Why the Umbrella Academy comics are still worth reading after binging the Netflix show

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Why the Umbrella Academy comics are still worth reading after binging the Netflix show
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All superheroes start from somewhere, and it's usually the same place. Like the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the CW's Arrowverse, Netflix's TV series The Umbrella Academy began as comic books. Co-created by Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance) and Gabriel Bá (Daytripper), The Umbrella Academy has published three volumes since it began in 2007 — and they are very much still worth reading even if you've already binged the show.

For one thing, the show and the comic only have so much in common. Season 1 was a pretty straight adaptation of the first volume of the comic: After being reunited as disaffected adults by the sudden death of their adoptive father Sir Reginald Hargreeves and the equally-sudden reappearance of their time-displaced brother, the various superpowered siblings realize that their most normal-seeming member is actually the most powerful of them all, and they needed to unite to prevent total annihilation. But the divergences have increased over the subsequent seasons. Only about two issues of the comic were spent in '60s Dallas, while the entirety of season 2 happened there. The Sparrow Academy only show up in the final moments of the third volume, Hotel Oblivion, but are a major element of season 3.

So if you're a fan of The Umbrella Academy show but have never checked out the Way/Bá comics, there's a lot of fresh material waiting for you.

The Umbrella Academy comics
The Umbrella Academy comics

Dark Horse Comics (5) A selection of 'The Umbrella Academy' comic covers.

Take Hazel and Cha-Cha, for instance. These time-traveling assassins were played in the show by Mary J. Blige and Cameron Britton, and we saw their faces a lot — as you'd expect from a TV show with starry actors! But in the comic, we never see the characters' faces; they are constantly covered by gigantic, garish animal masks. The juxtaposition between their cartoonish appearance and their gruesome deeds is the main joke of the second comic volume, though it's barely visible in the show — especially since Bá draws bloody violence way beyond the bounds of what even Netflix can show on screen.

Hazel and Cha-Cha's ridiculous tangents and jokes are pure Way, too. While The Umbrella Academy showrunner Steve Blackman and his writing team have done an impressive job of building out the show's characters and storylines over three seasons, the comic mostly keeps dialogue brief and sharp, with an absurd edge.

There are also plenty of colorful comic characters who still haven't made it into the show at all, especially when it comes to supervillains. The Hotel Oblivion comic arc reveals that Sir Reginald imprisoned all the foes defeated by the team at an interdimensional hotel, and they make quite a tableau when they all escape with vengeance on their mind.

Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion #5CR: Dark Horse Comics
Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion #5CR: Dark Horse Comics

Dark Horse Comics Superheroes and supervillains collide in 'The Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion' comic.

While the show features Pogo (Adam Godley), the talking monkey who helped train both the Umbrellas and the Sparrows, anthropomorphic apes are widespread in the world of the comic (one even dresses as Marilyn Monroe at one point — take that, Kim Kardashian!). Bá populates most pages with simian bystanders in a way that would stretch any special-effects budget.

Most importantly of all, three comic volumes — totaling 19 total chapters — makes for a much faster binge than 30 hours of TV!

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