JLA/DOOM PATROL SPECIAL #1
Written by Steve Orlando, Gerard Way, Magdalene Visaggio
Art by ACO, Tamra Bonvillain, Marissa Louise, Clem Robins, David Lorenzo Riveiro, Sonny Liew, Todd Klein
Edited by Molly Mahan, Jamie S. Rich
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: January 31, 2018
Justice League of America debuted several months after the current volume of Doom Patrol, but is a few more issues ahead in quantity, which can only lead to continuity issues. Or not.
Borrowing the entity of Retconn from Gerard Way’s story in Doom Patrol, the JLA/Doom Patrol Special #1 reaches into the history of the Justice League for a surprising foe, but one that fits so beautifully in the concept of things lost, stolen, misplaced, broken, or simply bent. And this story is bent.
Doom Patrol, as a concept, in more than one incarnation, has been at least tangentially aware of their own existence as entertainment. In JLA/Doom Patrol Special #1, writers Steve Orlando and Gerard Way seize upon that awareness, and flip it over into a plot device. Retconn is more than capable of boosting that zaniness, and the story is set to roll. All the pieces fall into place, and a celebration of comicdom launches.
That celebration gets even more self-aware, as Retconn explains to the aforementioned foe – and thus the reader – how something can come from nothing and all things, despite being something, have nothing to thank for that. That’s not destroying the plot, mind you, it’s providing context, which you’ll definitely get once you open the cover of JLA/Doom Patrol Special #1.
Orlando and Way give readers everything they need to know in this issue. You don’t have to have any history with either team, but if you do, well then, JLA/Doom Patrol Special #1 gets just that much more intense and satisfying for you.
Debuting on the cover of this issue, Milkman Man makes his presence known in the “Milk Wars” part one by paying a visit to the Fox household, located in Happy Harbor, which is a sunny, quiet, middle-class, mid-1900s American town dotted with picket fences, a subdued color palette, and home milk delivery. Milkman Man, naturally, is delivering the milk, but he’s also bringing along more than just dairy goods.
Between snippets of the Fox home, “The Rita Farr Show” (in glorious black-and-white via sepia tones from colorists Tamra Bonvillain and Marissa Louise), and switchovers to the Retconn offices, JLA/Doom Patrol Special #1 delivers in classic super-team team-up fashion, a misunderstanding leads to fisticuffs, which in this case includes the battles absolutely no one expected, but everyone is going to realize they wanted – Lobo vs. Flex Mentallo. Or maybe Atom vs. Fugg. Those clashes, once more amplified by the colorist duo, really hit the reader in the face, largely because artist ACO is a freaking genius at making chaos gorgeous. He builds in some sound effects to help letterer Clem Robins, and the two definitely blend nicely to fill the pages of this comic with all sorts of expected and unexpected imagery.
When the Community League of Rhode Island appears, things change – the action spans the entire page, frequently crossing the gutter, and the color explodes, saturating the pages with tones that would make a loaded crayon box jealous.
ACO fills – absolutely fills – thirty-six gorgeous pages with images that could each individually blow many minds. That chaos magnified to gorgeousness is present in every panel on every page. The first view of the Fox home delivers a facade with 78 glass window panes (over seven windows and a door). ACO also details the laces of Flex Mentallo’s boots, the threads surrounding the hole in Cliff Steele’s jeans over his right knee, and the zipper of Casey Brinke’s jumpsuit in addition to the creative page layouts (that more often than not have six-plus panels on them), expressive camera angles, and descriptive facial expressions. I’ve been a fan of ACO’s for quite some time now, and was thrilled to see him tied to this project, but this really obliterates any expectations I had for the appearance of this story.
The pages of this comic really want to be treasury sized thanks to ACO, Bonvillain, Louise, and Robins. Seriously, listen to the pages, they’ll tell you. If that fails, read between the lines. I know I’m looking down the road a lot here, but this comic is so damn gorgeous, I’ll be buying it again in other formats, just to have it and read it as the pure escape it is crafted to be.
A couple little bits jammed their way into my craw, but only in a way that a truly amazingly, totally satisfying meal might require a bit of floss to ease discomfort. Being a big-time Doom Patrol fan, the acknowledgement of the negative being misnamed as “Kreeg” had me loudly correcting the monitor as I read the digital copy, while the analogous Superman visually struck closer to Captain (Shazam) Marvel for me. Like I said, minor quibbles, both of which are easily overlooked for the wonder that fills the rest of these pages.
The inaugural two-page chapter of Eternity Girl is a fine add-on to this comic, but doesn’t seem much more than an add-on at this point. Technically speaking, it is a strong read in its own right, crafted to resemble a maturing Silver Age comic (right down to the yellowing paper). Writer Magdalene Visaggio, artist Sonny Liew, and letterer Todd Klein piqued my interest with this story, but I almost wonder if it could have been delivered in a different manner, as it simply seems like a tacked-on tale at this point. A very wonderful tacked-on tale, mind you, but one that doesn’t add to the fabric of the rest of JLA/Doom Patrol Special #1.
So, there you have it. Those are my thoughts on this first, wonderful melting melding of two beloved, storied franchises. I’m not sure what took so long to bring these two teams together, but Orlando, Way, ACO, Bonvillain, Louise, and Robins give us a tale for all times. Sure, it is a bit pricey, but if you amortize the extra dollar over the pages added, it is more than worth it. JLA/Doom Patrol Special #1 is a must-read comic for fans of the Doom Patrol, the Justice League, or just comics. There are lessons and appreciations here that need to be shared and celebrated. And it’s up to you to share and celebrate.
Enjoy this comic for the existential examination it is. I do.
The Verdict: 10/10