The Cult Of The Unwritten Book are fairly standard as far as your Chthonian doomsday societies go. They have a lost city, hidden beyond the scope of common men, devoured by powers men was not meant to know wot of. They have various inhuman and undead creatures bound into their service. The only thing truly separating them from the rest of the geeks in robes praying to various dead gods is that their particular patron wasn’t made up by a bunch of stoned druids. So there’s a chance that they could awaken the unblinking eye whose gaze will unmake the universe.
A magus of great cunning and power could easily oppose The Cult and undo all of their plans. Unfortunately, all the world’s got is Willoughby Kipling – a chain-smoking, hard-drinking fat slob of a sorcerer who is somewhere far under Harry Dresden and Felix Castor on the list of supernatural detectives qualified to avert the end of the world. And even more unfortunately, the only ones around to keep Kipling on the straight and narrow as he tries to stop The Cult are The Doom Patrol.
It should be mentioned that “Cult Patrol” is heavily based upon Doom Patrol #31 – one of the more famous issues of Grant Morrison’s legendary run on Doom Patrol. Your knowledge of this fact is not required to enjoy this episode, but fans of the original comics will be delighted to know that monsters such as the Hoodmen and the Dry Bachelors (tireless assassins forged of dead skin and the love letters from romances gone sour) have been perfectly translated from the page to the screen. Indeed, whole scenes from the comics are recreated, such as our first glimpse of Willoughby Kipling in a sleazy hotel room filled with clocks.
Astute fans may have noticed a slight resemblance between Kipling and another chain-smoking, trenchcoat-wearing magician. That’s no accident, but Kipling isn’t quite as shameless a rip-off of John Constantine as one might think. The fact of the matter is that Grant Morrison wrote the original Doom Patrol comic with Constantine in mind, before being told there was no way John would be allowed out of Hellblazer to play with the rest of the weird kids.
At the time The Powers That Be wanted to keep John grounded, painting him as a con-man who played at knowing more magic than he really did rather than the a blue-collar magician with a criminal’s soul. Thus did Morrison create Kipling to be the chaos mage he needed. Future Doom Patrol writers would keep using him, even after things changed and John was freely able to mix and mingle with other inhabitants of the Vertigo shared universe.
As an adaptation of the original storyline, “Cult Patrol” succeeds. Yet it also builds well off of the base concept and allows the show’s ensemble cast a chance to go beyond just blasting demons. This is particularly true of April Bowlby as Elasti-Woman (who is starting to take her first shaky steps towards heroism… or at least acting like a little less of a diva) and Jovian Wade as Cyborg, who probably dislikes Kipling the most out of all of the team – partly because of his lack of discipline and partly because, logically, the scientist’s son who is dependent on technology doesn’t want to rely on magic. Particularly not the questionable, chaotic sort of magic practiced by Willoughby Kipling, who is played to perfection by Supernatural‘s Mark Sheppard.
While the on-going storyline is still stuck in neutral and there’s nothing to be seen of The Chief or Mister Nobody this week, “Cult Patrol” is still an enjoyable hour of television and another sign of just how well this experiment in bringing one of DC Comics’ strangest series to life is succeeding.
Doom Patrol – Episode 4, “Cult Patrol”, airs Friday, March 8, on DC Universe.
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.