Who doesn’t love superheroes? They’re strong, selfless, and just about every bit of person you want to be.
Well, at least most of them.
Antiheroes have also been around for the longest time, and although they don’t necessarily have the attributes of a conventional superhero, these are characters that we both hate and love. While the kids from the Umbrella Academy may be donning superhero masks and fight crime, they’re not your typical super-friends. To call them good role models is too far a reach.
Some people say that Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy is a fusion of X-Men and Watchmen, I say that it’s a fun mix of the family dynamic from Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House, coupled with the “each-sibling-has-a-special-skill” premise of A Series of Unfortunate Events. It’s bleak, in parts funny, and filled with daddy issues—like a My Chemical Romance song.
Based on the same-name Dark Horse comic book series (created and written by Gerard Way), The Umbrella Academy takes us to 1989, when forty-three infants are born to seemingly random women. What’s peculiar about these births is that none of these women have been pregnant the day before. Seven of the babies are adopted by eccentric billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves, who founds the Umbrella Academy in which he trains his “children” to use their powers to their full potential.
Well, at least most of them.
Years later, Sir Hargreeves dies mysteriously, and the six surviving members of the Academy reluctantly reunite for his funeral. What they don’t know is that a dark secret surrounds their father’s death—one that concerns not just their family, but the entire world.
An academy for super-kids isn’t an entirely new concept. In movies, there’s the 2005 superhero comedy film Sky High. In comics, there’s X-Men and Doom Patrol. In anime, there’s Higuchi Tachibana’s Alice Academy, where students with special abilities are trained to use innate powers.
Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy” is the broodier version of these unlikely academes, one that highlights how flawed heroes can be, in spite of their inherent superiority. The series shows these flaws rather than glorify its heroes as near-perfect, god-like superhumans. Our ragtag group of heroes from the Academy is just as dysfunctional as any mundane family can be, that one can even challenge the idea of whether their powers rested on the right hands.
But who can blame them, really? Sir Reginald Hargreeves is no Professor X, and his methods tread the fine line between torture and training. Heck, he even calls his adopted kids by numbers because he couldn’t be bothered giving them actual names.
Thing is, the fact that The Umbrella Academy is not your typical superhero movie, is what got me hooked to the series. This band of misfit heroes may have powers but they’re just as human as anyone else. Other than the well-choreographed action sequences and the kickass soundtrack, it’s really the emotional weight of the storyline that keeps me glued to my laptop’s screen.
What’s frustrating though is that towards the end of the season, the series actually leaves you with more questions than when you started it out. Not to mention the fact that we’ve only seen seven of the forty-three kids who supposedly all have strange abilities. The good news though is that “The Umbrella Academy” is reportedly a big hit, so hopefully, we get to see the second season soon.
The Umbrella Academy stars Ellen Page, Mary J. Blige, Cameron Britton, Tom Hopper, David Castañeda, Emmy Raver-Lampman, Robert Sheehan, Aidan Gallagher, Colm Feore, Adam Godley, John Magaro, Ashley Madekwe, Kate Walsh. The 10 episodes are now streaming on Netflix.