If you are anything like me, you finished the Umbrella Academy in under 4 days. But what’s next? Well here are three graphic novels that are similar to Umbrella Academy, both the show and the original graphic novel from publisher Dark Horse Comics and creative team Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá.
All of the books on this list occupy a space that I think Netflix’s Umbrella Academy fully embraced, i.e. the “Super Hero Adjacent” space. Was Netflix’s the Umbrella Academy a superhero show? Kind of. And if you were jonesing for your next hit of quality Netflix Marvel shows this definitely hit the spot. On the other hand, if you are incredibly tired of the endless MCU melodrama you still probably enjoyed aspects of the Umbrella Academy, even if super heroics is not necessarily your thing. The “Super Hero Adjacent” media is real, but still easy to miss.
1. Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
Yorrick Brown is your average ordinary bro, like very average. Until one day a catastrophe occurs and Yorrick as well as his helper monkey, Ampersand, become the last two living creatures on Earth with a Y chromosome. Now Yorrick is the last man on Earth and all he wants to do is find his way to his estranged girlfriend. Even though it may sound like a sweet deal to be the last man in a world full of women Yorrick is going to find out just how fragile our society and his male ego really are. This is a self-contained 60 issue run from Vertigo comics with a very steady creative team features excellent and introspective writing from Brian K. Vaughn as well as amazing pencil work from Pia Guerra. I cried so hard in issue 60, no spoilers but you will too.
This is definitely not a story about superpowers but instead, it is a story following a mysterious event and then lots of adventure. Yorrick stumbles into one crazy situation after another and though super heroics are never present, extraordinary action and events do take place.
2. Fables by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham
The nursery rhymes and tall tales you heard as a kid are just that right, tall tales? Maybe not, join Snow White and Bigby Wolf, the Deputy Mayor and Sheriff of “Fabletown,” and a small enclave of escaped children’s fable characters who were driven out of their homeland by a mysterious “Adversary.” The group must now make their way in our mundane world. The Fables adjust to life in New York City and pine for their lost home. Will they ever find out who the Adversay is, let alone defeat him? With another consistent creative team in Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham you can read the entire 22 volume from Vertigo Comics contained story to find out.
None of these characters wear capes but there is definitely out of this world mystery and intrigue combined with moments and flashes of all out action and suspense. What really connects this series to Umbrella Academy is Fables use of suspense. The initial arc that teases out the mystery of the Adversary along with an eventual clash between the two camps that really keeps the reader coming back for more.
3. Ex Machina by Brian K Vaughn Karl Story, Tom Feister, and Tony Harris
Wait, is this, another Brian K. Vaughn project? Yes, it is. This time we are taken readers to a New York where the city’s sole super hero, “The Great Machine,” has retired from stopping muggers to take on an even more thankless role, perhaps the most thankless role in the city.
The Great Machine becomes the mayor of New York City and this comic takes a turn from the West Coast Avengers to the West Wing. Vaughn and his collaborator, artist Tony Harris, navigate a 10 volume journey that is definitely three parts political drama to every one part super heroics.
Even though the “Great Machine” is a presence in the mythos of Vaughn’s political story it remains more a colorful piece of the backstory as opposed to being at the forefront of Mayor Hundred’s journey. This story may relate the most to Umbrella Academy because it is definitely a story of a hero in decline, however, it is also the story of a politician on the rise. The book deals well with the different types of power that dominate Hundred’s life: his superpower, his political power and the pragmatic power that lies somewhere between the first two.