Doom Patrol Season 1 Review

  • Series Title: Doom Patrol
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 15
  • Discs: 3 (Blu-ray)
  • Network: DC Universe (Warner Brothers)
  • Cast: Alan Tudyk, Diane Guerrero, April Bowlby, Matt Bomer, Timothy Dalton, Brendan Fraser, Joivan Wade, Phil Morris
  • DVD: Widescreen Blu-Ray (R1, NTSC)

This review contains spoilers for the first season of Doom Patrol.

Doom Patrol is weird, wonderful, strange, and extremely good – and it’s not your same old-same old superhero show. It’s a deeply psychological show that aims to really show what mental illness is like for the people that have it, which is a vastly different approach to a superhero show. Nevermind being screw-ups, the Doom Patrol is doomed to never be successful.

The pilot and first episode of Doom Patrol are narrated by Mr. Nobody, whom it turns out is the villain. His narration pops-up occasionally throughout the series, especially in the Penultimate Patrol and the finale. Each episode of the series also is the “blank Patrol” or the “something Patrol”. Also, the Chief, played by Timothy Dalton, is kidnapped by Mr. Nobody in those first few episodes, so the Doom Patrol are trying to find and rescue their chief, who we do see occasionally in the series – including a flashback episode that somewhat explains why Niles Calder is interested in the unusual in the first place.

The characters are:

“Crazy Jane” – she has 64 multiple personalities, each with their own special abilities. The personalities exist in the “underground” a place we visit once. Jane is the primary. Everyone calls Jane by her name of Jane, though her birth name is possibly “Kay Challis” we learn later. Other personalities include: Hammerhead – a foul-mouthed, angry, extremely strong woman (in the underground she is bald and a punk); Baby Doll – with pigtails, and a giggly manner she’s both sweet and annoying in equal manner; Penny Farthing – a young British Cockney girl who’s purpose is to run; Silver Tongue – when she speaks her words appear in copper letters which she can then use as a weapon; and The Secretary – who we only see in the Underground, a stern woman, with severe dress and hair, but she seems to be in charge of keeping Jane’s head together – organizing the personalities and preventing further harm from coming to Jane.

Cliff Steele (Robotman) – a race car driver, who is in a horrible accident. The Chief transplants his brain into a robot body. At first we, the audience, like Cliff think he was in an accident on the race track. But he avoids that, then is a normal traffic accident late at night. The accident kills his wife, and he thinks his daughter too, but later he discovers she survived. Cliff had been raised in an abusive home, and he and his wife fought constantly and both had constant affairs.

Rita Farr (Elasti-girl) – A movie actress in the 1950s, she complains about a “disfigured” cameraman then falls through a wooden pier into an African river, where some strange substance enters her. Now her skin and form aren’t solid and she has little to no control of the situation. We usually see Rita losing control of her form by her face drooping or her legs turning into a goopy mess.

Larry Trainer (Negative Man) – A test pilot in the late 50s/early 60s – Larry is testing a new plane when an extra-terrestrial creature enters the plane. He crashes – and is rushed to a secret government facility. He is extremely radioactive and has to wear special bandages to prevent harm to others (he discovers this when he accidentally kills all the doctors and nurses at the first hospital he’s taken to). The creature inside him can leave, but when the Energy Spirit leaves, Larry is knocked out cold. Larry is also gay but hides it from nearly everyone.

Vic Stone (Cyborg) – He’s been Cyborg for an unspecified amount of time, but ends-up joining the Doom Patrol due to complications. He’s a friend of the Chief but has a complicated relationship with his father, Dr. Silas Stone, whom he doesn’t quite trust.

All of these characters face serious mental issues. Jane is the most obvious – her multiple personality disorder was caused by abuse – and the meta abilities were caused by the same agency that got their kidnapped Larry, giving her some sort of injection. At times Jane is the most normal of the group.

Rita’s ability is a visualization of body dysmorphia. As an actress, especially from the 1950s, her looks were her livelihood – and we often see Rita checking her makeup in a compact, or sitting in front of a makeup mirror. As we learn more about her, we find out she was also a victim of the “casting couch” – forced to provide “favors” to get roles. Rita Farr isn’t even her real name, but her stage name – further complicating how she sees herself.

Larry cannot accept he is gay. He has a wife and children, a job in the military as a test pilot, and pretty much has faked his entire life to create an appearance of “being normal”. He’ll have the occasional affair or fling with a man but cannot commit or even admit who he really is. Through the season, we see Larry slowly grow to accept who he really is.

Cliff is the son of an abusive father, who becomes abusive and a womanizer as an adult. But he also, despite the bravado, is close to accepting his faults and becoming a better person.

