REVIEW: JLA/ Doom Patrol Special #1

As characters, it’s really tough to write the Doom Patrol. What started as a failed Fantastic Four rip-off and was reimagined as a cerebral weird science borderline horror comic at Vertigo has recently re emerged under Gerard Way’s Young Animal imprint. If you never read those books, but are familiar with that Vertigo feel of the early 90’s, you might find it hard to take this book as seriously as it wants to be taken.

As a template of ideas, the script for JLA/ Doom Patrol has some hits and a couple misses. A super team based in suburban Rhode Island is a humorous juxtaposition. Twisted humor was big in those classic Doom Patrol books, and Young Animal leaning on that Vertigo relationship means a book like this should deliver in the same way. Instead, the funny and dark sides of the story seem afraid to mix, and punchlines kind of jump out after a few panels of grim exposition.

In contrast, elements that want to be considered deep or meta only come off as the latter. There’s an organization of reality warpers in this thing called Retconn, which is so on the nose a snake could smell it (snakes can’t smell, right?) Don’t get me wrong, this book isn’t without an audience, it just seems that a lot of fans unfamiliar with this style will be turned off if they ever decide to compare it to its tonal predecessors.

The visual element of this book is much more conventional than its story. The pencil’s tip doesn’t drift very far into the abstract, no strange, stylized approaches to the visual feel, no anatomy as exaggerated as its characters or scenarios.While other Young Animal books like Shade the Changing Girl pair quirky stories with stylized art in what seems like a logical match, JLA/ Doom Patrol is hard to distinguish from any other superhero book if only given a glance, unless you really take a look at what the artist is being asked to draw.

The way this book lays out panels is creative and eclectic, a feat worth mentioning in an era of well put together pages. Any artist worth mentioning is a student of Scott McCloud, so to do something that breaks the mold while still telling a coherent visual story is something worth mentioning. In that sense, this book stays true to its alternative roots, and perhaps bests them in that way.

While certainly a good introduction into the bizarre for teens and young adults more accustomed to traditional smashy smashy superhero nonsense, the Grant Morrison Doom Patrol run, and subsequent spin-off starring Flex Mentallo, were some very well done comics. While JLA/Doom Patrol isn’t necessarily trying to top those stories, it’s hard not to make the comparison as they hold such a significant place for comic book heads who went gaga over the British Invasion of Comics between the late 80’s and mid-90’s. Still, the book holds its own, throws in a few humorous and witty elements and sets up the impending multi-part crossover well. If you’ve been following either book as of late, you’ll be happy to see these worlds collide, just don’t expect something as sophisticated as those old Vertigo stories.

(W) Steve Orlando, Gerard Way (A) Aco, Hugo Petrus (CA) Frank Quitely

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