The Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion #1
Writer: Gerard Way
Artist: Gabriel Ba
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
The year is 2010. I’m at a panel in the San Diego Comic Con, where Gerard Way, former My Chemical Romance frontman cum comic book writer and publisher, held court together with artist Gabriel Ba to talk about their acclaimed series The Umbrella Academy, which released its second volume, Dallas, in 2008.
During the panel, Way also announced that the third volume would be called Hotel Oblivion, and that he and Ba would be working on it once their schedules are clear.
Fast forward eight years, and the first issue of The Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion has FINALLY been released. In this time, a lot has changed for Way. He disbanded My Chemical Romance, released limited comics series The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys, and recently helped DC Comics curate its Young Animal imprint, writing for three of the titles along the, er, way – the flagship Doom Patrol, Mother Panic, and Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye.
However, the Eisner Award-winning The Umbrella Academy remains Way’s signature title. The series was recently picked up by Netflix to be made into a TV show, so it is about time that he and Ba got back to completing Hotel Oblivion.
In case you’re not familiar with The Umbrella Academy, the story revolves around a family of adopted superhero siblings brought together by an alien pretending to be a successful businessman called Sir Reginald Hargreeves, aka The Monocle.
The team consists of Spaceboy (literally a human head on the body of a gorilla), The Kraken (can kick-butt and hold his breath underwater), The Rumor (can alter reality by starting rumours), The Seance (can talk to the dead), Vanya aka The White Violin (blows things up by playing her violin), and Number Five (a highly trained assassin in the body of a 10-year-old boy, who can move faster than most people by performing micro-jumps into the future).
The first six-issue limited series, The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite, made its debut in 2007, while the second, The Umbrella Academy: Dallas, followed a year later.
The new volume kicks off a few years after the events in Apocalypse Suite (Dallas was actually more of a prequel), in which the team had come back together to investigate the death of Hargreaves but ended up having to save the world from being destroyed by a sinister orchestra.
The series ended with the team in tatters – and Number Five shooting The White Violin in the head to stop the end of the world.
This first issue first introduces the titular Hotel Oblivion as some sort of strange, sinister supernatural hotel for villains, which The Monocle used to run.
The action then moves on to the real world, where the Umbrella Academy is now scattered.
Number Five now freelances as a hired gun and an overweight Spaceboy is fighting crime on the streets of Tokyo, with Kraken sort of stalking him. After being paralysed from being shot in the head by Number Five, Vanya is going through physiotherapy with Rumor’s help. And Seance? Well, he’s not even in issue #1 (though we’re told he’ll be back in #2).
Of the scattered parts, the most interesting story has to be that of Spaceboy and Kraken, who cross paths with a Japanese superhero team called Super Combat Tokyo, and take charge of the Minerva, their late father’s spaceship.
Dynamic and eclectic as ever, Ba’s artwork matches the weirdness of Way’s story perfectly, with help from the gritty but still striking colour tones from Nick Filadri.
Even though it’s been more than nine years since Dallas, Way’s story dispenses with the usual “Previously on…” exposition and just assumes that if you’re picking this up, you should already know what’s going on. The result is you don’t feel that nine-year gap between this and the previous instalment at all – you get into the story of Hotel Oblivion easily, and reconnect with the characters quite naturally as well.
Despite some action-packed sequences featuring Spaceboy and Number Five, and some character-building moments involving White Violin and Rumor, this first issue merely scratches the surface of what the series will be about.
It’s the mysterious Hotel Oblivion that takes centre stage here, though, with its connection to an intriguing subplot going on with the criminals housed in the hotel, a mysterious superhero floating around in space, and something about a cockroach that had me scratching my head for a bit.
As far as first issues go, it’s perfect, as Way and Ba manage to transport us back into the world of The Umbrella Academy while throwing in enough nuggets of mystery to ensure we’ll be there to pick up the following issues of the series.