By Nolan P. Smith
When it comes to original comics in the past decade or so, you cannot make a list without including The Umbrella Academy from Dark Horse Comics. The off-beat, smart series following a strange retired superteam tasked with saving the world by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba has taken the world by storm, leading to the Netflix live action series. Could the show do the comic series justice?
Spoilers ahead, be warned!
After binge-watching the entire series, I can say that the show not only meets my expectations but delivers in ways I didn’t think possible. The 10 episode series tells the story of the first comic book collection, The Apocalypse Suite. It’s the story of seven kids who were all born on the same time and day from women who weren’t pregnant. Out of the seven, six have abilities unlike any other. Gathered by eccentric billionaire Sir Reginal Hargreeves (Colm Feore), the six super children became the Umbrella Academy, a force of good in the world. Fast forward to 2019, and Sir Hargreeves is dead. This unites the Academy, well, what is left of them.
The team is comprised of Number One Luther (Tom Hopper), Number Two Diego (David Castaneda), Number Three Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), Number Four Klaus (Robert Sheehan), Number Five (Aiden Gallagher), the deceased Number Six Ben (Justin H. Min), and Number Seven Vanya (Ellen Page), whom has no powers which equaled a challenging childhood — raised by a cold-hearted Hargreeves, the talking simian Pogo (Adam Godley), and their “Mother,” Grace (Jordan Claire-Robbins). Each has gone their own way, each scared by a difficult upbringing, and each drawn together with the death of their “father.” After the reappearance of Number Five, who had been missing for 16 years, they get the warning that the world is ending in a matter of days and need to find out how to stop it.
The cast here is terrific, from the Academy to professional time hitmen Hazel (Cameron Britton) and Cha-Cha (Mary J. Blige), who steal the scenes on more than one occasion. The Umbrella Academy themselves are just amazing, from Luther’s struggle to be a leader and an individual, to Allison’s struggles with her powers and the effects they have had on her life, I love it all. Ellen Page is the perfect choice for the ordinary Vanya, being a regular person in a group full of irregular people. One of the major draws to the show, which varies from the comic lore, is the relationship between Klaus and the deceased Ben. Ben didn’t have much time in the comics, but he shines brightly in the series. The two’s dynamic is fantastic, and the final battle in episode 10 lets them steal the show. Luther and Allison have excellent chemistry, too, making the audience root for the two to not only live but to end up together.
Everything here works perfectly: from the cinematography to the outstanding soundtrack; I am left in awe of The Umbrella Academy and left wanting more. I want to see where this group ends up next, though fans of the comic have a pretty good idea on where and when that will be. Way and Ba’s vision is not only embodied here but expounded on. Hazel and Cha-Cha become much more than the animated psychopaths we saw in the comics. Ben gets a leading role alongside his “classmates,” and so on. From Diego’s tragic losses to Vanya’s ascension to power to Klaus’s journey of self-discovery to the amazing Number Five’s time-hopping adventures and strange romance, I cannot praise this series enough. Best television series of 2019 so far, and this one will be hard to beat. Umbrella Academy impresses beyond measure, setting a new standard for superheroes.
Rating: 10 out of 10