[Warning: The following contains spoilers for The Umbrella Academy Season 2 and The Umbrella Academy comic books. Read at your own risk!]
The Umbrella Academy returned to Netflix with an outlandish new adventure that saw the Hargreeves siblings trying to save the world (and JFK) in 1963 Dallas. The second season drew strong inspiration from Dallas, the second volume of Umbrella Academy comics by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá. But since a lot of the ground covered in Dallas was already incorporated into the superhero drama’s first season — including jaded assassins Hazel (Cameron Britton) and Cha-Cha (Mary J. Blige), Klaus’ (Robert Sheehan) introduction to God, and Five’s (Aidan Gallagher) history with The Commission — that left showrunner Steve Blackman with a lot of extra room to add original storylines and put exciting twists on the source material.
Here are the 11 biggest differences between The Umbrella Academy Season 2 and the comic books.
1. The nuclear apocalypse is accidentally caused by Klaus, not Vanya. In the comics, Hazel and Cha-Cha aren’t introduced until Dallas, which is when they kidnap and torture Klaus, as depicted by the show in Season 1. But in the books, when the assassins kidnap Klaus they also steal nuclear missiles that Hargreeves had received from JFK in the ’60s. (While Hargreeves is clearly well connected in the books, he isn’t shown to be part of the Majestic 12 or connected to JFK’s assassination.)
After killing Hazel and Cha-Cha, Klaus deactivates the missiles with the help of a ghost — only apparently Klaus didn’t do it properly because the nukes detonate and destroy the world. This is obviously very different from the show’s explanation of the nuclear doomsday, which is caused when Vanya (Ellen Page) destroys the Dallas federal building, leading JFK to declare war on Russia, which ends in a nuclear holocaust. So while Vanya does have amnesia in Dallas, she doesn’t actually end the world. This one should be on Klaus.
2. The Commission blackmails Five and Allison into killing Kennedy. Rather than the presidential assassination be orchestrated by the Majestic 12, the comic books have it be solely the work of The Commission — and they use two members of the Umbrella Academy to pull it off. AJ Carmichael forces Five and Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman) to assassinate JFK by threatening to murder Five and Luther’s (Tom Hopper) biological mother before they’re ever born. (And yes, apparently Five and Luther are twins.) Despite their siblings’ best attempts to stop them, Allison kills Kennedy by posing as Jackie O. in the motorcade and rumoring his death.
3. Klaus’ connection to Vietnam is very different. Though the first season saw Klaus accidentally traveling back in time, fighting in the Vietnam War, and falling in love with David (Cody Ray Thompson), the original circumstances of Klaus’ journey to the past are completely different. In the books, Klaus, Diego (David Castañeda), and Luther all travel to the ’60s intentionally with the hopes of saving JFK from Five and Allison. Only, they mess up the time travel and wind up arriving a few years early and in Vietnam, rather than Dallas. Instead of Klaus falling in love with a fellow soldier, the trio spends their time in Vietnam trying to resurrect a mummified Vietnam emperor in the hopes that this would help end the war. And while David doesn’t exist in the comics, Klaus clearly got close with someone in Vietnam because he also has a baby during his time there.
4. Allison’s storyline is completely original. Since the Academy purposefully goes to the ’60s to either kill or save Kennedy in the comics, all the ways the Hargreeves siblings build new lives in Dallas are invented for the show, including Klaus’ cult, Luther’s work for Jack Ruby, Vanya’s romance with Sissy (Marin Ireland), and Diego’s failed vigilantism. But it’s Allison’s storyline that stands out as the most welcome change. Rather than have her betray her family and kill a president — even if it is to save Luther’s life — the show gives Allison a rich and resonant original storyline that shows what her life could look like and all the good she can still accomplish without her powers. Both her marriage to Ray (Yusuf Gatewood) and her involvement in the civil rights movement are some of the most successful aspects of Season 2, and these are two changes we’re thrilled the show made.
5. There is no Commission coup in the books. The entire storyline involving Lila (Ritu Arya) and The Handler (Kate Walsh) is a show invention. In fact, Lila and The Handler don’t exist in the comics at all. (Sorry, Diego.) The Commission is still run by AJ Carmichael in the books, and the talking fish simply deals directly with Five rather than use an intermediary. After Carmichael successfully forces Allison and Five to kill JFK, Five gets his revenge by swallowing the fish whole — an iconic act of vengeance The Handler takes on in the series.
