You Look Like Death: Tales from the Umbrella Academy has thus far followed 18-Year-old Klaus Hargreeves — The Séance — as he tries to make it on his own, after being kicked out of the academy by his cantankerous father. Klaus’ journey has found him in the middle of Hollywood — a world of glitz, glamor and vampires. Issue #3 of this limited series furthers its exploration of Klaus’ relationship with washed-up actor, Vivian Clarke, and the impending turf war into which the character has inadvertently walked.
Writers Gerard Way and Shaun Simon begin to tie loose plot threads together in this installment of the run, while also dropping more for the reader to chase. Indeed, this strikes as a refreshing break from the rest of the Umbrella Academy comic franchise, which tends to follow the pattern of consistently bringing up new unanswered elements to its story, only to resolve everything in its final issue. By comparison, You Look Like Death is more focused, yet maintains the somewhat sensational and chaotic quality that makes Umbrella Academy so appealing. Small questions from previous issues are answered but there remains a lot to be deciphered. In the case of issue #3, the narrative surrounding “the void” – a sort of limbo — is further developed, putting forward concepts that are amusing as they are clever.
This issue also gives readers more of the delightfully suspicious Vivian Clarke. Together with Culbard’s expressive art, Way and Simon have created an incredibly compelling character that embodies the nostalgia for classic Hollywood. The only problem with this strong characterisation is that Vivian perhaps overshadows the rest of the series’ cast, including its main character. While this is undoubtedly Klaus’ story, his often sedated depiction means he can occasionally take a backseat in his own plot. His passivity is magnified by the character’s Netflix depiction — Robert Sheehan’s standout performance as Klaus in the Umbrella Academy television series inevitably means that a lot of readers will be subconsciously comparing this version of Klaus to his onscreen counterpart.
That said, You Look Like Death, which follows a younger Klaus, does well to delve into the reasons as to how the character ends up in current continuity. This issue, in particular, begins to show a previously hidden side to Klaus — one that is more vulnerable and naïve. Certainly, the extent of Vivian’s hold over Klaus really stands out in issue #3. In many ways, the pairing of Vivian’s ostentatiousness alongside Klaus’ docility drives forward the purpose of the Tales from the Umbrella Academy limited runs. These are not the characters you know, but a version of who they were.
You Look Like Death: Tales from the Umbrella Academy #3 serves as a satisfying mid-point for a so-far entertaining run in the Umbrella Academy franchise. Way and Simon have put together a perfectly timed story that drops and picks up plot points at just the right moments, and this issue is a captivating balancing act of resolution and emerging tension. Fans of Klaus Hargreeves may find themselves wanting more — however, this only acts as an incentive to continue reading a series that delves into the backstory of this beloved character.
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