“You Look Like Death” is illustrated by Gabriel Ba, Ian Culbard and Nate Piekos. courtesy Dark Horse Comics

Comic series prequel to “Umbrella Academy” a must-read

“You Look Like Death” provides intriguing storylines and interesting visuals despite missing some marks.

This summer, the long-anticipated prequel to the “Umbrella Academy” comic series finally released its completed first volume “You Look Like Death.” If you’re a fan of Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy,” then this is the perfect read for you. As you may or may not know, the Netflix series is based on a comic book series written by Gerard Way. The first issue of the series, “The Apocalypse Suite,” was released in 2007. 11 years later and Gerard Way is still continuing this highly popular series, now writing a prequel about everyone’s favorite Hargreeves sibling, Klaus.

Taking place 10 years before the events of “The Apocalypse Suite,” this prequel tells the story of Klaus’ expulsion from the Umbrella Academy and travels to Hollywood where he makes his home in the seedy streets of Tinseltown一a place where his supernatural abilities are highly sought after. With his newfound popularity comes a struggle with drug addiction and simultaneous fights with vampire drug lords who are trying to take over Hollywood. This volume forces Klaus to take control of the situation despite being completely and utterly alone for the first time in his life.

As previously mentioned, all of the “Umbrella Academy” comics are written by Gerard Way, who has definitely been keeping himself busy within the last 4 years. This year, Way also released “The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys: National Anthem #1.” At the same time as writing these two series, Way balanced bringing back My Chemical Romance from their long hiatus.

Also on staff for this series is Way’s co-writer, Shaun Simon, who has previously worked with Way on all his earlier comic releases. Way and Simon also happened to tour with one another in the early 2000’s with their bands, Pencey Prep and My Chemical Romance. The cover is designed by Gabriel Ba, who is also an “Umbrella Academy” alum, and the illustrator for the comic is I.N.J. Culbard. The lettering is done by Nate Piekos. One special aspect of this release is that Robert Sheehan, the actor who plays Klaus, has an emotional introduction to this graphic novel, allowing readers to get a clearer sense of what his process is like for playing Klaus. In a very poignant moment, Sheehan compares himself to the character, specifically Klaus’ struggles and how he has had similar problems in his life.

While this is not my favorite work of Way and Simon’s, I will say that it’s a wild and fun read right from the beginning. What can you expect when your protagonist has supernatural abilities and fights vampire drug lords? That being said, Way does have a tendency, in all his works, to throw in random things with no further explanation in the comic as to why they are there. It’s best just to take it in your stride and not question the appearance of these things.

I enjoyed the storyline for this comic. However, I feel as if the writing could have been a lot stronger. Rather than focusing on the main plotlines of the comic, Shaun and Way just seem like they’re having a contest to see who can throw in the most random detail into the story; at times, this does hinder the comic, making it nearly incomprehensible to understand. That being said, I think this volume is an important update in the “Umbrella Academy” series as it shows readers a clearer picture of why Klaus is the way he is in the present day.

I would be remiss to fail to mention I.N.J. Culbard’s art for this volume of the series. By far, the art was my favorite thing about “You Look Like Death.” Culbard’s version of Hollywood appears like it came straight from a film noir of Hollywood in its “better” days. At the same time, he also depicts a future version of Hollywood that rivals that of “Tron.” This breathtaking juxtaposition almost makes readers feel as if the city itself is a character in this comic. Culbard’s illustrations for “You Look Like Death ” help tie in this fun, yet aggravatingly confusing comic, allowing the reader to grasp for some sense of control and understanding of the story.

While I cannot say that I wholeheartedly enjoyed this comic, I think it has a lot to offer the “Umbrella Academy” universe. If you’re an avid fan of the television show or have followed the comic series, then “You Look Like Death” is a must read to help understand the complex character of Klaus Hargreeves. “The Umbrella Academy: You Look Like Death Volume 1” is out now at all major book retailers.

Post Author: Madison Walters