Weekend Binge! The Umbrella Academy-A Review.

The Umbrella Academy click to open IMDB.comThe Umbrella Academy is a new series on Netflix based on the comic book series of the same name created by My Chemical Romance lead vocalist Gerard Way, released by Dark Horse Comics, one of the leading publishers in the business who has been responsible for such books as Hellboy and Sin City. Some films released based on Dark Horse Comics books are The Rocketeer, The Mask, 300, Alien vs. Predator, Hellboy, and the recent Netflix release Polar, which I enjoyed a lot.

I’ve been a comic book fan since I was in single digits, and I’m not telling you my age now, but I’ve been collecting for decades. I’ve even been to a few conventions and met some great creative minds. I haven’t read The Umbrella Academy but have read the Wikipedia detailed descriptions of the first two limited series, as well as a few other fan sites. Elements of both series are included in this 10-episode season of The Umbrella Academy, and I will leave it at that for now.

I couldn’t wait once I first heard this series was coming out. I did my reading up so I would have some idea of what was going on, what good that did me. It did at least give me a basic idea of the characters and how they came to be.

For those who like comic books, you’ll enjoy this. If you can take or leave comics, you will still enjoy this because there really isn’t much that will take away from reality so much.

(A quick edit here. You MUST check out the soundtrack to this series. By clicking here you will go to a BuzzFeed article that has the Spotify soundtrack Netflix created but also a list BuzzFeed put together of the videos of the songs so you can enjoy.)

The character casting is perfect as far as I am concerned for this series. The visual casting, of course as with any superhero project has been given some creative freedom, although most are perfect. In the Cast section I give each a grade on their performance. All were good, just some were exceptional.

What is it? Think, The Brady Bunch meets Time Cop meets Sixth Sense meets The Terminator, maybe even with a touch of the John Hughes angsty Brat Pack films of the 1980s thrown in for good measure. All scaled down in tone to blend together. That’s what comic books accomplish that a lot of other medium can’t, but this live action series is doing a pretty good job accomplishing. After all, you have seven siblings with separate lives.

The Background: Reginald Hargreeves, billionaire inventor and businessman, adopts or purchases seven of 43 children born on the exact same day. One thing for sure makes all 43 unique, their mothers were not pregnant that morning. As for the seven in the series, they all have superpowers. Hargreeves names them 1-7. I haven’t seen a specific reason why certain numbers were applied. They are given the numbers at birth, apparently, but it seems awfully convenient how the numbers ended up being so appropriate. There is one hint during a scene, but that could just be my imagination. Regardless, Hargreeves, also known as The Monocle, does not give them names as it was too much to remember, and I imagine would have meant too much of a potential for emotional attachment, as he was very much a task master to the children as he trained them to be superheroes.

City: No specific city is given, but the show is shot in Ontario, Canada. I get the vibe of a New York or some other East Coast major city with history to it. There is a scene that gives me the NYC idea that is related to Hargreeves himself.

Year: The kids are born in 1989 and they are in their mid to late 20s in the first season, although they don’t have cellphones, which I find a bit odd. But, it’s all kind of cool in a way.

The Show: Hargreeves trains 1-6 as superheroes and sends them on missions in their younger years until they become old enough to leave, which they all do, except for #1. The series picks up when Hargreeves dies and the siblings come together for the funeral. The seven siblings are everywhere from one being based alone on the moon to another a Hollywood star and from another being a vigilante to another a junkie.

There is somewhat of a mystery surrounding the death of Hargreeves, as well as a potential apocalypse they need to stop. That’s if they can get over their family issues.

I think people will enjoy seeing #5, The Kid, still as a perhaps 13-year-old, driving, drinking, and generally being an adult because he time jumped to the future and lived to a mature age before being able to return to the present to help save the world, only to end up being 13 again, the age he was when he went to the future. Oh, and he’s a seriously kick-butt assassin, just ask Dolores.

Mary J. Blige as a time traveling hitman is something to see. She is perfect in the role. Just call her Cha-Cha. She was born to unload rounds on a 13-year-old boy.

The action is often enough to keep you interested.

The emotional advancement through the series is enough to keep you hoping about love and family connections, and you of course have the inevitable frustrating moments that are just part of siblings being siblings, and especially siblings in this family.

There are humorous moments that are sometimes light and sometimes dark, but you can’t help but laugh. I love #4, Klaus.

#7 is the outcast of the group, not because she’s bad, but because she wasn’t trained as a superhero and being raised just like any other ordinary girl, except with superhero siblings.

As far as the season ending? It promises a season two but one that will be its very own and with some fresh twists to it.

I give this season an overall 7.5. It accomplishes a lot in just 10 episodes. When you sit back at the end, it surprises you just all that happens.

