WARNING: This review is filled with spoilers, if you have not read this issue yet, I would encourage you to not read this review and opt for our spoiler-free review.
Writers: Gerard Way & Steve Orlando
PG 12 by: Hugo Petrus
Colorists: Tamra Bonvillain & Marissa Louise
Letterer: Clem Robins
Special Thanks: David Lorenzo Riveiro
Cover: Frank Quietly
Editors: Molly Mahan & Jamie S. Rich
Disclaimer: This review is written by someone who is new to comics and is not familiar with the Justice League of America at all. I have written these scene by scene to help those who also may be picking this up not knowing who JLA is. As we go scene to scene I’ve done my best to explain who’s who and help new readers. I want to thank @DC_YoungAnimal for allowing me to ask an endless stream of questions over the past couple days while writing this. That said, any mistakes or misunderstood content are all mine.
We start off in a place titled “Final Heaven” where a heated conversation is going down at RetConn and Lord Manga Khan is being promised the deal of his life. Since I didn’t know who Lord Khan was I did a quick search on him and was able to determine through the help of Wikipedia he was once a foe to the Justice League of America but eventually befriended and even helped them. Has he returned to his villainous ways? It would appear so.
Next, we find ourselves being transported to Happy Harbor, Rhode Island. In a gorgeous panel done by ACO, shaped like an old fashioned milk bottle, we find Milkman Man delivering Milk. It seems friendly enough until we turn the page. Now we’re faced with a page that shows the effects his milk is having on those within the house and the only person who seems to be enjoying it is Milkman Man who appears to be force feeding them the milk. When we leave the house the inhabitants appear to be dead. Leaving us with a lot of questions. Did he kill them? Did the milk kill them? Did they pass out from the milk and will revive as a newly homogenized version of themselves?
We’ll have to wait to find out the answers to those questions because the Doom Patrol has just landed in Happy Harbor and have a few questions themselves. It appears they go into the same house we just visited. Milk is everywhere and the team find a disturbing device? Being? inside that appears to have udders. They are told by the house inhabitants (that were spared by milkman man? Members of RetConn who have been adjusted to keep others in the house in line?) to stay away from “Grandmother” and they’ve called the neighborhood watch.
The head of the neighborhood watch is none other than Carl Lobo, known to the JLA as a master bounty hunter and foe to Superman (Yep. I googled this too). This doesn’t intimidate our friends in the Doom Patrol though and we see Cliff take a nasty punch.
Meanwhile back in the RetConn offices in Final Heaven we tune back into the conversation with the RetConn representative. This is where we learn that they have created a milk that can be used to alter those who drink it and those people can then be adjusted through anything they can eat, touch or watch. We are then shown an episode of a tv show starring Rita Farr that goes very very wrong, the supporting cast becomes collateral damage and Rita is sent off to the “refurbishing center for narrative adjustment.”
Heading back to Happy Harbor we see that the Milkman Man has called in more of the neighborhood watch and we are introduced to the Community League of Rhode Island, Earth-Prime’s adjusted version of the JLA, and they mean to put a stop to the Doom Patrol and their impolite ways of acting and speaking out in public. (Sidenote: This would have been much easier to understand if I had known Earth-Prime is the main setting for the DCU.)
It doesn’t take long before punches are being thrown and Jane is trying to talk some reasoning into this new version of Mari, who Jane recognizes from TV as Vixen of the JLA. Just before an epic battle breaks out. (Throughout the pages of fight scenes I was really taken back with the artistry that went into them and how beautifully executed this sequence is.)
The fighting peaks when we see Casey demands Milkman Man to put Danny down and he refuses, but puts Danny down anyway and focuses his anger on Casey. He tries with all his might to hit her but she’s much too fast. She uses the time dodging his attacks to try to convince him to stop throwing punches and talk. He refuses again and barks out his jaded reasoning that “strange-os like you made this a world nobody wants. I’m turning it back! I’m saving it!” to which Casey replies brilliantly, “Everyone’s a little strange and that’s okay.”
Meanwhile Cliff and Jane are trying to figure out who, if anyone other than them, isn’t under the Milk’s influence and Jane begins to hatch a plan, calling upon her other identities to help while telling Cliff “No ones doing a Codsville.” (Back in the day, the Doom Patrol faced a foe named, General Zahl who threatened to blow up Codsville or the Doom Patrol. The Doom Patrol chose to let him blow them up and Codsville was renamed Four Heroes in their honor. Yes, I googled this too.)
Back in Final Heaven (“Final Heaven”- How much do these baddies think they are the be-all and end-all of gods?) we resume with the sales pitch being given at RetConn to Lord Manga Khan. Lord Khan asks “How do you make a superhero” and the RetConn representative explains how they use the adjustments (assumably through the milk) to alter superheroes such as Batman and Wonder Woman to make them more palatable. However, they also say that they were unable to adjust Superman so they copied him “from nothing” and created Milkman Man.
Jumping back to Happy Harbor we see Jane has tapped into her personality that can activate her own art and decides to give it a try to activate the art of others with the profound statement of “Everything is art. We just have to activate it.”
