The Umbrella Academy premieres February 15th on Netflix.
[Ed. Note: Being that TV and City is on a bit of a hiatus, this article has not been edited.]
By Noam Abrahams
How I Learned to Accept Superheroes Without a Universe of Their Own
Netflix’s Umbrella Academy is an adaptation of My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá’s Eisner-winning comic series of the same name.
In October 1989, forty-three infants are inexplicably born to random, unconnected women who showed no signs of pregnancy the day before. Seven are adopted by Sir Reginald Hargreeves, a billionaire industrialist, who creates The Umbrella Academy and trains this dysfunctional family of superheroes to save the world.
The series starts, similarly to the comic series, at the death of Sir Reginald. The Academy disbanded a long time ago, each kid going their own way, after the Death of #6, Ben Hargreeves, and the disappearance of #5, The Boy. The 5 remaining pupils, now 30-something, come together for the first time in years to bury their father.
I, personally, was skeptical of the series at first. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original comics and wasn’t sure a TV show would be able, or even willing, to capture some of the more outlandish elements of the series. However, the series takes the wild nature and out-there concepts from the comic and, with help from the same showrunner from the equally weird super-show Legion, Steve Blackman, captures them almost perfectly.
A drug-addicted telekinetic who can speak to the dead? Sounds like something only a comic series could pull off, but Netflix’s Umbrella Academy makes Klaus Hargreeves a unique character with loads of personality.
That’s not to say that the show is exactly like the comic. In fact, the show, with it’s longer run time, actually focuses more on the characters and their interactions and relationships, than the comic had the chance to. By putting people before the usual battles of superhero cinema, UA not only stays true to its original comic but makes a niche for itself in the immense ocean of superhero drama.
Even if you’ve read the two collections of Umbrella Academy comics, the show manages to keep you on your toes by uniquely mixing plot lines and elements from the two existing stories, while also adding subplots for lots of the things less explored in the comic books. In the comic, we learn that #02 has become a vigilante called “The Kraken,” but we never see him really in action. The show flushes out his character, as well as all the others, with original b-plots that fit right in with the main plotline, and doesn’t make the character unrecognizable to fans.
Obviously, Netflix’s Umbrella Academy is a show that has its own specific niche. But for fans of superhero TV and movies, or even just people who love diving into very character driven stories, Umbrella Academy is definitely an excellent addition to their watch list.
I give The Umbrella Academy an A-.