Seven odd­ball su­per­heroes un­der one quirky Um­brella

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - DAVID BETANCOURT

Those won­der­ing what Net­flix’s post-Marvel su­per­hero fu­ture will be need look no fur­ther than the re­fresh­ingly weird The Um­brella Academy, which be­gins stream­ing Fri­day.

This un­likely team of heroes, based on the Eis­ner Award-win­ning Dark Horse Comics se­ries by Ger­ard Way and Gabriel Ba, pro­vides a strik­ingly dif­fer­ent stream­ing ex­pe­ri­ence if your re­cent comic book searches on Net­flix have in­volved uni­verse-end­ing snaps and African tech­no­log­i­cal utopias.

The non­stop bar­rage of comic-book-in­spired en­ter­tain­ment has pri­mar­ily been a one-sided event, with most big movies, live-ac­tion and an­i­mated shows and streams com­ing from the big two comic book pub­lish­ers: Marvel and DC. That’s why The Um­brella

Academy feels like such an achieve­ment.

Hol­ly­wood ex­ecs and stream­ing gi­ants are still sift­ing their fin­gers through bagged and boarded comics look­ing for gold, but they’re fi­nally tak­ing chances on the re­ally good stuff. Don’t get me wrong: The

Um­brella Academy is a su­per­pow­ered af­fair, with creepy domino masks, hero­ics and a su­per­hero-ador­ing pub­lic.

But many comic book read­ers head over to a pub­lisher like Dark Horse Comics be­cause their tastes are ask­ing for some­thing dif­fer­ent from the su­per­hero norm. And that’s why you’ll prob­a­bly en­joy this show.

The Um­brella Academy is a tri­umphant amal­gam of two comic book minis­eries: The Um­brella Academy: Apoc­a­lypse Suite and The Um­brella

Academy: Dal­las. El­e­ments of both se­ries in­ter­twine, not be­holden to chrono­log­i­cal or­der of when the comics were pub­lished, but in­stead us­ing ma­jor mo­ments from each to serve this 10-episode first sea­son.

A quick Um­brella Academy

101 course goes as fol­lows: 43 chil­dren are spon­ta­neously born to women who, mo­ments be­fore birth, showed no signs of preg­nancy. Many of the chil­dren are aban­doned, but seven were adopted by a wealthy mad sci­en­tist, Sir Regi­nald Har­greeves. He trains the chil­dren, all of whom have pow­ers, to be a kid su­per­hero team known as the Um­brella Academy.

The pow­er­less sev­enth child, known as No. 7 — each Um­brella Academy mem­ber has a num­ber, be­cause Har­greeves ap­par­ently doesn’t have time for the emo­tional at­tach­ment of us­ing real names — is deemed not as spe­cial as the oth­ers.

The kids are split up in adult­hood at the be­gin­ning of the show but are re­united by Har­greeves’ death, a mys­tery that forces them to team up again against their wishes.

Once the band is back to­gether, they’re a mot­ley crew’s worst night­mare: a man stuck in a go­rilla’s body who spent years on the moon (Tom Hop­per); a vig­i­lante ob­sessed with jus­tice and knives (David Cas­taneda); a for­mer star ac­tress who can make peo­ple do what­ever she wants by us­ing her voice (Emmy Raver-Lamp­man); a drug ad­dict who can talk to the dead (Robert Shee­han); a tele­port­ing time trav­eler (Ai­dan Gal­lagher) — more on him in a sec­ond. And No. 7, who we would be­lieve is the least im­por­tant be­cause she has no pow­ers (Ellen Page).

Each has their own num­ber and an abil­ity to save the world — at least if Har­greeves’ teach­ings are to be be­lieved. Sav­ing the world is ex­actly what the team must do when No. 5 (the tele­port­ing time trav­eler) ar­rives af­ter hav­ing been miss­ing for more than a decade. (A time-trav­el­ing ac­ci­dent left him stuck in the fu­ture for so long he aged into an old man.)

No. 5’s trip into the fu­ture leaves him stuck in the apoc­a­lypse. He spends an­other life­time try­ing to fig­ure out how to get to the present. He fi­nally makes it back dur­ing Har­greeves’ fu­neral, but a mis­cal­cu­la­tion means his now se­nior-cit­i­zen mind gets trapped in his teenage body. This makes Gal­lagher’s kid per­form as an old man, who is con­sis­tently grumpy and al­ways need­ing cof­fee or booze, one of the show’s main de­lights. Equally en­joy­able is Ir­ish ac­tor Shee­han’s per­for­mance as the al­ways-high-on-some­thing death con­ver­sa­tion­al­ist.

No. 5 comes back days be­fore the world is set to end. The team must put aside their dif­fer­ences, vices and sib­ling ri­val­ries to make sure world de­struc­tion doesn’t hap­pen.

Oh, and Mary J. Blige stars as one half of a time-trav­el­ing hit man — a duo called Hazel and Cha-Cha, and now ev­ery time you hear the song “Fam­ily Af­fair,” you’ll en­vi­sion Blige grip­ping heat. So, there’s that.

If The Um­brella Academy is the start of Net­flix’s new comic book nor­mal, this is a creepy good start.

No. 5 (Ai­den Gal­lagher, left) re­turns from the fu­ture to let his sib­lings know they don’t have much time to save the world.

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