The Umbrella Academy: How Hotel Oblivion is Different in the Comics


The Umbrella Academy: How Hotel Oblivion is Different in the Comics

The Umbrella Academy The TV show has always been a very loose adaptation, but the core premises of the first two seasons – stopping Viktor from ending the world and trying to stop JFK’s assassination – directly correlate to those of the first two volumes of the comics. But in Season 3 of the Netflix drama, showrunner Steve Blackman orchestrates one of the biggest departures from the Umbrella Academy comics yet by giving us a whole new twist on volume three’s title Hotel Oblivion.

[Ed. note: The following contains spoilers for both The Umbrella Academy show and comic books.]

What is Hotel Oblivion in the comics?

The towering Hotel Oblivion is the only building in this setting of a smoldering desert planet.

Image: Gerard Way, Gabriel Bá/Dark Horse

The comics’ Hotel Oblivion is not a hotel at all. It’s a prison for the most notorious villains the Umbrella Academy has ever defeated. It’s a twisted place where every conviction is a life sentence, a single cockroach serves as dinner, and prisoners are often driven insane. Since Hargreeves built the pocket-sized Hotel Oblivion on a distant planet, it’s (almost) impossible for the inmates to escape.

The only way in and out of Oblivion is by flying through an uncharted part of the universe called Afterspace, or by using a Televator, a teleportation device invented by Hargreeves and common throughout the comic book world. However, to make it safely from the hotel to the Televator, one must dodge the Scientific Man’s clue, a distinct reef Guardian‘s Doctor Manhattan guarding the prison from space. The Scientific Man appears to be one of Oblivion’s inmates as well, but seemingly has special privileges in exchange for playing Warden. And judging by the bones of massive creatures that pierce the planet’s surface, if the scientist catches you outside the hotel, he’ll do a lot more than kindly ask you to return to your room.

The comics are also quick to dip into the fact that the hotel isn’t just a prison, but some sort of cosmic trap for a sinister tentacled creature. This revelation isn’t explored beyond what we just summarized, so we really don’t have any further context to share on the subject other than to say it’s radical.

What happens in the hotel oblivion Comics?

Attack-ready villains gather around a man who quips,

Image: Gerard Way, Gabriel Bá/Dark Horse

The main storyline of Volume Three of The Umbrella Academy begins with the escape of two prisoners: the Murder Magician, a high-powered hypnotist who once sawed a double of Allison in half, and Obscura, a jewel thief who has a photographic memory and cameras built into his Head.

The Murder Mage is desperate to escape Hotel Oblivion, but not just because he desires his own freedom (though we’re sure that doesn’t hurt). He is determined to take his young child far, far away from his literally monstrous mother, Clarissa. Obscura, on the other hand, just wants to get back to his life of crime. The duo make it to the Televator, only to end up on the other side at a secret laboratory run by the Perseus Corporation. In the ensuing lab shootout, Obscura is captured by Perseus associates, but an injured murder mage escapes with the baby.

Allison manages to track down the murder mage in his old hiding place, but also the angry Clarissa. The Murder Mage then reveals to Allison that Clarissa is not a real monster, she was just cursed by a Magic 8 Ball. Instead of attacking Clarissa, Allison tells her that she “heard a rumor” that the cursed toy doesn’t define who she is. Clarissa is thus transformed back into her human form, allowing the dysfunctional family to mend their rift. In another sweet moment, the murder mage apologizes to Allison for sawing a version of her in half. She graciously accepts his apology and takes the reformed villain to the hospital for life-saving treatment. We call that emotional and physical healing!

Meanwhile, CEO John Perseus X forces the captive Obscura to show him the way to Oblivion, from which the eccentric businessman plans to free his father. In a flashback, we learn that John Perseus IX was a moralistic villain who tried to use the powers of a mechanical Medusa head to impose his control over the city for the good of society. It seems like John Perseus X has been working to free his father ever since.

However, when Perseus arrives at the Hotel Oblivion, he learns that his father committed suicide. However, the Medusa head lives on and thirsts for revenge for its captivity. En route back to his universe, a grieving Perseus is convinced by Medusa to free the other trapped villains, who then show their gratitude by wreaking havoc on the city. Perseus, displaying the opportunistic attitude that likely contributed to his rise in the corporate world, seizes this golden opportunity to follow in his father’s footsteps. Harnessing the power of Medusa’s head, Perseus embarks on his own quest to become the city’s self-righteous “savior” (not to mention the fact that he caused this problem from the start).

The Umbrella Academy takes the stage actually save the city. They quickly realize that of all the newly freed villains, their greatest threat is their nemesis, Dr. terminal is. When they were children, Dr. Terminal is defeated by the Academy and suffers from a disease that he can only fight off through a machine he devises that converts the matter he consumes into life-saving energy. After years of confinement, Dr. Terminal has an insatiable appetite for the entire city, consuming everything in sight.

Medusa absolutely lives for all this chaos and destruction, but when Perseus finally sees the magnitude of what he has unleashed, he realizes he doesn’t want to be reconciled with her hatred and breaks free of the head. Luther then grabs it and – for the first time in his life – comes up with a good plan. Knowing that Medusa’s head has a nuclear reactor inside, Luther throws it at Dr. Terminal, which will consume it and presumably be defeated. We say probably because Sparrow Academy is making its comic book debut before we get to the aftermath of Dr. Terminal eating a nuclear reactor as they join the fight, raising all sorts of questions about who they are and what’s going on.

So the show version of Hotel Oblivion has nothing to do with the comic version?

Members of the Umbrella Academy stand in the hallway of Hotel Obsidian with Reginald Hargreeves in the middle, looking directly at the camera.

Image: Netflix

Yes and no. The show’s Oblivion is neither a prison nor a trap for some kind of eerie horror. However, it’s still one of the Hargreeves’ pet projects. After Hargreeves discovered a portal to another dimension in 1918, he built a hotel around it, the Hotel Obsidian. But the hotel is really just a front for the interdimensional Hotel Oblivion, which is actually not a hotel at all. As revealed by Hargreeves, Hotel Oblivion is a massive failsafe machine that allows one to reset and rewrite reality. This mirrors the comics’ Hotel Oblivion, which is at a pocket size where reality is constantly renewed – although we don’t see any kind of reality renewal in the comics.

There are also minor nods to the comics. The show’s Oblivion is still guarded by ruthless guardians – now four samurai instead of The Scientific Man. And instead of the roaches being the dinner, they’re the brains and bodies that power these samurai, which kind of turns the stomach even more. Season 3’s ending showing that this version of Hargreeves is a titan of the business is also reminiscent of the corporate relationships of hotel oblivion‘s Perseus Storylines. It’s possible that this ending could even introduce Perseus – or acts inspired by Perseus – in Season 4.

While that’s all well and fun, the series’ Oblivion isn’t what we hoped it would be: a prison full of super villains who are then released. That’s all we wanted, really. Just an end-of-season melee where the Umbrellas and Sparrows face off against a legion of eccentric villains on the streets. It’s an action-packed, larger-than-life story that cries out to be brought to the big screen and made into one of the series’ infamous needle drops. And yet we were unfortunately denied this spectacle.

Still, we’ll never give up hope for our super villain showdown. With a fresh timeline, each season offers new opportunities for pocket-sized prison breaks. Or at least we’ll tell ourselves that.

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