I’m not usually great at keeping up with new shows. Usually, it’s due to the fact that our TV viewing is limited to what’s available online; Netflix, iPlayer, 4oD, YouTube, but I’ve also found watching through my YouTube subscriptions and Twitch feed much less effort than deciding what to watch. With obvious exceptions for Drag Race because that show is a little slice of joy. So when I heard that Netflix was going to be making an adaptation of Gerard Way’s comic book series The Umbrella Academy, I was all in.
Hello, I am 30 years old, and my inner emo is still alive and kicking and when you tell me the former lead singer for My Chemical Romance has a comic book series with Dark Horse, thus stroking my geekdom, well we have a recipe for potential success with this series and I’m so there.
What Is The Umbrella Academy?
I’m going to presume some of you haven’t heard of or looked into The Umbrella Academy yet so I’ll give a small rundown (no spoilers, you know I don’t play that way) of the premise before I offer my thoughts.
October 1st, 1989: 43 women suddenly give birth across the world, despite not previously being pregnant. Along comes eccentric billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreaves who adopts 7 of the children. Sic of these children become The Umbrella Academy, a group of kids with crazy powers who fight crime. I’ve seen it referred to as a kind of “dysfunctional X-men” if that helps you get a picture for it. Fast-forward to the present day, the kids have grown up and gone their separate ways and reunite for their father’s funeral. Reluctantly. He wasn’t an especially loving father and when one of them, Luther, suspects foul play in his death, the others somewhat brush him off. But then a rift in space and time appears and the 13-year-old brother known only as “Number Five” who went missing during their childhood appears in front of them. And then shenanigans involving the end of the world and a two-person hit team ensue and I fell in love.
Trust me on this one: if you’re fed up of superheroes, The Umbrella Academy is the show for you.
Look, you guys, can we just talk for a moment about The Umbrella Academy? We’re already doing that? Right… of course. Well, I love this show. So very much. I carefully tried not to binge it so I could spread it out over several days and ended up watching it in an entire weekend. I don’t think there was a single character I didn’t like, and I know a lot of people have been hating on Luther but frankly, I felt like the entire family was well representative of how messed up they were from their odd upbringing. Especially Klaus, the drug-addicted trainwreck with so much heart. He is a precious cinnamon roll who deserves respect and happiness.
Even the “bad guys” were likeable in their own way with their ridiculous masks that brought me right back to Monokuma, the sadistic antagonist of Danganronpa, and had their own moral quandaries to consider beyond simply “should we be killing people”. Also, Agnes is adorable. Sadly I can’t discuss my absolute favourite parts without spoiling but believe me when I say I was channelling yassghost for a great many story beats.
Then there is the art direction. I love the story and the characters so very much, but the visuals and sounds of The Umbrella Academy are as much a part of what makes it so damn good. This is where I struggle to word things, but I found everything popped so well. Almost like they were going for a kind of modernised vignette, which helped it feel like a living comic book, for me, anyway. But the kind I’m not incredibly tired of. I also loved the way each episode would begin with the title in a random but scene-fitting umbrella. That stylistic choice was superb.
And I don’t think I’ve shut up about the music which plays a huge part in The Umbrella Academy. From the magnificent Jeff Russo instrumentals used throughout for mood, right down to the sheer variety in quirky songs, including new songs from Gerard Way and Ray Toro (both of My Chemical Romance fame), the absolute bop that is They Might Be Giants’ Istanbul, And then tunes from Tiffany, Queen, Bay City Rollers, Radiohead, The Doors, The Sex Pistols… anybody who knows me understands how much I love a mix in my music and hoboy did The Umbrella Academy deliver on this front, and it didn’t feel out of place either. Each song provided a certain something to each scene it was used in and HNNG. I love it, okay. So thanks muchly to Ignatious Pop for putting together this great Spotify playlist which lets me relive the scene that sold me on this show the moment the dancing began.
Yes, there were some weak areas. Unanswered questions and moments of “why didn’t they just do this thing?” Some predictable things and a questionable romance. It’s one of those stories where I’m fairly certain a lot of their problems could be solved by simply talking to each other, but I loved it enough that those things didn’t really matter so much to me and I find myself wanting to pick up the comics to experience The Umbrella Academy in a different format, see the changes, and the art of the original medium, and see what’s actually going on! Sadly I’m broke right now and our local library is shite for graphic novels but you bet they went straight to second place on my wishlist, only overshadowed by the Vox Machina Origins comic series.
There’s time travel, action, magic, diversity, and a talking chimpanzee, what more could you ask for? Oh, I know: Season 2, please. And more Klaus.
Have you watched The Umbrella Academy yet? Will you? If you do leave me a comment so we can gush together okay.