by Tom Power, published on Friday, February 8, 2019 - 12:02 pm|
Netflix’s adaptation of The Umbrella Academy is almost here.
As its release date approaches, fans of the graphic novel are keen to see how it will be interpreted. Netflix aficionados, meanwhile, have been left intrigued by the curious trailer which was released exclusively on Metro.co.uk last month.
Why should we be excited about The Umbrella Academy TV series though? Isn’t this just another comic book, superhero adaptation that we’ve seen plenty of times before? Not quite.
Yes, there’s the usual superpower ploy, world annihilation plot, and other run-of-the-mill comic book tropes, but to dismiss it out of hand is to do it a disservice. There’s plenty that sets The Umbrella Academy apart, if you’re willing to look under the surface.
What happens in The Umbrella Academy?
Set in an alternate reality where John F. Kennedy wasn’t assassinated, The Umbrella Academy’s story begins in 1989 – a different year to the comic run – and immediately adopts an air of mystery. After a cosmic wrestling match’s final blow in the mid-20th Century, 43 babies with superpowers are born to unconnected, random women who had shown no signs of pregnancy 24 hours before.
Wealthy entrepreneur and world-renowned scientist Sir Reginald Hargreeves, known by his pseudonym The Monocle, adopts seven that survived and who were either abandoned or put up adoption. Under a newly formed organisation called, well, The Umbrella Academy, The Monocle prepares his children for the apparent end of the world.
Much like the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War, however, the team disbands – only to return to their adoptive home when The Monocle dies in suspicious circumstances.
Like any good puzzle, we instantly want answers about the how, who, and why about this peculiar event and its aftermath. Unfurling at its own pace throughout the comics – and across its first 10-episodic run on Netflix – The Umbrella Academy will deliver on its secrets, but not all at once.
Readers of the comics are well-versed to being drip-fed information, and the show seems set to follow in its footsteps. We can’t help but love a good thriller, especially one that has characters with complexities and secrets of their own.
The Umbrella Academy characters
In typical comic book style, each one has their own unique power, strengths, weaknesses, and personality. Whether it’s Spaceboy – the leader of the group with superhuman strength who, after a freak space accident, hates his appearance – or Vanya Hargreeves, who has no power and feels alienated from her adopted siblings as a result, any reader or viewer can relate to one or more of these individuals on a personal level.
These wide-ranging characters are ones that we’ve never witnessed before in books or on screen; their personal plights maybe, but the juxtaposition of their need to work together and infighting, supposed betrayal, and antagonism adds layers to individuals who haven’t developed the emotional parts of their identities.
The essence of each character is, according to creators Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba, perfectly encapsulated in Netflix’s adaptation. For fans of the graphic novels in particular, this will be a relief. Other entertainment mediums often end up leaving out elements of comics that can be difficult for people to wrap their heads around. Thankfully, it appears that the key aspects of each character has been retained here.
Netflix has gone above and beyond with its casting of these characters. Stars such as Ellen Page (Inception), Robert Sheehan (Misfits), Kate Walsh (13 Reasons Why) and Mary J. Blige (Mudbound) all feature, among others. There are plenty of up-and-coming actors to keep an eye on, as well as other veterans, who will all play their part in bringing The Umbrella Academy’s eclectic cast to life.
It isn’t only the cast and plot mechanics that have carried over from the graphic novels. Key pieces of Ba’s artwork has been ripped from the pages, such as The Umbrella Academy’s signature heroic outfits – ones that are albeit school uniforms in style – while the comic’s colour palettes have been carefully replicated for various scenes, judging by the show’s trailer.
They help to make the transition from graphic novel to the TV screen more seamless and, like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, give an interesting take on what comics look like if adapted for another medium.
The Umbrella Academy has a lot going for it. Its story is rich with intrigue, its characters heroic but flawed, its set and costume design almost identical to its comic origins, and a cast that any viewer will know well. There’s been a growing tendency for superhero fatigue in recent times, but The Umbrella Academy delivers something fresh and unique for the genre through various means.
Anticipation levels for the Netflix adaptation are high, and rightly so. If you’re after something of this ilk with a distinctive flavour, The Umbrella Academy should be right up your street. Mark your calendars, folks.