Scooby Apocalypse #28 - Review. Not Lay Where Dogs Lie
Scooby Apocalypse #28
Creators: Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Pat Olliffe
Inker: Tom Palmer
One of the cooler things that the Hanna-Barbera / DC partnership has wrought is the return of some of favorite creators from way back when. Keith Giffen and JM DeMatteis wrote some of my favorite periods of the Justice League and Spider-Man, and it's been wonderful to see them back at it with this quirky title from cartoon days of yore. Overall, I've been pretty happy with a lot of the creative riffs that have emerged from this content pool. Who would have thought that the kids who grew up on these 1970s and 80s cartoons, and then were also large readers of Frank Miller's recreation of Batman, would have been all in on the notion of doing much of the same with these Saturday morning icons?
Scooby Apocalypse is the telling of the Scooby Gang in the wake of a Walking Dead-style fall of mankind, where most of the world's population is turned into monsters. While it's not strictly zombies, it works. Last issue, Scrappy Doo, who had gotten separated from the group (and is kind of the jerkwad character they turned him into in the movies, personality-wise), returned to the safe-haven where the team has taken up residence. This issue, Daphne, still reeling from the apparent death of Fred, has gone all Buffy (but really Faith); determined to kill as many of the infected as possible, regardless of the risk to her own life. When it comes to violence, turns out she and the unpopular Scrappy have something in common.
Not all of these Hanna-Barbera re-imaginings find their footing. The Future Quest series seems to struggle a bit, at least when it is in space. Scooby Apocalypse, however, is one of them that seems to be nailing its narrative. The majority of this issue takes place on the streets outside of the sanctuary. It's well-structured, with the television episode format of beginning, middle, end. In the beginning, we get Daphne gone all Rambo, with some exposition detailing her upbringing and he relationship with her father. We got a little bit of this last issue, but its expanded on here and between the two issues, it nicely knits together a full profile of this young woman, who is the most actiony and directly gratuitous to action fans among the Scooby gang. The middle works so well in terms of pacing, because after the ultra-violence of the opening pages and the sadness that is Daphne, we get Shaggy and Velma, who in this timeline are in a relationship, if not married. A lot of what revolves around Shaggy is the classic "a boy and his dog" story, and it fits so well in this otherwise bleak and hopeless backdrop. There is some solid dialogue between Velma, who is losing her lid with two employees, and Shaggy's view of the world, which is that everyone is good. As Velma struggles with the responsibilities of leadership, Shaggy's "everything is going to be ok" vibe contrasts wonderfully with what so much of the rest of the book strives to make us feel. The end pages detail the teaming up of Scrappy and Daphne to take on hordes of the un-humans.
In this issue, inker Tom Palmer joins the team, and you have the opportunity to see how much better the book appears when you have an actual inker. There are tons of detail in the legs of Daphne's pants in the opening page. Then we get about four pages of basically silent panels, with nothing being voiced other than the growling and screams of the monsters as Daphne dispatches many of them. It's a highly creative choice to make in a book where doing so must have felt like taking a dare. The picture of Daphne then sitting atop a mound of dead bodies as she applies a bandage...choice!
I have to imagine that making and selling these books is no small pill for a marketing type to have to swallow each month. What's the demographic? How do these books help sell other DC comics when they don't exist in the same timeline? There's a host of issues that I wish I could ask DC corporate myself. But regardless of the financial implications, and/or surprises that the answers to such questions could yield, Scooby Apocalypse continues to be a book just hovering on the edge of greatness. You could not have lined up better talent in a creative team, and the only thing holding the book back, really, is the towering giants sitting in its content space. You've got Dark Horse currently shipping Buffy the Vampire: Season 12, and The Walking Dead continues is shambling march. And there are characters in here that are in their fourth or fifth incarnation in entirely different dressings. I like it. But even I wobble a bit as I am going through an issue and question if this is what I really want out of these characters. It's also an ensemble cast, and so getting enough time with each character is also difficult. My hope is that this book is selling well and answering those marketing questions. It'd be a shame to lose this title anytime soon.