Doom Patrol #16 review

Horror writer Brian Keene visits Oolong Island, and brings a long-lost member of the Doom Patrol with him. Step forward Ted Bruder, formerly Fast Forward but usually referred to as Negative Man II for his less than sparkling personality. Once he could see 60 seconds in the future, but lately he's been falling between realities, and the nasties he meets there keep following him back ...

That's the set-up for a grislier than usual issue of Doom Patrol, which sees Elasti-Girl face a rampaging, cannibalistic version of herself. The encounter is shocking, but it rams the point home that while she may fear she's a freak, she's a long way from inhuman.

Larry Trainor, the first and continuing Negative Man, also meets an Elseworlds version of himself, a Nazi soldier with hate in his soul. And Robotman Cliff Steele's doppleganger is a nightmare Transformer.

The encounters ensure there's plenty of action along with the ever-present sterling characterisation. If there are any more human characters in comics than these super-powered outcasts, I'd like to meet them. Keene, along with regular writer Keith Giffen, makes the story sing, from the horror host gag which recaps the most recent storyline (the Chief went bad, now he's gone) to the bittersweet ending.

The only aspect of this issue I wasn't convinced by was the idea that anyone would believe Robotman, fully in charge of the team now, has it in him to be a megalomaniac like the Chief. Nah, not Cliff. Mind, one of the people who makes this point is President Veronica Cale, a notorious stinker.

It was good to see Ted, from the John Arcudi/Tan Eng Huat Doom Patrol - not my favourite, but an interesting experiment - even while it's sad to see what's become of him. A minor point of interest is that he shows up in Delta City, previously seen in Keith Giffen's Vext and Heckler books. It's good to know it's still around, even if it's just as a snack.

Speaking of Giffen, as well as co-writing, he pencils this issue, and his quirky line, inked by Al Milgrom, is well-suited to a story whose weirdness recalls the Grant Morrison-written days of the team (along with the minor presences of Crazy Jane and Danny the Street). The art team adds a blast of energy to what might otherwise be an overly dark tale.

Matthew Clark, one of the book's regular pencillers, provides a haunting cover, one sympathetically coloured by Guy Major.  It all makes for another excellent issue of one of DC's most underrated books.