BHOC: SHOWCASE #96

I’m pretty certain that my grandmother had brought this comic for me. I had thoughtlessly begun to badger her during the week to look for specific issues that I was interested in reading in the stores out her way, and she accommodated for a short period of time, before eventually just lying and saying that they had all stopped carrying comics. This was probably a wise move as I had no sense of proportion and would have continued to be demanding and inconsiderate for as long as the comics kept coming in.

I already had a great deal of love for the Doom Patrol based on the 1960s stories I had read, so I was primed to be a reader of the All-New DP. This was perhaps one of my earliest experiences with having something I looked forward to turn out to be disappointing, but loving it anyway due as much as anything to the original expectation. I can’t honestly say that these three Doom Patrol issues of SHOWCASE were good, nor even in keeping with the elements that made Doom Patrol fascinating to me. But I was still all-in on this team and wanted more.

It seems likely that the All-New Doom Patrol had been influenced at least slightly by the All-New All-Different X-Men. While that series hadn’t quite exploded to the heights of popularity it would attain very shortly, it was still getting notices in the fan community–and the decision to resurrect the DP with a more diverse and international cast would seem to be an attempt to tap into that same zeitgeist. So in addition to the modernized Robotman (who owed his new design to the influence of John Byrne’s Rog-2000) the new Doom Patrol included an immortal woman from Calcutta, an African-American Vietnam veteran and a defected Russian cosmonaut. It was the last of these, Negative Woman, who was the centerpiece of this story.

See, Matt Cable, late a supporting character in the SWAMP THING series (and no relation to the time-traveling mutant super-soldier of years to come) has tracked Valentina Vostock to Doom Patrol headquarters on behalf of U.S. Intelligence, and he wants to take her and the rest of the DP into protective custody. Robotman picks Cable up and tosses him in a closet, then gets in Negative Woman’s face about her background, causing her to storm out. Which is unfortunate, because a Russian agent called (of course) the Cossack has also located her, and he attacks, intending to take her back to the Soviet Union.

Responding to the ruckus, the rest of the Doom Patrol launches themselves at the Cossack, but the big, burly Russian agent is more than a match for them, and after knocking them around a bit, his horse sprouts wings (!) and he takes off with Negative Woman as his captive. The DP regroup at their headquarters, where they pile into a helicoper to give chase. meanwhile, the forgotten Matt Cable wrestles his way out of the closet he was locked in and winds up in a fire fight with the Cossack’s spymaster handler on the street in front of DP headquarters–a fight he wins.

Catching up with the fleeing Cossack, Robotman launches himself through space at the retreating Russian and begins a one-on-one hand-battle with him–one that lasts only until the Cossack is able to hurl Cliff Steele away from him and towards the ground below. Celsius, though, is able to make an ice slide to rescue Cliff–and by this point, Negative Woman has woken up and rejoined the fight. (Unlike Negative Man, Neg Woman didn’t release a radioactive being from her body, she instead transformed into one–thus eliminating any of the pathos and limitation of the original character and making er much more a standard super hero. The same was true of the other new DP members.)

Anyway, in a resolution that smacks of the creative team running out of pages and needing to wrap things up quickly, the Doom Patrol members all zap the Cossack simultaneously, and he cracks up–revealing that he was actually nothing more than a mighty robot. And that was pretty much it for the new Doom Patrol, at least in this period. And it’s not that hard to see why. Despite some very nice artwork from Joe Staton, the new DP characters just weren’t that interesting. If anything, they were a bit generic. And they were all typical comic book pretty people, whereas the original Doom Patrol was a band of freaks and outcasts. Clearly, this attempt to update the recipe didn’t quite take off.

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