I wasn’t much of a Scooby fan growing up; the recycled Hanna-Barbera animations always bugged me. But I’m a fan of 80s nostalgia just as much as the next geek, so I took a look at the collected Scooby Apocalypse graphic novel, without expecting much.
I’ve gotta say, I’m pleasantly surprised. The story is sometimes repetitive, but the dark tone and clever dialogue makes up for it. And the art’s beautiful. See below for a recap, review, and preview pages from Scooby Apocalypse.
Howard Porter’s inks and pencils, with Hi-Fi colors, make for fun and interesting panels throughout the whole series: faces and poses are highly distorted, but not enough to be silly, just enough to lend the story even more of a surreal feel. But the splash pages, wow. At least once an issue we’ll have a full page look at a post-apocalyptical scene: the team facing down a hoarde of zombies, Daphne and Velma raiding a mall, the secret lab overrun by monsters, a scene of the “Blazing Man” festival in the dark, or our first sight of Scooby against the moon. Each one is fantastically detailed, and the colors are so rich and beautiful, I found myself wishing the original cartoon had looked half so good (which explains why I never really watched it.)
(I also liked Shaggy and Scooby’s meeting. After you see it, you completely understand why Scoob would be one hundred percent devoted to Shaggy. It’s pretty adorable.)
A close second are the covers of course, both the main ones and the variants: the iconic one with Daphne in green headgear and scarf and Shaggy with a sub; Velma heating a sword in a barbecue grill as a demon gets ready to pounce; the whole gang as seen from the inside of a monster’s mouth; and a fantastic one by Jim Lee of everybody swinging into battle, guns blazing (except for Shaggy and Scooby, who’re completely freaked out.)
If you hadn’t guessed, the story is extremely dark. All our familiar characters are way more unhappy than they were in the original cartoon: Daphne is the lead investigator of a monumentally unsucessful cable show, Fred is completely without a plan and willing to let anyone else tell him what to do, Velma is brilliant but unable to connect with any living human being ever, and Shaggy took a job as a dog caretaker because…he really gets along with dogs. (Actually Shaggy’s more well-adjusted than a lot of people in the real world.)
He’s also the most hipster of hipsters, with his handlebar mustache and goatee, earring, and six months of being a Buddhist in high school. He draws the line at the food though: no gluten-free, stone ground corn flour pizza crust for him, it’s junk food and Quickee Mart hot dogs or nothing.
The book’s got a lot of humor of course, and a lot of the references get downright meta, like when they’re wondering why anyone would make a virus that turns people into monsters.
“Then maybe the goal was to transform our own soldiers into indestructible monsters and…”
“Please! This isn’t a comic book!”
“It’s sure startin’ t’feel like one.”
But the dialogue is much more grownup and quippy than anything we’d get in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, like when Shaggy’s talking to the scientist who hired him to be a dog sitter at the lab.
“If you can do that I’ll see to it that you get a raise.”
“No, but I’ll buy you a beer after work.”
I did think Fred’s character was interesting: while everybody else was mostly the opposite of their characters in the original cartoon (Shaggy’s more authoritative, Scooby’s tougher, Velma’s colder, Daphne’s more of a hardass) Fred went the other direction. He’s very good in a fight, but he’s so lovesick over Daphne that he’ll follow her anywhere and put up with all kinds of abuse. I guess making him the opposite of his cartoon personality would’ve been a little disturbing (a misogynistic toady? A cynical programmer? What’s the opposite of Fred?) I felt bad seeing him so picked on. I might have liked a different take (a super-genius horn-dog? A paranoid survival-tech junkie? Seriously, what is the opposite of Fred?)
The fight between Daphne and Velma, and Daphne’s portrayal itself, is the weakest point of the story. It’s understandable that Daphne would be upset that Velma (spoilers) took part in a science experiment that might have destroyed humanity, yes, I get that. But did we have to keep stomping up and down on the point? Every issue we’ll have at least a couple pages of Daphne yelling at Velma about it, with almost the exact same wording, and it gets old fast. Daphne comes off as a harridan, honestly.
It’s possible that it was intentional, though; to make her something other than the pretty, demure girl she always was in the cartoons, but not in a predictable way. The cute-but-tough, sweet-but-badass female character is always fun, but maybe not always realistic. It’s more likely that when the world’s falling apart nobody has time to be likable or diplomatic, that in a crisis if you’re not getting the answers when you yell at people, the solution is to yell louder. Keith Giffen and J.M DeMatteis (and Jim Lee, since he gets a story credit on the DC site) may have been making a statement with Daphne about survival vs. pleasantry and whether restraint and a positive attitude is really all that important if you’ve just blown the head off a zombie.
Or not. I could be overthinking it.
All in all, I liked it enough to want to know what happens next. It’s possible that the things I don’t like about some of the characters are just the set up for them to grow into something more later (it’s only been five issues, after all.) We’ve also got the groundwork for some developments with Velma that should be interesting and disturbing. And we got to see another character that I always hated in the original show, except now they look nine times more cool.
Which isn’t a surprise, since that’s what they already did with the rest of the cartoon.