6. Five doesn’t give his past self the calculation to avoid getting stuck in a child’s body. Five does fight with his past self in Dallas, but the fight is almost entirely verbal and not nearly as consequential. In the books, the adult version of Five is in the process of killing other assassins to save Kennedy’s life when Five shows up trying to convince his past self to stand down. Luther, Diego, and Klaus interrupt the argument, allowing the adult Five to successfully take down the other assassins. Not realizing Allison is posing as Jackie O., the adult Five thinks his work is done and goes to 2019, setting off the chain of events in the comics’ first volume and the show’s first season. It’s only in the show that the adult Five returns to his real timeline with the knowledge of the 2019 apocalypse and the calculation to stay in his adult body, which means the potentially drastic consequences of those changes will also be original to the series. There is always the chance, of course, that Five lied about what the correct calculation is too, but the fact remains that Five and Luther more drastically meddle with Five’s past in the show than in the books.
7. Pogo’s childhood in the lab isn’t nearly as pleasant. While the show portrays Pogo’s (Adam Godley) early life in Hargreeves’ lab as relatively humane — at least, as humane as any scientific experiments on animals can be — the books paint a very different picture. Though Five only gets a brief glimpse of Pogo’s past using Hargreeves’ magic monocle (and yes, it is magical in the comics), what he sees is far more horrifying than anything the show presents. By showing Hargreeves (Colm Feore) and Grace (Jordan Claire Robbins) caring for Pogo like he’s their son, it not only helps clarify how Pogo grew to be such a pivotal part of the family but also humanizes Hargreeves in a way he never is in the comics.
8. Ben’s ghost doesn’t pass on into the afterlife. In order to stop Vanya from destroying the federal building and causing the apocalypse, Ben (Justin H. Min) goes inside her mind and comforts her. In the process, Ben loses the ability to hang on to this world and is forced to finally pass into the afterlife, 17 years after his original death. This event never happens in the comics, but then again, Ben’s ghost also isn’t Klaus’ constant companion in the comics either. We don’t see Ben posthumously in the books until the third volume, Hotel Oblivion, when he appears to an ailing Klaus to reprimand him for being selfish and not fulfilling his potential, similar to what Ben does in the show. But this depiction of Ben’s ghost is decimated and horrific, quite unlike the adorable and charming Ben as portrayed in the series.
9. The Swedes are original to the show, but there is a fun comics twist. While no one will replace Hazel and Cha-Cha as our favorite disillusioned assassins, the Swedes (Tom Sinclair, Kris Holden-Ried, and Jason Bryden) are a delightful addition to this world. While the trio are a completely original invention for the series, the milkman cover is a very subtle nod to the comics. During a fight between Luther and Diego, Luther accuses his brother of being so paranoid that he’d think “Mom is plotting to take over the world or the milkman is an intergalactic assassin.” While the milkman in the comics isn’t out to get them, Luther may have been on to something in regards to Grace…
10. Grace is involved in the Sparrow Academy. It remains to be clear whether this will prove true in the series, but in the comics Grace is deeply entrenched in the Sparrow Academy. In fact, she recruits Vanya to join them in Hotel Oblivion, even meeting with Vanya at their Norwegian headquarters. Of course, we don’t even know whether Grace exists or in what form she might in the new 2019 timeline. In the comics, the Grace who works with the Sparrow Academy is the robot version Hargreeves built, but we could see her human counterpart filling this role in the show, if Grace is involved at all.
11. The Sparrow Academy doesn’t exist in a radically new timeline. After Vanya is introduced to the Sparrow Academy, her siblings get to meet them when the Sparrow Academy shows up to help the Umbrella Academy fight a group of supervillains who broke out of prison. Just like the Umbrella Academy, there appears to be seven members of the Sparrow Academy (if you count the floating black cube as a member), and they appear to each be designated by their assigned number. From the brief glimpse we get of the Sparrow Academy in the show, both these things are likely to remain the same.
However, in the series, the Sparrow Academy only appears to exist as a result of the Umbrella Academy’s meddling in the ’60s creating an entirely new timeline where Hargreeves mentored this new superhero team instead of them. The added twist that Ben is also alive and a member of the Sparrow Academy in the new 2019 is also an original addition to the series.
In Dallas, there is a hint at the end that the Umbrella Academy’s actions in the 1960s alters the timeline, but whatever changes as a result doesn’t include anything as drastically different as the Umbrella Academy never existing or Ben being alive… at least, not that we know of yet. The Sparrow Academy is only briefly introduced in Hotel Oblivion, and we’ll have to see what the fourth volume reveals.
The Umbrella Academy is available to stream on Netflix.