More Background: Something to know, this is an alternate reality book where JFK is not assassinated. It is surprising how that one event can change history. Although that information is from the comic book series history you are given a hint of it from a scene in one of the episodes as well.

The Cast:

Tom Hopper Tom Hopper as #1, Luther Hargreeves, Spaceboy, the team leader, thus being #1. You might recognize him from Game of Thrones as Dickon Tarly, Black Sails as Billy Bones, or Merlin as Sir Percival. He has great strength and has lived on the moon for four years doing research for their father, Reginald Hargreeves, which we find out the purpose for during the series. Visually he is probably a good fit. He is the most loyal of the siblings to their father as he is the only one that never left, until sent to the moon. At first, I thought his acting was not that good but once I considered he spent years alone with his father in a big mansion and then four years alone on the moon, I understood why Luther is the way he is, a bit quiet and somewhat socially awkward. (B-)

David CastanedaDavid Castañeda as #2, Diego Hargreeves, The Kraken. I would say that you most likely would know David from Jane the Virgin as Nicholas, and Switched at Birth as Jorge Castillo, Daphne’s ex-boyfriend. He can hit whatever he throws a knife at, and excellent fighting skills. He is the only one that currently works as a crime fighter, or vigilante as the police would say. He got kicked out of the police academy. Another great casting regarding playing the of the part, but in this case, the physical aspect is pretty much a 180° but I think David fits better for the show. Diego has an attitude because he is #2 and not #1. I am waiting to see how things work out as the series continues because I would like to see a certain aspect of the book come to fruition in the series, and it would it explain something as well. (B-)

Emmy Raver-LampanEmmy Raver-Lampman as #3, Allison Hargreeves, The Rumor. If you are a theater fanatic you may have seen her in Wicked or as Angelica Schuyler, in the first US tour of Hamilton. The visual doesn’t match the comic, but it works. The Rumor’s ability it to tell a lie that then becomes reality. We quickly find out she is an actress, divorced and her husband has custody of the child. There are a couple of interesting things for her this season, and at first, she, long with Luther were my least favorites because of how I perceived their acting, but their acting does reflect their situations. (B-)

Robert SheehanRobert Sheehan as #4, Klaus Hargreeves, The Séance. Robert probably has one of the longest careers as far as those of the siblings goes dating back to 2003. He’s Irish, acts with an American accent, as does all the siblings, he was King Louis XIV in the series Young Blades, Addison Teller in Rock Rivals, and more recently, if you are a Netflix fan, he played Luba in Mute, starring Alexander Skarsgard and Paul Rudd. The movie may have not received the best reviews, buy I enjoyed it for the movie it was, not the movie that people may have expected it to be and Sheehan’s part was entertaining and well played. Incredible casting in this series. Perhaps the best of the series as well as being the most entertaining. The Séance can see and communicate with dead people, which is less than what he can do in the books, but this is not unusual for filmed adaptations of comic book characters. He self-medicates to keep from going insane. Klaus is the loveable sibling that the others just can’t stay mad at. (A+)

Aidan GallagherAidan Gallagher as #5, The Boy. The best I can come up with for Aidan is the series Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn in which he plays Nicky Harper. He’s only been on film acting since 2013. #5 or The Boy either has no given name or no one uses it. I kind of think the fact no one uses a name hints at when the other siblings get their names. Watch the series to see if you can pick up when it might have happened. His original powers are spatial jumps, disappearing from one place and appearing somewhere else, but this leads to time travel, which he does so well into the future and gets stuck. I’ll leave it there for you to learn more. He’s a bit of a brat in my opinion when he and his siblings are younger. What else he can do other than his time and spatial jumps is a bit surprising, but you’ll kind of enjoy the surprise of it, but only because its television. His relationship with his siblings is a bit strained, when he has them at all, but the more you learn during the series, the more you understand why. He might be a bit difficult to like for some, but he has his reasons for being the way he is. The visual and character casting are great for #5. An entertaining character at times, with some humorous moments that are sad at the same time. (A+)Justin H. Min

Justin H. Min as #6, Ben Hargreeves, The Horror. Justin is an actor and model. The Horror was able to summon horrible creatures through portals under his skin, usually in the form of tentacles. He’s been dead, reason not given, sense even before the comic book series began. Ben still appears in the Netflix series to The Séance, #4, who can see dead people. Ben acts as Klaus’ better half, supporter, and almost like a sponsor trying to keep him clean from drugs and alcohol, although not in a nagging sort of way. Great casting here. (B)

