The Umbrella Academy Early Reviews: Misfit Comic Book Heroes Make for Oddball Adaptation

See what critics are saying about this apocalyptic Netflix series written by My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way.

by | February 4, 2019 | Comments

Critics are split so far over Netflix’s highly anticipated adaptation of Gabriel Ba and My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way’s The Umbrella Academy. The series, which drops on February 15, boasts a motley crew of heroes — a discordant family of young adults with special abilities who face a global apocalypse.

Will it live up to comic fans’ expectations? Is it a pulpy masterpiece or a tacky mess? Are we likely to love the cast of misfit now-adults, all mysteriously born on the same day way back when? With the likes of Ellen Page, Mary J. BligeTom Hopper, David Castañeda, and Cameron Britton starring, some critics say we should remain hopeful, but others aren’t as optimistic.

In the reviews registering so far, some critics celebrate the show’s focus on trauma and family melodrama. Others say the series is marred by unnecessary new subplots and lack of ambition. Some feel the show surpasses the comics and believe new audiences will be impressed, too. Others feel it doesn’t take enough risks.

Can The Umbrella Academy: Season 1 (2019) 75% hold on to its Fresh Tomatometer score? Check out what critics have to say about the series so far:

Is the show as wonderfully weird as the comics? 

“The show is every bit as good, as delightfully odd, and as touching as the comic.” — Alex Abad-Santos, Vox

“Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy leans hard into the absurdity of Gerard Way’s and Gabriel Bá’s superhero epic comic series, while also expanding the original character arcs in meaningful ways.” — Samantha Puc, The Mary Sue

“It’s clear that everyone involved with this adaptation has real love for the comic, from the way it accurately recreates the young Umbrella Academy‘s costumes to the camera angles that recall the work of film auteur Wes Anderson… but it also feels like they don’t fully understand what makes Way and Ba’s fast-paced, minimalist, vignette-heavy family drama so effective.” — John Saavedra, Den of Geek

“[F]or reasons not entirely clear, the show — created by Steve Blackman, an Emmy-nominated producer on Noah Hawley’s Fargo series — sheds the vibrant colours and some of the fantastical elements that gave the comics its wacky feel, leaving behind a production with a dour, gloomy aesthetic that makes it feel as generic as many others.” — Akhil Arora, Gadgets360

“Fans of The Umbrella Academy comic will no doubt be satisfied, as the show gifts them with a deeper look at what they love.” — Alexandra August, CBR

What if I haven’t read the comics?

“This is the kind of show that will take your jaded, I’m-so-tired-of-superhero-adaptations mindset, screw it up, and blow it away.” — Sherin Nicole,

“Audiences new to the work are about to be introduced to a darker interpretation of what it means to grow up in a family of superhumans. The Incredibles this is not.” — Alexandra August, CBR

“As much as I love the original Umbrella Academy comics, I must admit: the series is more coherent, so newbies to the story will feel right at home.” — Samantha Puc, The Mary Sue

Umbrella Academy posters split (Netflix)
(Photo by Netflix)

What’s to love (or hate) about these heroes?

“It’s one of those shows where the characters are at their best when they’re all together, bickering and bantering, but the plot keeps them separated just for the sake of dragging out the big reveals.” — Sam Barsanti, AV Club

“The majority of The Umbrella Academy is marred by fumbled attempts at character development and stilted performances. The protagonists rarely transcend the broadest strokes as the Netflix series dwells on the same few character beats and displays of sibling bickering and mind-numbing romance.” — Steven Scaife, Slant Magazine

“There’s plenty of good material to mine here, from Vanya’s desperation for being loved, Luther’s want for approval, Allison’s insecurity, Klaus shielding himself from feeling, Diego thinking he has a point to prove, and Five untrusting of anyone else, in addition to the foster siblings’ collective parental issues. But the writing is too threadbare and inconsistent to bring that up in an affecting manner.” — Akhil Arora, Gadgets360

“[Luther] is fucking boring, and that’s a problem. Through the first five episodes, he does nothing spectacular. He’s plain, he doesn’t go against the grain. He probably eats unseasoned grits. … The women of this series seem to be the saving grace.” — Kenneth Broome, Black Nerd Problems

“The actors succeed to varying degrees — Hopper and Raver-Lampman, who share a flirtation that’s both troubling and sweetly revealing of their mutual isolation, are probably the best of the bunch, while Page ultimately feels marooned by the dourness of her material and a character evolution that’s written in a muddled and unclear way.” — Daniel D’Addario, Variety

Action-fantasy, family drama, or both?

“The Umbrella Academy is a murder mystery wrapped in an apocalyptic drama with a wild plot which takes in time travel, a talking chimp and the end of the world.” — Henry Northmore, The List

The Umbrella Academy is ostensibly about superheroes trying to save the world, but they’re so caught up in personal conflicts that very little world-saving takes place.” — Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, The Daily Dot

“The show may be wrapped in superheroics and action, but it’s really about a group of people who have to work through their painful pasts and realize that forgiving one another is far tougher than the bigger task (saving the world, I guess) at hand.” — Alex Abad-Santos, Vox

“The cleverest part of it, though, is that this isn’t really a Watchmen-style deconstruction of the superhero genre; it’s about a weird family that has drifted apart for various reasons and must now come back together, baggage and all, in order to save the world one more time.” — Sam Barsanti, AV Club

The Umbrella Academy Credit: Netflix
(Photo by Netflix)

How’s the tone?

“It’s pure comic book through and through. … It doesn’t care about being great nearly as much as it does about being fun and exciting.” — Merrill Barr, Forbes

Umbrella Academy embraces its comic book origins, balancing cartoonish worldbuilding and visual flourishes with a sincere emotional arc. The overall vibe is a lot like an adult version of Netflix’s Series of Unfortunate Events.” — Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, The Daily Dot

“It sounds melancholy in a Six Feet Under kind of way, and it can be, but the series also boasts a sardonic sense of humor to keep things light. Doom and gloom this is not.” — Brandon Katz, Observer

“Its composition, like a giant dollhouse cut open, is reminiscent of a Wes Anderson flick (think a more emo, gothic Royal Tenenbaums), but there’s little of that offbeat charm elsewhere.”  — Akhil Arora, Gadgets360

Final verdict? Critics can’t agree.

“The Umbrella Academy offers something new and unique in an already crowded genre and is a rare example of an adaptation that might actually surpass the source material.” — Henry Northmore, The List

“After a while, endless stylization for its own sake comes to feel cluttered and, worst of all, dull.” — Daniel D’Addario, Variety

“Basically: This is the apocalypse we’ve been waiting for!” — Sherin Nicole,

“Despite such an audacious premise, The Umbrella Academy quickly slumps into mopey mediocrity, unable to render any of the visual imagination the material practically begs for.” — Steven Scaife, Slant Magazine

“The joy of Umbrella Academyis that you can never predict the path the show will take … as a superhero-tinged TV show, it gets everything right.” — Allison Keene, Collider

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