Even Mr. Nobody has only one talent – to manipulate people (and he manipulates all of the Doom Patrol, even the Chief, throughout the season). He has ideas about weapons and such that he thinks will gain him membership in the Brotherhood of Evil, but his lack of follow-through gets him fired instead, and his wife leaves him.

Vic Stone is still coming to terms with being Cyborg and is deeply distrustful of his father. He’s trying to find his own place in the world.

Besides Mr. Nobody, the villain of the piece is The Bureau of Normalcy – a “secret government agency” that both Larry and Niles (the Chief) had worked for at one time. The Bureau seeks to lock-up, study, turn into weapons, or just out and out destroy anything that isn’t “normal”.

Doom Patrol is visually stunning, weird, wonderful, and a must-see. Highly recommended.

Justice League The New Frontier

  • Title: Justice League The New Frontier
  • Director: David Bullock
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2008
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Action, Animation, Drama
  • Cast: David Boreanaz, Neil Patrick Harris, Kyle MacLachlan, Lucy Lawless, Phil Morris, Kyra Sedgwick, Brooke Shields, Jeremy Sisto, Miguel Ferrer, Robin Atkin Downes
  • Format: Widescreen, Color Animation
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“It was Korea — it changed everything.”— Hal
“Wars have a tendency to do that.”— Ace

“We’ve got to know what these Martians want from us. And since we can’t find them here on Earth, we’re going to Mars.”— Col. Flagg
“Outstanding.”— Hal

“I thought I could make a life for myself here among you humans. I thought I didn’t have a choice. But there is one now. There’s just too much hatred here, too much ignorance, too much mindless conformity, I’m leaving.”— Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz, John Jones)
“Have a nice trip, some of us don’t have that luxury.”— Batman

Set in 1952 – 1954, the Korean War has just ended, and McCarthyism is in full swing. And Super Heroes are at the top of McCarthy’s persecute list. Superman and Wonder Woman sign loyalty oaths, but after witnessing a brutal attack on the women of a Korean village towards the end of the war, Wonder Woman quits and returns to Paradise Island.

Meanwhile, Hal Jordan is on the journey to becoming an hero.  Justice League – The New Frontier briefly gives us Hal Jordan’s Silver Age Origin story. It also gives us Martian Manhunter’s origin story and weakness (fire). But, Wonder Woman leaves, Barry Allen publicly gives up being the Flash, though he doesn’t reveal his secret identity, Batman’s a fugitive, and Superman’s a government tool.

Meanwhile, a new villain called the Center rears it’s ugly head. Eventually the Justice League heroes will have to work together to defeat the menace (the living creature once known as Dinosaur Island), and with this defeat, they are able to form the Justice League. It other words, this is a origin story for the League too.

I really enjoyed this story — the characterizations were perfect Silver Age DC Heroes: Superman, Batman, Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter. Even Robin briefly appears. Sufficient time was spent on each hero, telling us precisely who they were and who they care about – as well as their methodology.

That the villain is called, “The Center” (or possibly the Centre), seems weird these days with such polarization pushing the political spectrum to radical thinking, especially on the right. But I couldn’t help but think of a line by Yeats, “the Center cannot hold”. I Googled it, and here’s the first stanza of the poem:

The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

Man, was Yeats depressed. Anyway, in New Frontier, the center is a giant blobby thing, a living island, with dinosaurs on it that it consumes for food. During it’s attacks on Cape Carnival the dinosaurs become very handy weapons. But it’s the heroes of the Justice League, including new hero, Green Lantern, and The Flash, working together that unite to defeat the villain.

Overall, I really liked it. Great cast (though Lucy Lawless has a really bad American accent as Wonder Woman when she fights one of her Amazon sisters on Paradise Island). Superman seems rather taken with Wonder Woman by the way, though he is also close to Lois Lane – who knows who he is.

I bought the two disc special edition, and there are some excellent documentaries on the DVD. The history of the Justice League (aka Justice League America, or simply, JLA) from the Golden Age to the Modern Day was pretty much priceless – I always love learning comics history. The villains history could have been a bit better documented and flushed out. But at least there was some nice documentaries on the discs.

