This Week’s Finest: JLA/Doom Patrol Special #1

by Gerard Way, Steve Orlando, ACO, Tamra Bonvillain, Marissa Louise, Hugo Petres, Magdalene Visaggio & Sonny Liew

In JLA/Doom Patrol Special #1, the Young Animal/DC Milk Wars crossover event, Larry Trainor founded DC Comics in a parallel life while fighting the Justice League as Negative Man. This is not the strangest thing to happen in JLA/Doom Patrol by a wide margin. In the issue, Gerard Way, Steve Orlando, ACO, Tamra Bonvillain & Marissa Louise create a delightfully dense and endearing love letter to DC Comics, it’s inherent weirdness, and the profound influence writer Grant Morrison has on the medium. 

JLA/Doom Patrol Special #1 follows the latter team as they’re dispersed to Happy Harbor, Rhode Island following a rocket sent by Retcon corp that has crash landed there. On arrival, they find the strange Superman analogue Milkman Man, and a clean cut version of DC’s current JLA roster calling themselves the Community League of Rhode Island, looking to protect Happy Harbor citizens and their nicely manicured communities from all types of strangeness. The battle breaks down into a surrealistic meta-commentary on DC’s superheros themselves, all while Earth Prime is being sold off to Lord Manga Khan by Retcon Corp with one of their pre-assembled trinity superhero packages. From there it just gets crazier.

JLA/Doom Patrol is a complicated but highly entertaining love letter to DC Comics and Grant Morrisonn on the part of co-writers Gerard Way & Steve Orlando. Both are highly qualified for the task, as their work with DC is currently the publishers most Morrisonesque titles in Doom Patrol & Justice League of America respectively. So the two books crossing over, and the two writers collaborating, is about as natural a pairing as you could expect. Stylistically, each writers aesthetic feels like a natural extension of the others, with the obvious caveat being that it’s not apparent who wrote what and where they did in said issue. But that’s ultimately besides the point, Way and Orlando compliment one another’s quirks seamlessly, allowing for both Doom Patrol’s and JLA’s anything goes ethos to make for a symbiotic crossover between the two tiles. Perhaps most impressive, is how self referential the title is while still being equal parts entertaining and fascinating. In that way, JLA/Doom Patrol packs a lot of comics into this single installment, even for an over-sized issue. Yet, its brisk pacing, ever evolving plot line, and lively dialogue never allow the book to drag, and make for an exciting experience from the first page to the last.

Rendering the books unique vision is artist and colorists ACO, Tamra Bonvillain & Marissa Louise. Starting with the book’s interior work, ACO is a special comics artist that doesn’t get the recognition he deserves for his visual storytelling, innovative design and technical acumen. Re-teaming with his Midnighter collaborator Steve Orlando here, ACO creates a dense and vibrant narrative with some of comics cleanest line work for one its most unorthodox stories. ACO’s design sense and technical line work renders beautifully illustrated comics pages, that come to life for their visceral movement and high level of creativity.

click the images to enlarge to full size

In the four page spread above, he makes the dividing line between the two readily apparent in the fight between The Ray & Negative man, while creating a phenomenal tapestry of battle and each characters respective superpowers around them.

From Justice League of America Doom Patrol Milk Wars #1 by Aco, Tamra Bonvillain & Marissa Louise

In the double page spread above, he recreates the cover for the first appearance of each character, while showing their reactions and confusion to the reveal in adjacent panels, all while displaying the awesome psychic power of Crazy Jane and her multiple selves.

While less bombastic then the previous pages, and only one panel in another double page spread, the amount of detail and skill in showing a young Gerard Way sketching out his version of Cliff/Robot Man is truly exceptional. It establishes the dimensions of the room with it’s hyper detailed background and foreground, littered with child hood memorabilia. For each example above, ACO’s acute rending of detail and character work makes for robust and alluring imagery in each panel. Colorist Tamra Bonvillain and Marissa Louise use their bright color palette and style to fully shape ACO’s illustrations, and create a striking rendition of Retcon’s Americana makeover of Happy Harbor. Bonvillain and Louise specialize in creating a contrast of bright and primary colors.

Best exemplified in the above image, Bonvillain & Louise use a multitude of hues against one another, while creating a needed contrast in the white background and leveraging the negative space to frame the page. Bonvillain has quickly established herself with the likes of Jordie Bellaire, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Ramulo Farjado Jr and Matthew WIlson as comics new breed of colorists for how her work transforms the books she’s on, and with Marissa Louise here, she elevates the issue with her vibrant choices and application.

There’s even more here as well, a whole page illustrated by inker Hugo Petrus to simulate an old fashioned TV screen, Magdalene Visaggio & Sonny Liew’s awesome preview for their upcoming Eternity Girl series, a Batman lineage chart showing silhouettes of Green Arrow, a Ninja Turtle, and Daredevil, a perfect rendition of All-Star Superman’s first page; I could go on. JLA/Doom Patrol is a special single issue comic that captures the spirit of its intent, and makes for a sublime reading experience. Consistently entertaining and endearing in equal measure, JLA/Doom Patrol is a superhero crossover that embraces its strangeness, for the ultimate trip into all things weird and wonderful about DC Comics.

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