When I first saw the trailer for Netflix's Umbrella Academy at a screening of Glass I was eager to sit down and binge the show of a dysfunctional family of heroes, each with their own quirks and super powers. I first heard of The Umbrella Academy when it was a free Comic Book on the annual free Comic Book Day back in May 2007, printed by Dark Horse Comics. A collaboration between Gerard Way, the lead man from My Chemical Romance, and artist Gabriel Ba, it piqued my interest as I was quite enjoying the Black Parade album at the time (who didn't go through a slightly emo stage back then?)
The album itself reminded me a lot of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody as it melded genres and melodies and I thought a comic book that captured that tone would be awesome. In all fairness I skimmed through the comic and didn't appreciate the artstyle at the time, and for me, the art was always a drawcard when I read comics at that age. But when I heard of the all star cast in Netflix's realisation of the comic book I thought 'what could go wrong?' Being a secret fan of Ellen Paige since Juno, I was excited to see her in her role as Vanya, and she definitely delivered on the drama scale.
She was convincing as always in her character of Vanya and by the end you were really rooting for her. But I wish I could say the same of the other characters. The only other character that was really worth following on their arc was Klaus, played by Robert Sheehan as a flamboyant and nihilistic drug addict. He's journey through addiction, overcoming his fears and the loss of a loved one, all the while introducing comedic relief into the mix, was probably one of the best things about The Umbrella Academy. But everything else, sadly, we've seen before.
While Ellen Paiges' performance was outstanding, we've seen her journey mirrored somewhat before in X-Men's Jean Grey and the Dark Phoenix storyline. Even Luther's journey is reminiscent to Hank McCoy as he struggles with his personality as the beast, and the body hair. And the whole school for the gifted is a charitable homage to Xavier's School for the gifted. Maybe a more dissected look at relationships within that environment, but still, similar. But all these similarities were okay, I was willing to invest into this series.
The most disappointing part of this is that the series started well. It introduced the characters, the dysfunction and divide between adopted siblings and then threw them into an apocalyptic prophecy. But then, it stayed there. It meandered on from episode to episode, following a different character each episode very much like The Haunting of Hill House did earlier this year, and then ramped it up for a big finish.
The music was great, and you would expect it be with the frontman of a world wide famous band. But there were parts where the show turned into a musical, and I can understand, Gerard is a performer, it's his arena. But sometimes breaking the fourth wall breaks the momentum.I know it's not a great judge of a show, but I can usually binge a Netflix offering that genuinely interests me. I fell asleep three times during episodes and watched it over several days. So take what you will from that. I came in expecting A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen with a little bit of the X-Men thrown in there, but what eventuated was nothing like that. It was a serious look at something quirky which is totally okay, but it never owned it completely.