally in tune as Ben, but he can think sometimes), resourceful…and kind of crazy powerful. We only saw a glimpse of it at the end of Season 1 of the TV show (where he summons Ben), but in the comics we see some of his other abilities: floating as his primary source of travel, communicating through electronics (such as when he gets beaten up by Hazel and Cha-Cha), and…oh yeah, he’s kind of the one who stops the meteorite from destroying the world.
Did I mention God hates him?
Number Five stays true to one thing in both the comic and the TV show: he’s a little prick. He’s smart and he knows it. The TV show benefited by making him older (13 rather than 10) and having a friendship with Vanya as well as keeping a connection to Dolores. In the comic, Five is every man for himself. Obviously he wants to save the world, but in the comic he holds much more of a “whatever it takes” attitude. Either way, comic or TV, don’t cross paths with him.
Number Six: The Monster, Ben
In the comics, Ben is unfortunately a shadow. He is mentioned, but unlike in the TV show, he does not follow Klaus around or make snarky remarks until Hotel Oblivion. Adding Ben into the TV show as a wonderful addition though, as it helps the Hargreeve appear more real.
Number Seven: The White Violin, Vanya
Finally, there is Vanya, poor misunderstood Vanya. While the show does her justice and shows her naturally falling into the overwhelming abilities of her powers, the comic makes her switch occur under the hand of a less calculative, nefarious villain. The whole time, she is bitter, and without the show to back up why…it is harder to understand. It was interesting how the comic addressed her relationship with Diego though: the two wanted to be musicians together. I wish they showed that in the TV show as it would have been a nice addition. There’s a lot left to explore of Vanya in the comics though, especially with the ending to Hotel Oblivion, so I hope we get to see more.
All in all, the comics are wonderful. Really. A little bit like taking an acid trip, but true to themselves and the strangeness expected from Gerard Way. I don’t know if I would have picked it up without the TV show though. In addition, if I didn’t love the show like I do (it’s the last show I binge watched, 5/5 star rating), I’m not sure what my review of the comics would have been.
So if you like The Umbrella Academy on Netflix and want an idea of what *might* just happen next, I totally recommend picking up the comics.