And so the Summer of Doom Patrol comes to an end.
Fitting that on the first day of fall, I finish off the Doom Patrol books in my read pile with today’s entry. To recap, it’s been nothing but Robot Man, Negative Man, and Elasta Girl since I first really got into the Doom Patrol show on the DC Streaming Service in late April, and that show galvanized by interest in devouring as much of this franchise that I could get my hands on.
That included doing a read pile review on the podcast of Grant Morrison’s era, reviewing both Volume 1 and Volume 2 of Gerard Way’s run, and even taking a peek back at their humble origins with the Arnold Drake stuff.
But we stand at a finish line of sorts, as my collection of the Bronze Age Paul Kupperberg stuff which my good friend over at Pint O’ Comics, Johnny G., recommended will not be delivered probably until Christmas as a gift from Mrs. Larson. So all I have left is a one hell of a doozy when it comes to confusing stories I had to read several times to understand. In fact, I had this book on my “to do” list as far back as March of this year, but every time I started it, I had to put the book down in sheer bewilderment.
I honestly had no idea what was going on!
But now, given I’ve read some of the material leading up to this crossover event between the DC Universe proper and their Young Animals line, including the previously mentioned Gerard Way stuff, I felt finally confident that I could actually get through this book.
Was I successful? Let’s read on and we’ll see what we can learn from the infinitely strange and complex series known simply as “Milk Wars”.
10 Cent Synopsis:
The omniscient extra-dimensional corporation called RetConn, who has made a killing re-purposing whole universes and selling them off to the highest bidder, has decided the whole of the DC Universe has become just too “real” for their customers. Too controversial, and so their people and “stories” must be repackaged. This is especially true since they have potentially a buyer for this Universe with Lord Manga Khan and his group run by Mr. Nebula.
So RetConn sets out to white wash DC’s continuity with the help of mind altering milk supplied by their own cloned version of Superman, a misogynistic moo juice peddler named Milk Man, that the created from the same powers of reality altering that brought the Doom Patrol member Casey into being.
Using the immense powers of Supes, Milk Man quickly subdues all of creation in his bland, non threatening milky goodness, transforming the Justice League to be 50s style Suburban dwellers, Wonder Woman into the pinnacle of domesticated docile damsel named Wonder Wife, and strangest of all Batman into a priest leading a church of lost Robin kids.
Luckily, the Doom Patrol manages to break up this and with the help of Cave Carson’s cybernetic eye, they manage to free the mind washed members of DC’s heroic elite before storming RetConn’s corporate headquarters! Will they be victorious in their showdown with the devilish dairy dealer and his army of cow mutants before the entire universe can be homogenized??? Stay Tuned!
When I first flipped through this trade one blustery day late last winter, I won’t lie that the first thing my filthy mind was pulled to was the incredibly erotic and suggestive drawings in the Wonder Woman chapter, taking a nude bath in what can only be described as copious amounts of breast milk.
Thus, spurred on as I sometimes am in comics with thinking with my second smaller brain instead of my much larger normal one, I plunked down my money and said come hell or high water I was going to read this. Plus the fact that at the time, I was intrigued by the whole Young Animals line in general, and like any person teetering on his 40s, I wanted to prove that I was hip and happening.
Problem was this is an extremely far out, experimental, weird for weird sake sort of book, so going into it cold, is an absolutely terrible idea. I feel like even if you understand the premise of the book as sort of a “Elseworlds” style alternate universe tale and have a decent comprehension of some of the major players such as Batman, Supes, and Wonder Woman, you are still going to be lost over the roles of some of the Young Animals characters like Shade the Changing Girl, Mother Panic, or even the Doom Patrol itself as they attempt to save the more well known characters from their brainwashing.
This is mainly because if there’s one thing this story really lacks its proper exposition which could help guide the reader from one crazy scenario to the next. Instead it relies more on a “wink wink” style meta-fictional analysis, choosing to use the story as a snide protest of the constant rebooting that the main DC line was going through over the past couple of years and how it was impacting both the main DC characters but also the Young Animals characters in the real world.
It’s not hard to understand that RetConn wanting to “buy and repackage all the DC stories into brand appropriate versions” was a commentary by the writers on what I outlined above, the real DC Universe big wigs applying censorship on characters and ideas through initiatives like “New 52” or “Rebirth” and how some felt that was absolutely stifling from a creative perspective.
So they gave us the most outrageous “far right” versions of the characters we love as an objection to the whole business, saying quite bluntly that it seemed like the higher ups wouldn’t be happy until Wonder Woman was reduced to a male dependent housewife who can’t have more than one emotion at a time, or that the foul mouthed Lobo ditched the blood stained tank top for an argyle sweater and “Leave it to Beaver” pipe.
