Toy Fair Can Stand Under My Umbrella Academy

Last week’s blog was short, but this one will be super long! If you don’t want to be spoiled by my The Umbrella Academy review, scroll to the second tilde for some Toy Fair news. Your attempts to keep me from seeing the Kim Possible movie have failed as well!

~

Netflix premieres The Umbrella Academy the same time DC Universe does Doom Patrol. Gerard Way’s & Gabriel Bá’s comic is inspired by Doom Patrol & X-Men, so this petty counter-programming is on point. Unlike Teen Titans, Doom Patrol actually looks like something I’d want to watch. It’s inspired by Grant Morrison’s seminal run, & he appears in a couple My Chemical Romance music videos. Then Way wrote an official reboot of Doom Patrol after his Dark Horse Comics homage took off! I am too cheap for don’t have access to DC Universe, so I’m reviewing The Umbrella Academy first.

Way gave the writers’ room an outline for the entire series including ones that haven’t been written yet so the show can avoid bungling the future. Showrunner Steve Blackman did an excellent job adapting the first arc, “Apocalypse Suite.” The dull promo pics don’t do it justice.

Unlike the Marvel Netflix shows that look banal without colorful mood lighting, the production values here are the best since A Series of Unfortunate Events! Weta Workshop’s CGI for Pogo the chimpanzee (Adam Godley) is on par with the new Planet of the Apes trilogy. All the characters are engaging. While there’s plenty of Hargreeves family angst, it’s still a fun ride. The action is shot well. There’s enough subplots bouncing around each episode that the story never feels stretched too thin. This series confirms that the Marvel Netflix shows squandered excellent casts by only teasing they could eventually be unabashed superhero shows. (Damn it, Netflix! You’re supposed to wait until after you release season three to announce you’re cancelling Jessica Jones!) Last chance to get off before SPOILERS!

The_Handler.png

Netflix has Michelle Gomez’s number but decided to let Kate Walsh have some fun too.

Colm Feore of Bon Cop, Bad Cop fame plays Sir Reginald Hargreeves, the Niles Caulder/Charles Xavier analogue with a monocle instead of a wheelchair. He purchases seven of forty-three immaculately conceived Libras from around the world. (They’re somewhat less pasty in this, which is appropriate given their international origins.) He’s such a negligent dad he leaves it up to their robot nanny to give them names instead of numbers. Despite them being a superpowered minority, the Umbrella Academy are an apolitical ultraviolent super-squad treated like pop stars by the public. His demise spurs his dysfunctional adopted children to reunite years after their family/team disbanded.

I feared Luther the Spaceboy (#1) was just going to be somewhat brawnier than Tom Hopper is normally in lieu of giving him a space gorilla body, but Netflix came through! Although his head hasn’t been transplanted onto an albino ape from Barsoom, mutating him works too. His prosthetics remind me of Mr. Hyde’s from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. (That’s a positive!) He’d still look better if he was more of an exhibitionist. Luther is the team’s Cyclops but more likeable, so I’ll upgrade him to Leonardo.

That makes #2 its Raphael. Despite resenting his adoptive dad most vocally of all, Diego (David Castañeda) based his vigilante vocation on Hargreeves’s hardcore training. This series traded The Kraken’s amphibious power for knife-telekinesis, which explains why it never uses his marine moniker. It would’ve been more interesting if they’d kept his superpower distinct from his weapons. We’re now in the era where every team needs an Aquaman more than a Batman. (Bruce has to rely on individual oceanic repellent sprays whereas Arthur can just think any of them away.)

Continuing the cycle of child abuse, Allison the Rumor (#3) used her Siouxsie & the Banshees persuasion powers on her daughter. That’s a refreshing way to demonstrate mind control powers make you unethical without jumping straight to rape & world domination. The team’s Smurfette tries to atone by forgoing this ability. Much like Netflix’s Killgrave, Emmy Raver-Lampman is missing violet tresses.

Robert Sheehan’s Klaus the Seance (#4) is much like Misfits’ Nathan, which means he’s an amusing libertine. Silencing ghosts is one of the better reasons to become a junkie. His power makes him haunted by the deceased be-tentacled Ben the Horror/#6 (Justin Min).

