With so many comic books and graphic novels being turned into TV and Films with huge casts and budgets, it can be easy to miss many of the new ones coming out even if you still care – given Netflix has now cancelled all its Marvel TV it seems many have stopped caring, at least on the small screen. So do we really need yet another set of superhero kids taken from page to screen? Well Netflix thinks so and thus we have The Umbrella Academy.
Not for nothing has The Umbrella Academy been described as My Chemical Romance meets Wes Anderson in style; not surprising when the series of comic books it’s based on was created by Gerard Way, the My Chemical Romance front man. The Wes Anderson comparison is less the case, other than the one scene in the first episode where all the characters are dancing to ‘I think we’re alone now’ and the shot pulls out to show a cross section model of the house, there’s nothing overtly Andersonian about it (though there are moments). The better comparison, at least in terms of certain elements is Watchmen crossed with series one of Dirk Gently (the Netflix not BBC version). Not only is the design superb, but the casting and the music score too. In fact the soundtrack is one of the great surprises of the series.
It’s superpowers, meets long running family resentments, all set against impending doom that only one 15 year old boy is aware of. The plot twist is predictable by about episode 2, but don’t let this put you off. This is worth watching for the characters, their personal issues and the new take on them and how they deal with them. They’re far from superhero’s, they’re troubled soles thrown into something they don’t want and left harmed and resentful from their upbringing together. The performances of Ellen Page as Vanya and Aidan Gallagher as Number 5 are strong and brooding, leading the series well. But Robert Sheerhan’s Klaus is the masterfully boozed up gender bending comic relief with his own serious but overlooked role to play. It’s a welcome change from Marvel and well worth a watch even if you’re not a superhero fan.