Three years ago, I reviewed Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite, giving the graphic novel a paltry 5/10. Looking back, I still agree with my score; the graphic novel had pacing and storytelling issues plaguing its pages. Netflix released season 1 of its Umbrella Academy adaptation one day after I reviewed the first volume and has since followed it with a second season. I write this review one day after the season three premiere, so Umbrella Academy content is bouncing around my skull with reckless abandon. And I, a reader, have come to a rare conclusion: I like the show better.
Umbrella Academy: Dallas sees our cadre of superpowered pseudo-siblings dealing with various issues after a near-apocalypse at the hands of Vanya, their ostracized seventh sibling. A jumble of events deposits most of the siblings in 1963, in the midst of the Vietnam War and leading up to the JFK assassination. Number Five realizes a future version of himself is tasked with mucking up the timeline by stopping the assassination. Throughout the volume, the siblings reunite in an attempt to correct the timeline and save the world once again.
It’s hard to express how difficult I found it to offer a rudimentary plot summary of Dallas. I found the story near impossible to follow, and I dissected the panels as best I could in an attempt to make sense of it all. The pacing ushers readers from one huge development to the next without much breathing room, an issue I identified with the first volume as well. Even having seen the second season of the show, which mostly adapts this story, I couldn’t follow it.
Perhaps I’m spoiled by the quality graphic novels I’ve devoured of late, namely Sandman, White Sand, and (less recently) Fables. Maybe a fast-and-loose time-travel escapade should feel jarring. Instead, it just left a bad taste in my mouth and a hankering for more of the show’s quirky but sensible storytelling. A ten-episode season has more room for deep characterization and plot explanations than a ~150-page graphic novel. After reading Dallas, the best feeling I had was anticipation for season three, which I’m sure will mark another fantastic and whimsical-if-dark outing into this strange world.
Lest this review become an evangelization for the show, I’ll cut it quite short and conclude with a positive. Umbrella Academy: Dallas has some amazing art, pithy dialogue, and truly intriguing moments. It’s just that the package surrounding those shining moments doesn’t feel like it can hold itself together.
At the end of the day, this just wasn’t for me, but I hope diehard Umbrella Academy fans will get a kick out of it.
Rating: Umbrella Academy: Dallas – 4.0/10