As arrogant teleporter Five (#5), Aidan Gallagher is wonderful at playing an cantankerous assassin obsessed with stopping the apocalypse in a kid’s body. He makes his relationship with Dolores feel less creepy than it is. There’s an episode where an entire day is undone by time travel ala The Flash. The original day showed lots of characters achieving catharsis, so my expectations were subverted when Five rewinds everything. Despite being armed with a vital clue about the apocalypse, he manages to schism his family further.

Despite all her rage, Vanya (#7) is still just an Ellen Page. She gets much more to do here  than in two X-Men movies as Shadowcat. (Why Marvel insists on only using her real name, Kitty Pryde, when she has one of the niftiest codenames is beyond me.) Vanya is very sympathetic as the “powerless” sibling with minimal confidence shunned by her family for writing an tell-all book. There’s ironic tension in her family not realizing she’s the cause of the apocalypse. She magnifies the vibrations of her own heartbeat to blow open a soundproof room! Vanya gets a version of her White Violin costume in the same titled finale. While not as striking as her original design, Page still looks great in a white tux. I’d be mad it’s just for the last ten minutes, but it’s more than Typhoid Mary, Nightshade, & Bullseye got.

This is legitimutantly the best live action Dark Phoenix Saga adaptation. (It’s also got shades of Watchmen & Days of Future Past mixed in.) I’m willing to bet this statement will remain true even after the Dark Phoenix movie is released upon a public that deserves better. (Legion’s final season does have a shot at topping it.) The advantage of this TV series is that it takes the time & effort to make you care about the characters involved so the epic story has the proper emotional weight. It’s what X-Men: The Last Stand should’ve been.

As opposed to the continuous retcons about Jean Grey & the Phoenix Force, there is no confusion that Vanya is the White Violin. Since her defining trait isn’t being in a love triangle, it’s harder to reduce this to a fable of the dangers of female sexuality unbound. While suppressing Vanya’s powers is arguably justifiable, her step-father destroying her self-esteem & causing her siblings to neglect her makes Vanya’s rage legitimate. It’s easier to get invested in her threat to the world than the danger presented by Dark Phoenix wiping out broccoli aliens by eating a distant star.  Replacing the Conductor & the Orchestra Verdammten with her fanboy boyfriend loses some supervillain trappings but keeps it form being too derivative with its own Hellfire Club.

After Rumor is rendered mute, she asks Spaceboy to call her daughter for her. Rather than just being her voice, he inserts his own declaration of love to his adopted sister.  Time traveling hitman Hazel (Cameron Britton from Mind Hunter) similarly plots to leave his highly durable partner, Cha Cha (Mary J. Blige from hip hop), for a whirlwind romance with an older doughnut maker (Shelia McCarthy from literal Canadian art film I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing). The family grappling with Grace, their robo-mom, going senile are also affecting.

The series highlights how emotionally abusing children can be just as damaging as physical abuse. Sir Hargreeves is so obsessed with training his wards he never gives them the support they need. Despite knowing when the apocalypse will strike in advance, he doesn’t adequately warn the team of their primary mission. He has to commit suicide just to band them back together (years after arbitrarily exiling Luther to the Moon). His cruelty towards Vanya is what causes the apocalypse in the first place! He even makes his other adoptees, particularly Allison, complicit in it. (If Rumor’s powers are more reality manipulation than hypnotism, I would’ve expected she’d be the one most in need of repressing.) The Umbrella Academy fails because their father failed them first.

It’s refreshingly realistic that the Umbrella Academy doesn’t miraculously resolve their issues to avert the apocalypse. Their actions inadvertently cause Luther’s former lunar home to rain catastrophic meteorites upon the globe. So they’re going to try to prevent it again by having the whole family time travel. The apocalypse seems like it’s a fixed point regardless of the Temps Agency’s intervention. (It’s a real one too, not like those fake apocalypses filled with cannibals fiction is always pawning off.)

Jeff Russo’s music choices are great despite omitting Rhianna’s “Umbrella.” Lindsey Stirling fills in for Vanya to introduce the cast with her Phantom of the Opera medley. Not only does it have the Zardoz music, the same episode features an ice cream truck playing “Ride of the Valkyrie!” The house cutaway of the family dancing separately to Tiffany evokes “Wes Anderson’s X-Men.” Blige, Raver-Lapman, & Way contribute songs.

