Until the last few panels of the first installment of Milk Wars, I felt that Gerard Way and Steve Orlando had both called upon their inner Grant Morrison to create an existential dilemma that spanned the DC Universe. After reading Part Two, it’s clear that Way and Orlando have paved the way for all of the Young Animal creators and their characters to stand strong in the face of the current crisis.
Readers, familiar with the Young Animal line or not, were introduced in the first installment of the crossover to Retcon – a reality bending corporation set on altering Earth for the entertainment of its customers. After The Doom Patrol encountered an altered Justice League of America in the first part of the event, Mother Panic/Batman #1, shows us how Retconn’s alterations have impacted Batman.
Houser brings the strong character development and sharp, biting dialogue that fans of Mother Panic have grown accustomed to a world that seems familiar, but entirely wrong. Batman has been changed into an evangelical preacher who converts children into miniature superheroes. The dynamic that Batman’s change creates with Violet Page’s past produces a dark, emotional response within the character.
It’s really impressive out how Houser draws connections to the characters’ tragic origins, yet keeps the reader firmly rooted in the main plot. The dialogue between the transformed Batman and Mother Panic develops smoothly and naturally. The defiant sarcasm of Mother Panic’s responses to Father Bruce’s grandiose preaching transitions to stubborn indifference as Batman takes charge of the situation. Even the interactions between Violet, her mother, and Batman bring a few surprising laughs that feel perfectly timed and appropriate for the characters.
Templeton’s art has a vintage feel to it. The panels of Father Bruce call back to the classic over-the-top Adam West Batman, while he appears more serious once Mother Panic wakes him up. Smith’s coloring blends shadow with cartoonish emphasis-tones to connect the reader to the vintage atmosphere. Sure, Father Bruce is chilling in his preacher garb and cape, but he’s holding a maroon and yellow “bible.” This type of stark contrast gives the whole issue an over-the-top feel that fits perfectly with the overall story.
I didn’t hold out much hope that there would be much consistency within and between crossover issues written and drawn by different creative teams. Houser, Templeton, and Smith do an excellent job of creating an issue that moves the Milk Wars story forward, while also promoting the uniqueness of the individual characters involved. This issue is a testament to how good the Young Animal imprint has been and can be moving forward.