'The Umbrella Academy' is a wacky and enthralling addition to Netflix's superhero slate

Christos Kalohoridis/NetflixThe Umbrella Academy is a group of superheroes.

Warning: Minor spoilers ahead for season one of “The Umbrella Academy.”

  • Netflix’s “The Umbrella Academy” is based on a comic book series by Gerard Way.
  • The first season introduces the superhero family.
  • It’s a bit convoluted at times, but it’s an enthralling series to watch.

“The Umbrella Academy” follows a dysfunctional family of superheroes who must somehow pull themselves together to stop the impending apocalypse.

Based on a comic book series of the same name, the Netflix show introduces the Hargreeves clan, which isn’t exactly a real family.

The story begins on a random day in 1989 when 43 babies are born to women who weren’t pregnant. An eccentric billionaire named Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) adopts seven of the children and raises them with the help of Pogo, a talking chimpanzee assistant, and Grace, a mother figure to the kids. The children who possess special skills and abilities become a crime-fighting group known as The Umbrella Academy.

Circumstances lead the team to disband as they grow older, and the family splits up. The surviving Hargreeves kids reunite after Reginald’s sudden death and soon learn that the world is set to end in eight days.

Why you should care: It’s based on an award-winning comic book series from Gerard Way.

The umbrella academyChristos Kalohoridis/NetflixThe Hargreeves kids are (almost) all grown up.

Way, the former front man of My Chemical Romance, teamed up with Brazilian comic book artist Gabriel Bá to create the limited series “The Umbrella Academy.” The first six issues, “The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite,” were released between 2007 and 2008 and won an Eisner Award. Way and Bá released “The Umbrella Academy: Dallas,” another six-issue series, in 2008. The third series is currently being released, and a fourth is planned.

What’s hot: It subverts superhero show expectations.

Umbrella academyNetflixThe Hargreeves kids after their dad dies.

The Umbrella Academy isn’t your normal superhero team. The group consists of:

  • Luther (played by Tom Hopper) aka Space Boy aka Number One, a large half-ape man who lived on the moon for years
  • Diego (David Castañeda) aka the Kraken aka Number Two, a gifted knife-thrower
  • Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) aka the Rumour aka Number Three, an actress who can manipulate people’s actions with her voice
  • Klaus (Robert Sheehan) aka the Séance aka Number four, a drug addict who can communicate with the dead
  • The Boy (Aidan Gallagher) aka Number Five, a kid with the power to teleport which can be used to time travel
  • Ben (Justin H. Min) aka the Horror aka Number Six, a kid with the ability to become a monster and who died in an accident
  • Vanya (Ellen Page) aka the White Violin aka Number Seven, a violinist and the only normal person in the family

Ben’s death is what first broke the team apart, and they have been dealing with their own personal struggles ever since. As more of their past is revealed, it’s easy to see how messed up their lives were and why they ended up in their current situations. These heroes don’t have their lives together, but they do have a propensity for violence and murder, and it sets them apart from your average hero.

Adding to the plot is the time-travelling assassin team of Hazel (Cameron Britton) and Cha-Cha (Mary J. Blige), who are tasked with making sure the apocalypse continues as planned. Their dynamic adds a humorous touch to the series.

What’s not: Explanations are slow to come.

The umbrella academyChristos Kalohoridis/NetflixCha-Cha and Hazel deal with a lot.

The series itself can be convoluted at times. There are a ton of characters, and many of them go by different names, which can make it difficult to keep track of everyone. The series is also slow to explore character motivations, so it takes a while to get invested in their struggles.

Time travel is a large part of the series as well, but the constant jumping around may irk some viewers.

The bottom line: It’s an enticing addition to the superhero genre.

The umbrella academyChristos Kalohoridis/NetflixKlaus and Number Five at their dad’s funeral.

Despite some initial confusion, “The Umbrella Academy” is enthralling. Surprises are revealed on every episode, but there are enough unanswered questions to keep you wanting more.

Additionally, the cast is absolutely incredible. The performances from Ellen Page (Vanya), Robert Sheehan (Klaus), and Aidan Gallagher (Number Five) stand out among the large cast, but everyone nails their often wacky roles.

It’s worth watching if you enjoy action series, and you don’t have to be a fan of the comics to get into the show.

Grade: B

“The Umbrella Academy” premieres on Netflix Friday. Watch the trailer below.

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