By Jonathan Edwards
DC/Young Animal: Milk Wars is a weird kind of crossover. I know, big surprise from the story about the extradimensional corporation Retonn weaponizing milk to “homogenize” the DCU. But, what I mean is, it’s not a dedicated five-issue miniseries, nor is it a five-part story taking place in single issues of the various books involved. Instead, it’s five separate one-shots, each pairing DC and Young Animal characters. Now, Grant Morrison did something similar with The Multiversity, but there, it directly ties into the narrative. Whereas, with Milk Wars, it’s a stylistic choice more than anything else. But, what makes it truly strange is the fact that two of the one-shots, Mother Panic/Batman Special #1and Shade the Changing Girl/Wonder Woman Special #1 have little to no impact on the plot. You could remove both of those issues and their respective characters, and the story literally wouldn’t change at all.
Now, why did I begin my review noting that? Because, if the knowledge that almost half of this book is little more than tie-in material diminishes your interest in checking it out, then you probably shouldn’t read it. In fact, I would say the only people that really have anything to gain by reading it are those who have already read issues #1 through #11 of Gerard Way’s run on Doom Patrol. And, there are a couple of reasons for that. For one, Milks Wars picks up immediately after the events of Doom Patrol #11 and primarily exists to tie up the remaining loose ends of that story arc. What’s more, the story relies on you going in knowing that and being at least somewhat familiar with Way’s run. Additionally, the Doom Patrol are just about the only characters that feel necessary. Cave Carson (and, by extension, his supporting cast and Swamp Thing) is perhaps the only exception, as he at least fulfills a specific role. But, as I said before, Mother Panic, Batman, Shade, and Wonder Woman could be removed entirely without any impact. And, based on how frequently the JLA is referred to as the “Justice League,” as well as the fact that the group doesn’t contribute anything any other superhero group wouldn’t also be capable of, it really makes me think Way really wanted the crossover to be with the Justice League proper, but DC would only give him the JLA to work with.
However, even if you have read all eleven issues of Way’s Doom Patrol, Milk Wars still has its fair share of problems, first and foremost among them being co-writer Steve Orlando. Here’s the thing, I read and reviewed every issue of Orlando’s recent run on Justice League of America. As such, I’m pretty familiar with the writing quirks that made that book crap, and I can spot them recurring here. Heavy-handedness, odd solutions to problems that feel more forced than creative, and characters knowing things you’re not sure they ever learned all crop up, albeit to a lesser extent than in Orlando’s solo work. Yet, the effect remains detrimental to the whimsical and amusing flavor Way usually writes with. Although, to be fair, those issues are confined to Justice League of America/Doom Patrol Special #1 and Doom Patrol/Justice League of America Special #1 (or the first and final parts of this story), as Jody Houser, Cecil Castellucci, and Jon Rivera take over writing duties for Mother Panic/Batman Special #1, Shade the Changing Girl/Wonder Woman Special #1, and Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye/Swamp Thing Special #1, respectively.
Conversely, the art for Milk Wars is consistently pretty good. Though, I’m admittedly not a big fan of Langdon Foss’s work in Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye/Swamp Thing Special #1. There’s nothing inherently wrong with his style, and it is difficult to pinpoint why exactly it doesn’t work as well here. Perhaps it’s just a tad too distinct in its cartoonishness to match the tone of the story. At the same time, the contributions of Mirka Andolfo, Nick Derington, and Sonny Liew are just plain great and more than make up for any of the book’s artistic shortcomings.
When I first read DC/Young Animal: Milk Wars, I found it to be fairly enjoyable, if a bit flawed. But, after rereading it for this review, it didn’t hold up as well. It’s still decent overall, with parts two (Mother Panic/Batman Special #1) and four (Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye/ Swamp Thing Special #1), as well as the ongoing Caroline Sharp back-up story, being story highlights for the book. However, once again, Milk Wars is only really for people who’ve been reading Doom Patrol. And, even then, the plot and internal logic here are a noticeable step down from what Gerard Way established as solo writer of that series. So, in that regard, Milk Wars really isn’t for anyone, and I can’t really recommend it either.
As far as I know, DC has still yet to announce a new release date for Doom Patrol #12, but here’s hoping that does eventually happen, so Way gets a proper chance to explore the implications of this book’s ending in that one and without Steve Orlando.
DC/Young Animal: Milk Wars
DC Comics/DC's Young Animal