JLA/Doom Patrol Special #1
Written by Steve Orlando and Gerard Way
Art by ACO, Hugo Petrus, Tamra Bonvillain and Marissa Louise
Lettering by Clem Robins
Published by DC Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
“I’m starting to think maybe strange deserves a shot. Because sometimes the sweet spot is smack dab in the middle - between the utterly bizarre and the positively brave.”
Steve Orlando’s Justice League of America and Gerard Way’s Doom Patrol share a lot of DNA, despite existing on seemingly opposite ends of the multiverse. They’ve got “weird” casts thrust into strange situations and while Way’s been able to embrace that a bit more because of the nature of the Young Animal imprint, both creators have an undeniable Grant Morrison influence that comes through in an “un-event” like this one. This is a celebration of what’s so wacky and wonderful about comics! Sometimes, it moves a bit too fast and it’s hard to keep up, but if you buy in to what they’re selling - a proposition made infinitely easier by ACO’s incredible art here - there’s a lot of fun to be had.
It’s a bit hard to parse out how Way and Orlando split the writing duties here, but their voices seem to blend together fairly well. They’re asking you from the outset not to take things too seriously, though. The big corporation is call RetConn and the villain’s name is Lord Manga Khan. It’s all a bit tongue-in-cheek right away. The Doom Patrol finds themselves in a Stepford reality overseen by a Superman-esque character called Milkman Man (I know, just stay with me) and we’re introduced to a ‘50s-fied version of Orlando's JLA. And, like any good superhero comic book, so starts the punching.
Things move really fast in the narrative, but ACO’s art anchors and pulls it all together. There are big double-page spread and inventive milk bottle-shaped panel layouts - it’s an odd mishmash at points. Tamra Bonvillain and Marissa Louise don’t hold back with the coloring, either. This is a bright and bombastic book. But when the script calls for those big moments of the heroes taking a stand and making introductions, ACO delivers. And then the artists are able to pool their efforts to create an exciting marriage of linework, text and color such as Milkman Man’s big “I SAID DON’T LOOK AT ME” panel. This issue comes at you fast, but it looks great doing it. And aside from some minor issues where the lettering fails to lead you in an obvious direction, it all works really well. ACO splits the difference between the stranger bits of Young Animal and the DCU proper with a very skilled hand.
The story itself has all the meta you’d expect to balance out the superheroics. Gerard and his brother Mikey even make a quick appearance in a panel. The writers are seemingly doubling down on the “Everything is art” mantra that we’ve seen before, but expanding it to include the capes and tights that we’ve seen elsewhere in the DCU. And I really like that. Superhero comics frequently get a bad rep when it comes to being considered capital a Art. Here Orlando and Way get to say “Hey, all of it is. Just because Superman is here in a Milkman’s uniform, doesn’t make it better or worse necessarily than when he’s not.” And that’s just it. Pointing out the absurdity in drawing lines in the sand between different genres of comic books when essentially they’re playing with the same themes and ideas is silly so Orlando and Way take that to a more visual and obvious end.
This is an awkward start to "Milk Wars," in part because it seems to reference a bit of the events of the as-yet-unreleased Doom Patrol #11, but it's not too hard to fill in the gaps if you’ve been keeping up with that book. There’s definitely a lot more here for Young Animal readers than there is for casual fans of the DCU. But this crossover could open a few eyes, especially as we’ll see the other Young Animal characters touching the DCU in future installments of this “un-event.” ACO is the star in this issue, and I hope we get to see more from him soon. The whole art eam gels incredibly well and provides a decent if odd foundation for one of the most strangely-titled crossovers in comic book history.