What you need to know about this dysfunctional superhero family.
Netflix is adding the superhero series Umbrella Academy to its lineup of original content. This new series is based on the award-winning comics from former My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way and artist Gabriel Bá.
If you’re not sure what makes Umbrella Academy special or what the premise of this X-Men and Doom Patrol-inspired franchise is, fear not. We’ve got a breakdown of all three Umbrella Academy graphic novels. We’ll explain the basic plot, key characters, and the conflict of each story, but avoid major spoilers. Read on to learn more about this incredibly dysfunctional super-team.
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Book 1 – Apocalypse Suite
Umbrella Academy made its debut with 2007’s Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite (see it on Amazon). This miniseries opens with a flashback recounting the origins of the team, as 43 infants are spontaneously born to mothers who hadn’t shown signs of pregnancy beforehand. A wealthy inventor named Sir Reginald Hargreeves tracks down as many of these mysterious infants as he can, adopting seven of them and raising them to become superheroes. Essentially, if Umbrella Academy is like the X-Men comics, then Hargreeves is the series’ Professor X figure.
The bulk of the story takes place in 1977, with the various members of Hargreeves’ “Umbrella Academy” reuniting as adults to mourn the death of their father figure. Unfortunately, due to years of neglect and emotional abuse, each of Hargreeves’ children is extremely dysfunctional. For instance, cosmic adventurer Spaceboy has had his head grafted onto the body of a genetically engineered Martian ape after a catastrophic injury, while Number Five (who was never gifted a true name) has become trapped in the body of his ten-year-old self.
Apocalypse Suite focuses particularly on Violet, the most unhappy and maladjusted member of the Hargreeves family. As a child she was especially mistreated by her father, as she was the only one of her siblings not to display any special powers beyond a talent for the violin. Violet is recruited into a sinister organization called the Orchestra Verdament. This orchestra’s goal is to perfect a musical performance known as “The Apocalypse Suite.” Once played perfectly, the suite will instantly cause the world to be destroyed. Rechristened the White Violin, Violet suddenly becomes the Umbrella Academy’s worst enemy.
Book 2 – Dallas
The second Umbrella Academy miniseries (see it on Amazon) takes place in the aftermath of Apocalypse Suite. Despite managing to save the world once more, the various members of the team are arguably in even worse shape than ever. Spaceboy has become depressed and morbidly obese. Other team members like The Rumor are dealing with the physical toll of the battle with White Violin.
Dallas revolves most directly around Number Five, revealing the true nature of his time travel-based powers and how he came to be stuck in his childhood body. The series also introduces a pair of masked, time-traveling serial killers named Hazel and Cha-Cha. Meanwhile, the Batman-like vigilante Kraken takes his brother Spaceboy’s place as the leader of the team, while The Seance is given a glimpse of his family’s supernatural, possibly messianic origins.
The time travel-centric plot also sheds more light on the counterfactual history of the Umbrella Academy universe, a place where JFK was never assassinated and where Hargreeves’ inventions have accelerated humanity’s technological progress. The JFK assassination serves as a major set piece in this story, as the Umbrella Academy members race against time to prevent one of their own from altering the course of history.
Book 3 – Hotel Oblivion
The third Umbrella Academy miniseries has been a long time in coming. After years of delays stemming from Way’s musical commitments, the series finally debuted in October 2018. Unfortunately, that means the series is currently unfinished, with the trade paperback (see it on Amazon) currently due for release in July 2019.
Hotel Oblivion pushes the series away from its X-Men and Doom Patrol inspirations and more in the direction of Fantastic Four-style cosmic adventure. The series takes place a while after the events of Dallas, with the various Umbrella Academy members even more dysfunctional and adrift than ever. Number Five and Seance have taken to selling their superhuman abilities to the highest bidder. Of the team members, The Rumor seems to be the most important player this time around, as she struggles to rebuild her connection to her estranged daughter and forces a new partnership with Number Five.
This miniseries also introduces the titular hotel, an extra-dimensional prison where Sir Reginald Hargreeves used to dump the team’s villains. The hotel is meant to be impossible to map, much less escape, but the series features a pair of villains who are determined to try anyway.
Jesse is a mild-mannered writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter, or Kicksplode on MyIGN.