And as a manifesto of open revolt, I have to say the series does succeed. There’s no doubt they are making a strong point of using provocative art as a form of protest in an attempt to sway public opinion or at the very least therapeutic release.
I mean why else include scenes like Elasta Girl, founding member of the Doom Patrol being nailed to a cross like Jesus, being sacrificed for the “greater good”, if not to draw attention to the fact that she was entirely absent from the Doom Patrol comic up to that point, and that was probably a decision some were unhappy with.
And Batman as a priest being surrounded by alter boy Robins…boy o boy…don’t have to be genius to figure out what all that means. Or Human Resources in the Cave Carson chapter being the root of all evil, stacking up bodies like cored wood. It’s again provocative for the sake of making a specific statement about the fear that creative integrity will be compromised by those who wish to keep everything “safe” .
However, from a strict story perspective, I don’t know if that works. I mean it tries to link a lot of the different chapters together into a cohesive narrative either through Cave Carson’s eye collecting all the displaced heroes, the Rita Farr/Elasta Girl mini comics leading up to the eventual crucifixion, and even the notion that Milk Man was created by Casey of the Doom Patrol, just like she was in turn created from fiction by Danny the Street.
However, in the end, they just don’t do enough connecting of all the dots with an overall framework so in the end you are somewhat left with a bunch of interesting albeit confusing set pieces. It’s like all the lofty principles they are espousing sounds good on paper, but the execution as a actual tightly scripted multi issue comic story arc falls flat on delivering on those ideals.
And that’s sad…really.
Other than the Doom Patrol, another major player in seeing that Retconn is defeated and the Universe saved, is the rather interesting Cave Carson, who like the Doom Patrol has roots in the DC Universe that stretch back as far as 1960.
In fact, both Cave Carson and Doom Patrol share the same co-creating artist in Bruno Premiani, which may have played a part in the fact that like the DP, Cave Carson was eventually brought back to relevance in modern comic books by Gerard Way for the Young Animals imprint.
Originally, a science fiction style explorer/adventurer in the vein of other DC heroes like the Challengers of the Unknown or Rip Hunter, Cave made a handful of appearances in the 60s, mainly traversing the unknown worlds that existed below the Earth’s surface (aka why his name is “Cave”…as that’s what he explores…duh.)
Any who, obvious writers eventually found the character to be a little one dimensional to say the least, and for years he languished in obscurity. He was eventually though rescued from the character scrap heap in 1983 when Marv Wolfman included him among a laundry list of other forgotten heroes for a team that was ironically enough called “The Forgotten Heroes”.
The Heroes included the aforementioned Rip Hunter, who a lot of current DC fans will recognize as a major player on the Legends of Tomorrow TV show, as well as fan favorite, Animal Man, who eventually would have pretty decent success under Grant Morrison’s wing .
However, again, it wasn’t really until the recent reinvention as nearly a brand new character in the Young Animals imprint that Cave really got to blossom into narrative gold.
But don’t take my word for it! Check out my fellow GotS Co-ghost, Chad Smith’s review of Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye for more on the world’s most famous super hero spelunker!
When I originally started to read this book back in March of this year, I found it extremely difficult to read. I must have attempted to read the opening chapter with the Justice League and Doom Patrol like 3 or 4 times before throwing in the towel. And the major reason I did that was at the time, I thought I just didn’t know enough about Gerard Way’s version of the Doom Patrol to really get what was going on.
So fast forward 6 months, and after reading all of that run as well as some of the Grant Morrison stuff, I thought I was going to really comprehend Milk Wars so much more, because I had all that backstory for reference.
Nope, most of it still didn’t make a lick of sense in terms of a actual story.
Sure, I had a better understanding of Casey’s character from the Doom Patrol so the scenes with her and her “son”, Milk Man, were a bit more impactful, as was Cliff Steele’s transformation back to a normal human instead of living as Robot Man at the end of the tale. But the rest was more or less a lot daring, innovative story ideas that ultimately weren’t plotted strongly enough cross the finish line. I don’t want to use the term “half baked” but if the shoe fits.
Still though, the art was solid, with those wonderful Frank Quitely covers and terrific stuff on interiors by a bevy of strong illustrators such as ACO on the Justice League issue, Mirka Andolfo on the Wonder Woman issue, and Dale Eaglesham on the finale (with my new favorite artist Nick Derrington doing the epilogue as an added treat).
As a result, what should have been a “D” book due to how many times I had to read it to make heads or tails of it, I’m going to elevate a whole letter grade just based on a combination of the wonderful art and the sheer respect for the cojones it takes to make a statement book like this with metafictional overtones and big, bold satirical ideas.
It’s just too bad that most of it gets lost in the translation, and that’s the truth. I refuse to drink the milk on that.
No…not even if you throw an ambulance at me!