REVIEW: ‘The Umbrella Academy’ Season 1 is One of the Best Comic Adaptations Out There

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Umbrella Academy

In the pantheon of superhero teams, the Umbrella Academy stands out like a sore thumb. Created by Gerard Way the lead singer of My Chemical Romance, and artist Gabriel Ba, the series focuses on seven super-powered orphans who are taken in by eccentric billionaire scientist Reginald Hargreeves. The billionaire claims he intends for the children to “save the world” but years later, his death brings them back together as they confront the skeletons in their closets and an impending apocalypse.

The Netflix series premiered on February 15th, and I can say without hesitation or hyperbole that it is one of the best comic book adaptations out there. It perfectly nails the dark humor of the comics and while changes to the source material are inevitable – due to budget concerns and setting the series in the modern day – they work for the most part. I have to give kudos to the series creators Steve Blackman and Jeremy Slater. It is clear that they cove the comics, but they aren’t afraid to deviate from the source when need be.

What makes the series work are the Hargreeves siblings and the massive dysfunctional issues that tie them together and push them apart. Each sibling is unique and adds a different element to the show.

Luther (Tom Hopper) is superhumanly strong and a born leader, but a mission went wrong and led to him becoming horribly deformed which leads him to seek isolation on the moon. Diego (David Castañeda) is a vigilante who is skilled with knives but less so with keeping his temper in check. Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) can make anything she says become reality. This sounds great, but that power may have cost her, her marriage and daughter.  Klaus (Robert Sheehan) is a quirky drug addict who can commune with the dead, although he remains haunted by the spirit of brother Ben (Justin H. Min). While each character brings something, the standouts are Aiden Gallagher as Number Five – the only one of the Hargreeves children who doesn’t have a proper name- and Vanya (Ellen Page), the black sheep of the Hargreeves family.

Page carries the emotional bulk of the series, as her character deals with years of neglect and emotional abuse-which come to the forefront in a horrifying way. Gallagher, in turn, carries the narrative thrust. As shown in the trailer, Five’s time travel powers have left him stranded in the future and trying to find a way to prevent the apocalypse. Complicating matters, the assassins Hazel (Cameron Britton) and Cha-Cha (Mary J. Blige, a scene stealer) have been sent back in time to kill him.

The fact that the assassins wear bulletproof cartoon animal masks is a testament to how the strange world of the comics has leaped from the pages to the screen. In between the bursts of hyper-violence and heart-to-heart conversations there are elaborately choreographed dance numbers. There is also a robot Doctor Hargreeves built to act as a mother to the children, who looks and sounds like she stepped out of the 1950’s, and finally there is Pogo, Hargreeves’ assistant/butler/confidante-who just so happens to be a talking chimpanzee.

And I loved every minute of it.

Whether you’ve been following the comics since day one, or you’re looking for something new in the world of superhero adaptations, you can’t go wrong with The Umbrella Academy.

The first season of The Umbrella Academy is currently streaming on Netflix.

The Umbrella Academy
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    Rating - 10/10
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TL; DR

Whether you’ve been following the comics since day one, or you’re looking for something new in the world of superhero adaptations, you can’t go wrong with The Umbrella Academy.