While there are some allusions to him in the set dressing, zombie-robot Gusatve Eiffel is absent. I could understand him being cut in a movie, but they have ten episodes to play with. His role is replaced by the Umbrella Academy killing more budget friendly hostage-taking bank robbers with humorous overkill. If it returns for a second season, they should squeeze him in.

Congratulations to The Umbrella Academy on beating Marvel at its own game!

~

I’ve plotted to attend Toy Fair ever since I learned of it in a TMNT episode, but for now I’ll have to settle for recapping the highlights I observed vicariously. I made a point of ignoring your favorite toylines, so you might as well head straight to ToyArk for thorough coverage.

Hasbro is once again churning out more Marvel Legends than anyone could be reasonably expected to purchase. We’re getting a Silver Samurai, although he may be missing the katana energy attachment that’s already tooled? They finally made an optic blast effect piece for Scottish flag Cyclops, but Outback Dazzler is still cooler. (Why is she in the “Vintage” series if Toy Biz never made her in this outfit?)  Sadly the new Emma Frost is in her ugly black costume instead of the classic White Queen one. It’s funny Amazon is getting a Magneto, Scarlet Witch, & Quicksilver set called “Family Matters” after Marvel retconned them not to be his kids recently. Way to snub his only current child, Polaris! I’m disappointed the figure codenamed carrot cake for Spider-Man: Far From Home series turned out to not be White Rabbit. Grandmaster & Korg is the best 2-pack. Ghost would’ve been an insta-buy if she came with Janet Van Dyne instead of Luis. (If Ghost & Red Ghost put their laundry in the same wash they’d both be Pink Ghost.) Cinematic Shuri is inbound! Still no Squirrel Girl, Netflix Misty Knight, or anybody from Agents of SHIELD?

I must also dock Hasbro for its continued lack of Black Series Ewoks.

It’s the final Toy Fair before Mattel loses its DC license so they decided to go out with a damp squib. Is DC Collectibles being completely replaced by McFarlane Toys? No wait, they’re making DC Luchadores (without Bane, because he’s too easy)! You never know how much you need a Metallo in a wrestling singlet until you see one. They’re also doing BTAS-style toys for characters that never appeared in DCAU as if they’ve already exhausted the hundreds of characters that did.

NECA’s SDCC cartoon TMNT are being repackaged as Target exclusive 2-packs. More importantly, there’s a brand new Bebop & Rocksteady set!  Super 7 teased something turtle-related. For my wallet’s sake, I hope it’s just some faux-retro junk I can ignore.

 ~

The live action Kim Possible movie also premiered last weekend! Todd Stashwick is the human who most resembles Dr. Drakken, so it’s a bummer they gave him weird blue veins instead of just making his skin all periwinkle. Kim’s pants strangely transform into ribbons below the knee? Taylor Ortega’s Shego is perfect. Christy Carlson Romano, Nancy Cartwright, & Patton Oswalt return for new & old roles, but it’s sorely lacking in Patrick Warburton. Señor Senior, Senior (of spinning tops of doom fame) getting a shoutout was my favorite part. This reboot oddly undermines Kim for most of the runtime. Plus she keeps having to ask Ron for grappling hooks instead of toting her own. It looks better than the average Disney Channel movie, but the original cartoon is still superior.

~

I’m greatly displeased Facebook deleted most of my posts & photos from my page without notifying me last week. Its algorithm arbitrarily & retroactively decided everything I made specifically to promote this blog was spam. An album of 293 photos was reduced to three. (So my Pinterest is now more useful!) It’s hypocritical when they kept sending me messages about how my fans don’t hear from me enough & literally offered to boost my complaint post for $30. After numerous complaints by me, Big Brother finally reversed it back to normal after a few days. So in case that ever happens again, you’ll want to subscribe to avoid social media censoring links to all my forthcoming blogs. I’d recommend Google+, but that’s dying soon. I guess The Twitter still works for updates?

~

Next week will see a review of the end of The Gifted season two!

12 thoughts on “Toy Fair Can Stand Under My Umbrella Academy

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s