Book review: The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1 by Gerard Way

The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1 by Gerard Way
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 14, 2014
Source: Borrowed

In an inexplicable worldwide event, forty-seven extraordinary children were spontaneously born to women who’d previously shown no signs of pregnancy. Millionaire inventor Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of the children; when asked why, his only explanation was, “To save the world.”

These seven children form the Umbrella Academy, a dysfunctional family of superheroes with bizarre powers. Their first adventure at the age of ten pits them against an erratic and deadly Eiffel Tower, piloted by the fearsome zombie-robot Gustave Eiffel. Nearly a decade later, the team disbands, but when Hargreeves unexpectedly dies, these disgruntled siblings reunite just in time to save the world once again.

My best friend is obsessed with My Chemical Romance, Gerard Way, and this series, so I was pretty excited to find it on hoopla. We usually have pretty similar opinions, but not in this case. I’m so sorry, but this was not good.

I’m usually pretty forgiving with graphic novels. They’re what I turn to when I want a quick, easy-to-understand story. I don’t think I’ve ever before given a graphic novel one star. But this one… I just don’t really understand what Gerard Way was going for here. This book was a mess.

Like, I’m not even sure where to start.

I guess I’ll start with the complete lack of plot. Don’t get me wrong, things happen, but I can’t call what happens in this book a “plot.” It’s more like a collection of ideas that are tossed together and abruptly forgotten about. The ideas might be good if they were actually expanded upon, but they’re not. Overall, it was just a very choppy and disjointed story.

The characters don’t seem to have motivations for their actions. And, honestly, even after reading about these characters for nearly 200 pages, I couldn’t tell you any defining characteristics about them aside from their appearances. There’s the really tall one. The girl who looks like a violin. The kid. I think violin girl is named Vanya, but I can’t remember anybody else’s name and I only finished this thing like an hour ago.

I didn’t mind the art style (that’s about the only positive I can come up with), but there were way too many words shoved onto almost every page. If I wanted to read blocks of text, I would have picked up an actual novel and not a graphic novel.

All in all, I’m just incredibly disappointed. I can’t help but feel that this was published solely because Gerard Way is famous, and one thing I hate is celebrities thinking they’re allowed to publish bad books just because they’re famous. (See also: Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty by Diane Keaton.) I had checked out the second volume of this series, too, but I’m about 103% sure I won’t be reading it.

Have you read Umbrella Academy? Have you seen the show?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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32 thoughts on “Book review: The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1 by Gerard Way

  1. onwardandupwardreviews says:

    I can totally understand your feelings on this. I reviewed this recently, and the only reason I didn’t give this a lower rating was because of nostalgia. This comic really is kind of a dumpster fire.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Gerry@TheBookNookUK says:

        I think it all came down to the characters. Klaus and Number 5 and their individua storylines are the best and I also adored what we saw of Ben. I thought Ellen Page was miscast which is a shame because I really like the actress and love her other stuff and I just couldn’t deal with the Alison/ Luther love storyline.

        It was stylised but in a good way. I just think the bits I loved (Klaus and Number 5) I really loved but then the bits I didn’t like I really didn’t like. I found it oddly polarising!


  2. dinipandareads says:

    Oh no, that’s so disappointing. I finished watching the show the other week and was thinking of checking out the graphic novel (thankfully I read this first)! I liked the show, but I was a little confused at first, so I can only imagine what that’d be like in written form. Too bad!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. denaiir says:

    I’ve started watching the show but also felt that the characetrs were flat and just couldn’t get into it. Tried to watch episode 1 three times, then watched 2 and can’t remember anything that happened. So I guess it’s not for me either!

    Liked by 1 person

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