DC Comics Milk Wars: Superpowers Get Strange
By Matt Ross
It’s a brave new world when the heroes of the Doom Patrol and JLA collide, as writer Matt Ross discovers when he samples the first dose of the imaginatively meta “Milk Wars.”
Let’s step back in time to when we were first teased with the news of a Justice League of America and Doom Patrol crossover titled…“Milk Wars.”
Kind of hard to forget, right? I mean, the name is one thing, but the beautiful art that accompanied the news—drawn by the insanely talented Frank Quietly—was something else altogether. The image of a milkman floating like Superman and holding a crisp glass of milk as rays of light brilliantly shine behind him was really all I needed to see. Even if it didn’t make any sense.
I mean, that’s pretty much the point with DOOM PATROL, right?
I should mention that I’m a HUGE Doom Patrol fan. The original stuff is fantastic and Grant Morrison’s run is one of my all-time favorite reads. Gerard Way’s current series with artist Nick Derington has continued in the mold and brought us some of the craziest visuals we’ve seen on paper over the past year. (I’m still dying over Flex Mentallo wrestling with a pair of disembodied legs wearing tighty-whiteys.)
The Young Animal imprint as a whole has been aces. I was so excited when it was originally announced, and I’ve loved all the titles and their stories thus far. To me, Young Animal signaled something really important—that DC is open to embarking into the often-strange unknown with weird characters that don’t fit the stereotypical superhero mold. I wonder if this is what it must have felt like when Vertigo first started up in the 1990s…
“Milk Wars” officially kicked off last week with the JLA/DOOM PATROL crossover special, which is the first chapter in what will ultimately be a five-chapter tale. It’s as weird as one could hope—a solid read in terms of mind-bending writing and visuals. It’s written by Way and JLA writer Steve Orlando, drawn by ACO, and serves as a nice setup for what I think will be a really cool event. Retconn is a relatively new element in Way’s Doom Patrol, and they seem to be at the heart of the action here. They also seem to be taking the story into a seriously meta direction.
Like in his prior Doom Patrol work, this is non-linear/non-direct storytelling from Way. What does that mean if you’re new to this style of comic? Well, David Bowie sometimes used a process of songwriting where he would write down the story, grab a pair of scissors and cut each line, mix them up, then place them back down randomly. So, the overall story is there, but it’s told in kind of a jumbled manner. When you hear the song, you get the theme and story, though it might not be told in a straightforward way. I think Way (like Grant Morrison before him) is really good at taking this same approach to comics.
Along those lines, it’s a real positive that Way and Orlando are cowriters. It’s not only a great way to bring two different styles together, but it also brings a balance. Way’s writing can be really out there, while Orlando’s helps provide a compass to the story when it comes to the JLA. After all, these are two very different teams. I mean, if the JLA are the Beatles with the button-down suits and bowl cuts, the Doom Patrol is certainly the Beatles after hanging out with Dylan and delving into other means of creative expression.
Now, it could be coincidence, but it’s interesting how the book seems to start really coming together when the JLA appears. In fact, in a cool “art imitating life” moment, there is a splash page of sorts where we see Caitlin Snow’s thoughts on the left and a Casey Brinke’s on the right. Both are briefly recapping their lives and stories up until this point. Caitlin’s is a simple, straight-forward and easy to understand recap. Casey’s story is more “out there” and would seem completely bizarre if you didn’t know her background. I don’t know if that was intentional, but I thought it was a great nod to how vastly different these two teams are.
I thought the art by ACO was really awesome, too. I was amazed how similar the style seemed to be to Nick Derington’s, actually. This was another nice treat because both artists produce gorgeous work.
Can’t wait to grab a glass of cold milk for issue two…
Matt Ross covers the DC Universe for DCComics.com and Arrow for the #DCTV Couch Club.
JLA/DOOM PATROL SPECIAL #1 by Gerard Way, Steve Orlando, ACO, Tamra Bonvillain, Marissa Louise, Magdalene Visaggio and Sonny Liew is now available in print and as a digital download. Look for part two of “Milk Wars” this week in MOTHER PANIC/BATMAN SPECIAL #1.