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Binge-worthy Books: The Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

Welcome to Binge-worthy Books, where we review the title for that month's edition of our new Streaming Book Club, a book club around those titles that were later turned into hot new streaming shows or movies. So sit back and relax. We're getting ready to binge another book: The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way.

Join us in person or via Zoom on Friday, February 25th @12PM. Be sure to register early every month.


The Umbrella Academy

by Gerard Way

Book Summary

In an inexplicable worldwide event, forty-three extraordinary children were spontaneously born by women who'd previously shown no signs of pregnancy. Millionaire inventor Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of the children; when asked why, his only explanation was, "To save the world."

These seven children form The Umbrella Academy, a dysfunctional family of superheroes with bizarre powers. Their first adventure at the age of ten pits them against an erratic and deadly Eiffel Tower, piloted by the fearsome zombie-robot Gustave Eiffel. Nearly a decade later, the team disbands, but when Hargreeves unexpectedly dies, these disgruntled siblings reunite just in time to save the world once again.


The Netflix Adaptation: Umbrella Academy, Season 1

Season one of Netflix's superhero drama, Umbrella Academy, roughly follows the first book in the series. Like the book, this is very much aimed at adults with complex themes and some content that would be inappropriate for most younger audiences, sometimes in a rather graphic manner, it is nonetheless a powerhouse series. It is at its heart a story about a dysfunctional family with some very serious and understandable problems (considering their individual superpowers and method of rearing) coming together after estrangement to mourn the loss of their patriarch.

There are a number of changes to the original story, such as the beginning sequence being a bank robbery instead of an Eifel Tower spaceship, costuming, the race of Rumor, ethnicity of Kraken and age of Number Five. However much of the essence of the original book remains the same. Each character retains the qualities, foibles, and idiosyncrasies the graphic novel had, even as how they get to the conclusion is changed to hopefully better reflect the new format. There are a few more major changes to side characters and regulars, but rarely shift the series too far off of the conclusion, and most of those that do seem to be borrowing from future storylines. That which doesn't would be too much spoiler to share.


Discussion Questions

Being a graphic novel, as with any genre-related publication, there are far fewer discussion groups out there with their own questions than straight literary fiction. And superhero-based publications have even fewer than most. That being said, there is a lot of intelligent commentary on the subject and hopefully the questions stemming from analyzing graphic novels in general as well as these original questions on the specific title will spark some of that in your group.

General Questions

  1. How did you experience this book? Was it exciting? Funny? Scary? Weird? Thought-provoking?

  2. Did you find the characters convincing? Are they believable?

  3. Which characters do you especially like or dislike? What are their primary characteristics?

  4. What motivates the character's actions? Do you agree with their choices?

  5. Do the characters grow or change? How so?

  6. Who in the book would you like to meet? What would you ask or say?

  7. If you were a character in this story, what would your role be?

  8. Is the plot well-developed? Does the story make sense? Did anything surprise you?

  9. Is the story plot or character drive? Is there a lot of action or more focus on the lives and feelings of characters?

  10. The ending: was it predictable or surprising? Was everything wrapped up or was the ending ambiguous?

  11. Can you pick out one part that you found especially interesting or profound?

  12. Does the book remind you of your own life? An event? A person - like a friend, family member, or teacher?

  13. If you could talk to the creator what would you want to know?

  14. Have you read other books by this creator? Are they similar or totally different?

  15. Do the words and pictures work together to tell the story? Or is the story more in either the words or pictures?

  16. Does the artist use traditional rectangular panels? Or are there stylized panels or none at all? How does this impact the story or mood?

  17. What do artistic or visual details tell you about the characters or setting?

  18. How are the panels framed? What is included? What is left out? Is the subject shown up close? Far away? Why do you think the artist made these choices?

  19. How does the artist depict time? Does lots of action happen panel-to-panel or are moments drawn out? How does this impact your reading experience?

  20. Are speech balloons, lettering, or sound effects used in a creative way? How does this impact the story?

Specific Original & Comparative Questions

  1. According to the author's note towards the end of the book, he went from a musician in My Chemical Romance to detoxing himself through his own devising and writing comic books. How do you see his experiences playing into the book?

  2. Were there any characterizations or character faults that surprised you? If so, why?

  3. In subsequent writings it is revealed that the Eifel Tower incident in the book is supposed to be their first foray into being superheroes. Was this clear? What would you have changed? Anything?

  4. What do you think about Professor Hargreeves continual insistance that Vanya, Number Seven, has "nothing special about you" or that

  5. It is clear that over the years the children underwent a number of traumatic events that would lead to the eventual estrangement. Some of it might even have lead to some PTSD. Examine how the author explores this concept.

  6. It's clear that these "heroes" sometimes misuse their powers. Do you think you would have done any better? What ability would you have and how might you be tempted?

  7. Klaus struggles with his abilities, sanity, and drug use. In what way do you think his having the ability to communicate and interact with the dead has affected the other two?

  8. How does the inclusion of Hazel and Cha Cha in the first season instead of the second affect the storyline?

  9. In the series, did you believe Leonard? At what point did you think something might be up?

  10. At one point, Number Five and Pogo are flying over the city talking about where Number Five had been since the disappearance. In the discussion, there is a comment about if it is a legitimate threat, "Isn't this worth saving?" right as they are flying over the poorest part of the city with prostitutes fighting and homeless people. Not your standard "beautiful" or "uplifting" image. What

  11. In both the book and the series, there is some definite manipulation of Vanya. In which do you see it as more severe? Why? How?

  12. What level of fault do you place on Vanya for the final confrontation (look at both the series and the book as separate answers)? If you find fault with others, even in partial, who, how much, and in what way? Do you find it inevitable?


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