Recommendation: See it! A must for DC fans.
Rating: 4 of 5

Justice League Doom

  • Title: Justice League Doom
  • Director: Lauren Montgomery
  • Voice Director: Andrea Romano
  • Date: 2012
  • Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
  • Genre: Action, Drama, Animation
  • Cast: Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, Susan Eisenberg, Nathan Fillion, Carl Lumbly, Michael Rosenbaum, Claudia Black, Paul Blackthorne, Olivia D’abo, Alexis Denisoff, Phil Morris, Robin Atkin Downes
  • Format: Widescreen, Color animation
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“When we fought before, I broke the bat; today I break the man.” — Bane to Bruce Wayne

“No, you weren’t afraid, not really. You were dosed with a synthesized version of the Scarecrow’s fear gas. Because will is the source of your strength.”— Batman
“And fear is the enemy of will.” — Green Lantern, Hal Jordan

Justice League Doom brings back most of the original cast from the original Justice League animated television series, only substituting Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern Hal Jordan, rather than keeping Phil LaMarr as GL Jon Stewart or introducing Guy Gardner. There is also a stellar cast of “guest stars” as the Leaguers greatest foes.

Vandal Savage uses Mirror Master to obtain secret files from the Batcave – files that Batman created containing plans on how to bring down any of the main Justice League members in case they went rogue. The villains then begin to attack and defeat the League members. Mirror Master gets Flash to put his hand inside a Schrodinger’s cat box to rescue an old woman. Flash ends up with a bomb in his wrist that will explode if he stops, de-accelerates, or does nothing when the timer runs out. Cheetah fist-fights Wonder Woman, but poisons her with her finger nails so everyone she sees looks and sounds like Cheetah. Green Lantern Hal Jordan is sent to a Salt Mine to rescue some hostages from a militia group and the rescue goes wrong – a woman who is a dead ringer for Carol (Hal’s former girlfriend) is killed. Even running into Star Sapphire doesn’t help Hal realize he’s been set up. Martian Manhunter is slipped a poison that caused him to sweat Magnesium, which bursts into flame, even under water. Superman is shot in the chest with a Kryptonite bullet. Bane takes Bruce’s parents out of their graves. A groundskeeper (not Alfred) reports this to Bruce, who goes out to investigate in civilian clothes. He’s jumped by Bane, who beats him up, then drops him into his mother’s (new) grave, and buries him alive, with her skeleton in her coffin.

Bruce, stranded underground, takes the keys out of his pocket and starts to pummel the coffin lid. He’s about to give up, when he turns and sees his mother’s skeleton staring at him — and he renews his attack and escapes. It’s a very eerie and spooky image — but it’s also something that is just “so Batman” and “so Bruce” — he cannot ever give up on the oath he swore to his parents that faithful night when he was only eight years old.

Once he’s escaped, Batman contacts the other Justice League members to get them out of their immediate danger, then they meet to find out what’s going on.

Meanwhile, Vandal Savage has gathered the villains together to take out the Justice League, so he can put a secondary plan into motion. Once the various villains report their success — they insist on joining Savage in his plans. Savage’s plan is to fire a missile into the sun, causing a massive solar flare which will destroy the sunward side of the Earth as well as send out an EMP that will fry anything electronic. The Justice League arrives, and each member fights his or her opposite number villain. However, despite the assistance of Cyborg, Savage’s missile is fired. Superman and Green Lantern attempt to stop the missile at the sun, but fail, giving the League seven minutes to figure out what to do. They come up with something — and Earth is saved.

I really liked the first part of  the story — that Batman would have contingency plans for taking out everyone in the League (though his plans were non-lethal) is both scary, and yet fitting with his personality. I would have liked to see more of a sense of the League’s sense of betrayal though — not only that Batman would do that, but that he’d keep detailed records of his potential plans. After the Justice League saves Earth, they discuss what to do with Batman, and it’s Clark who tells Bruce that he was right, then asks what safety valve exists for Bruce — Bruce responds, “The Justice League”. In other words, he’s created an equal and balanced system. But, I would have liked more. More storyline, more background, especially for the villains, even more dialogue between the Leaguers (and between Alfred and Bruce. Alfred appears and then suddenly disappears, before just as suddenly appearing again. It was very frustrating). With six heroes and seven villains, including Savage, plus the opening gambit with the Royal Flush Gang, the film really should have been longer than 76 Minutes, and more flushed out.

I also felt the film fell a little flat at the end. It sort of turns into, “Of course the Justice League will win,” and really loses momentum. There’s some great stuff with Superman and Hal in space as they try to stop the missile and fail, but there’s still no real sense of danger — in part because Savage’s plan is just too big. I like the more subtle villains with subtle plans (like Lex Luthor becoming the US president — which he did in the DC Universe).

Still, it was great to see the re-united Justice League cast together again. I’d like to see Doom as the pilot for a new Justice League series, but I doubt it will happen. Still, one can hope. I will admit it was great to see the Legion of Doom appear threatening instead of as a joke, though. If you’re a DC fan you’ll enjoy this!

Recommendation: See it, especially if you’re a DC fan.
Rating: 4 out of 5