Ellen PageEllen Page as #7, Vanya Hargreeves, The White Violin. (A+) Some of you will know Ellen Page from her role as Kitty Pryde in the X-Men movie franchise or as Tallulah in Tallulah co-starring with Academy Award winner Allison Janney. She plays the part perfectly for the history of the character as shown in the Netflix series. If you’ve read the books, don’t expect exact plot elements for her or any of the other characters. Vanya lives alone, teaches violin, plays in an orchestra, and has written a tell-all book about her life as a member of The Umbrella Academy. The character is subdued which I think is ideal for what I know of the comic book version. Vanya is not part of the superhero team that Reginald Hargreeves, The Monocle, forms with the other 6. The reason I will leave for you to find out by watching the series. This has a big impact on her life. (A)Jordan Claire Robbins

Jordan Claire Robbins as Grace (Hargreeves), Mom. Another fresh face to the screen, I think you might know her from the Clive Owens film Anon, one I enjoyed a lot. She plays Elaine Selak. See the movie if you haven’t, it’s on Netflix as of this writing. Jordan is a great fit for this character as far as looks go. She has that perfect mom look. I think she probably gives the robot character the occasional moment of humanity that helped raise the children. When I say robot, I do mean she is a robot. I chose to mention her here more in depth rather than Pogo or Reginald because I think she is a more influential part of the life of the children as far their ability to even think of what a family is as far as the Netflix series is concerned. (B)

 

The Bad Guys:

Mary J. BligeMary J. Blige is Cha-Cha. Do I really need to tell you who she is? In the series she is a sugar loving, time traveling, cartoon mask wearing, assassin who takes assignments to kill people that might change the time line. Incredible job. Cha-Cha is a man in the comics, but it doesn’t really matter, and I think this version does a lot for the series. You’ll see what I mean by the end. (A)

 

Cameron BrittonCameron Britton is Hazel. You might know him from Stitchers as Tim or Mindhunter as Edmund Kemper. IMDB shows him screen acting only since 2014. Hazel is just like Cha-Cha except a little less blood-thirsty and seems to have more of a heart. They have been partners for a long time. Hazel has a good story line in the show that puts him at odds with Cha-Cha. (B)

 

 

The Umbrella Academy umbrella promo photo

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Batman to Deadpool to Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Romanian Connection

Today’s walk into Graphic Literature will be a simple one. A retrospective about one man and it will be short. We’re headed to Romania. No fluff, let’s get to it.

Sandu galbarFlorea (1946-).1 His career goes back to 1968 with a children’s magazine Luminiţa and a series, Păcală.

Perhaps what is truly his moment in Romanian comics’ history comes in 1973 with Galbar. This is thought to be the first science fiction comic book in Romania. Considering all the art I’ve seen while researching for this article that’s saying a lot.

He wasn’t simply a science fiction guy. Part of his large catalog in Romania is the retelling of Romanian history through Graphic Literature, winning a Eurocon, science fiction convention, award in 1980.

Problems began for him in communist Romania when in around 1984 he requested to leave for the United States where his two brothers were living. His right to publish was revoked and he had to use pen names to work. After the 1989 revolution, he returned under his own name.

Not long after we find him in New York. And soon after he was inking comics for Marvel Comics such as Conan, Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America, and many others.  What’s an inker? You have an artist/drawer/penciler who draws the books, then the inker goes over those lines to make them look finished and polished and so the printing can actually pick up the images. He even did work at DC on the characters Superman and Batman. Some might be surprised to hear he also worked on two books for Dark Horse Comics called Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.

When asked what has been his favorite title or character to work on Florea did not hesitate to say Batman, having worked on Batman R.I.P. and other stories. This according to an interview at the 2011 New York City Comic Con.2

And he’s still going strong today.

conan
He gave samples for Conan to Marvel because he thought it was the best suited for him. No super powers. Sword wielding and battles. He had done that sort of thing before.
batman
Notice without the proper inking over the lines and given the right shading, you would not even see much to this scene. It has been noted an inker can make or break a comic.
super-wonder
I’ve spoken of this scene previously. And I had no idea Florea inked it.
deathstroke
Serious DC Comics fans should be geeking now. Deathstroke. He’s been around a long time and is one of my favorite DC characters, depending on which version DC lets him be this year.
deadpool
Yep, giving you some Marvel loving with Florea’s inking on Deadpool. With the upcoming movie, I couldn’t resist.
buffy6
Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Do I have this issue? Probably. I think I have them all. Don’t ask. I have no idea why.
buffy-spike
I had to give some Buffy and Spike fans a little taste. I couldn’t share the other two I found. I think this one should explain the others.

That’s it for today. Hope you enjoyed.

 

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References
1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandu_Florea
2 http://reviewfix.com/2011/10/review-fix-2011-new-york-city-comic-con-coverage-interview-with-batman-inker-sandu-florea/