As the Community League of RI are faced with their true selves as the JLA they realize they have been altered and start to wake up to reality, but the people most affected by this realization is Milkman Man and Casey Brinke.
Casey realizes that how Milkman Man was able to be born from nothing was to be born from herself and Terry None. Milkman Man is her son and their reunion is an emotional one for both Casey and Milkman Man- that is before he flies off over the moon anyway.
After Milkman Man disappears and Larry comes back to his body, the Doom Patrol and JLA discuss what has happened, figure out how it happened and try to make sense of things. It’s here that we learn the reason for RetConn to “homogenize and sanitize everything you know” was to make this new reality marketable to a prospective buyer since the Doom Patrol had shut down RetConn (clearly without complete success).
While the JLA may have come back to reality, the citizens of Happy Harbor are looking on wondering who to call about their tight clothing and improper behavior. (Who watches the neighborhood watch? heh)
And just as our heroes are realizing what has happened to them, a mysterious “eyeball from space” shows up and projects a holographic image of Cave Carson who explains RetConn’s plans. The newly bonded Doom Patrol and JLA team up and board an “impossible eyeball spaceship” to take the fight to RetConn and stop them for good. Leaving us to wait until Feb 28th to see how it all plays out!
I really loved this issue for many many reasons, but I’m not gonna lie, for someone that is new to comics this was kind of a bear to read. I had to rely on friends that knew the JLA characters and google, but once I read it a couple times and learned who all the characters were I was able to pick it up and follow along. The two key things I wish I had known going into this book was that Earth-Prime is the main setting for the DCU (I thought we were on an alternate reality earth where nothing was real aside from the people that had been stolen and placed in this secret location where they did their milk experiments) and I really wish I had understood JLA and the Justice League were two separate beings. That said, I think by being forced to heavily research the characters and DCU to understand this book made the ending to this issue a lot more impactful for me than it otherwise may have been.
I’ll also admit that at first I was “homesick” for Nick Derington’s art when it comes to the Doom Patrol, but I got over that rather quickly simply for the fact that I was absolutely blown away by the art in this issue. ACO did a beautiful job with it and the way he went about tackling these panels is absolutely brilliant, from the milk bottle framing to the two page scenes where they are showing each person in the house being force fed milk, to the panel where they show jane activating the art to bring the JLA members back to reality….it’s all so incredibly done. As a new reader it was a little overwhelming at first because it’s just so great that it allows for a lot of information to be condensed into tight quarters. Not to mention the fight scenes were just totally brilliant. I could visualize the motion and felt like I was watching a movie more so than reading a comic- fucking fantastic art.
What I personally got out of reading this book is that it’s really ok to be whoever you are whether you’re eccentric or you’re not, but what’s not ok is how people alter themselves to fit in based on what they are exposed to (and it’s certainly not ok to brainwash and manipulate others haha). This book really hits home the importance of staying true to yourself and embracing who you are, and it does so in an absolutely beautiful way.
As I said before, I didn’t know the JLA characters so I went into this book partially blind and I had to google and learn who each character was- and yes I moaned about it the entire time I was doing it. I wanted it to be an easy familiar read like Doom, Shade, Cave and Mother Panic have become. But that wasn’t the case, and I was forced to be open minded and learn some acceptance of these new characters just like the JLA had to accept this strange new crew and the Doom Patrol had to accept this not-so-strange brand of superhero.
My favorite part of the writing is the parallel narratives at the end between Caitlin Snow and Casey Brink. And the amazing ending lines of “They may not be as eccentric as us, but I think that’s exactly what we need. Because sometimes the sweet spot is smack dab in the middle– between the utterly bizarre, and the positively brave.”
I feel like this book, much like Doom Patrol, and I can only imagine, the JLA comics, possesses a lot for empowering vibes for the reader. The Doom Patrol themselves are a group of odd balls that turn their weaknesses into their strengths and we see that in play brilliantly here especially with Jane, but you also see it in the JLA as well with Caitlin Snow when she states she joined the JLA to try to find a way to be normal and the touching way Jane lets her know she’s cared about and a lot of people want to help her. I really enjoyed seeing Caitlin Snow have a very human moment, and I love that the Doom Patrol consistently has them.
I was really impressed with the writing coming from both Steve Orlando and Gerard Way on this project. There is so much detail, so many new ideas, so many characters, so many many many moving parts, and yet they manage to put it all together seamlessly. Not to mention I have to believe they must have had a lot of fun writing this with all the references and tiny details that are put into the comic (like that ‘whatever wackadoo that dreamed me up outta fan fiction’ panel that clearly shows a young Gerard Way with, I’m assuming, a young Steve Orlando). I can just see them all cracking up as they came up with the Community League of Rhode Island, just as much as I can see them having a blast going through comics of the past to find the perfect covers for the scene with Jane. Part of what made me love this book is the feeling that the writers themselves loved this book and truly enjoyed putting it together and I can’t wait for part #2 Mother Panic/Batman next week!
Rating: 9/10 (but only because it took me a couple days of googling and re-reading to be able to fully understand what was going on as a new reader. Once I got it, I was 10/10 vibes all the way.)
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