‘Dastardly And Muttley’ Lead This Week’s Best New Comics

The anti-science of cartoons is wonderful. Bugs, Elmer, Tom, Jerry, Droopy — they all violate the laws of physics, anatomy, chemistry and common sense relentlessly and with absolutely no consequences. But what if reality became, physically, tangibly, like a cartoon? What if dogs started talking, guns made goreless holes in things, and you really could punch somebody through a phone receiver? What would the world become?

That is, it turns out, what Garth Ennis and Mauricet are up to in Dastardly And Muttley, the second issue of which is out today from DC Comics. An unlikely chemical weapon is flooding the world and changing the laws of physics. This sounds awesome until, say, you realize this means your face can be obliterated with a giant bullet and you are now walking around with no face. For the rest of your existence.

The story unfolds a bit like a plague thriller, as Dick and Mutt escape a military base as the world starts collapsing around them. Mauricet plays it all up wonderfully, subverting the strict realism of his art with just enough bizarre cartoon tropes to be both funny and disturbing. There’s an escape sequence, in particular, that’s both hilarious and unnerving exactly because no blood has been shed, but it should be. One real-world law that stays in place is that all these changes are permanent. If there’s a hole in you, it won’t bleed, but there’s still a big hole in you.

Granted, that this is based on a kids’ series about a cartoon villain and his snickering dog is sometimes a bit jarring. But that in the end just adds to the point. We love chaos when it’s contained, but it’s worth asking what happens if that chaos breaks out.

Slots #1, Image Comics

Dan Panosian tells a story about Stanley Dance, a perpetual loser who’s comfy with it. But, thanks to a few old markers, and Stanley being at root a nice guy, he’s back in Las Vegas. And he’s got a score to settle, and he’s going to settle it the crafty way. Or, at least, try to settle it; Panosian gives you the sense that not even Stanley is entirely convinced he can pull this off. But it looks like it’ll be a heck of a lot of fun to see him try.

The Archies #1, Archie Comics

Archie has a band! With his friends! Which is the whole problem in Alex Segura, Matthew Rosenberg, and Joe Eisma’s take on the admittedly goofy premise: How do you start a band, make it successful, and stay friends? Especially when 60% of the band is, well, Reggie, Veronica, and Jughead? It won’t be easy, but it is pretty funny, and like many of the Archie relaunches, it’s got a genuine heart to it that doesn’t downplay real life while remaining sweet. We’ve yet to see any real-life bands, several of which will appear in upcoming issues, but for anybody who’s been in a band, this will ring very true.

Moonstruck #3, Image Comics

Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle’s riff on romance comics, with werewolves, genderfluid centaurs, and excessively cheery prognosticators, continues with the third issue. What’s most appealing about this book is that it’s cute, without being cutesy, and keeps up the narrative momentum while making a few points in its structure. There’s a nice bit in particular where Chet, the former centaur-turned-human, points out “normal” is subjective, without being preachy. It’s a welcome dose of thoughtfulness in what could be a cotton candy bit of comics.

Iceman #6, Marvel

Bobby Drake is thinking about old times, so he meets up with his friends, the Champions, in LA. He promptly gets hit on, goes to a club with friends, and finds that the past is once again not even in the past for him. What makes this solo series work so well is partly that writer Sina Grace themes it around Bobby’s tendency to deflect with jokes; it’s a funny series, but Bobby is running out of gags and struggling to deal with being an out gay man. Thank God for Sentinels as a distraction, right?

Eugenic #1, BOOM! Studios: What would happen if humanity was bred to be “perfect?” James Tynion IV and Eryk Donovan answer that question in a disturbing start to what promises to be a fascinating horror comic.

Harley And Ivy Meet Betty And Veronica #1, DC/Archie Comics: Paul Dini, Marc Andreyko, and Laura Braga show that DC’s supervillain duo and Archie’s teen duo mesh surprisingly well while employing a classic Archie plotline.

Shadowman/Rae Sremmurd #1, Valiant: Yes, Valiant is mixing their necromancer hero with the hip-hop duo. But Eliot Rahal and Renato Guedes have a way to mix Valiant’s supernatural hero and the band that’s a clever bit of business.

Batman: White Knight #1, DC Comics: What if the Joker got his sanity back… and got a lawyer? Sean Murphy’s take on the question of the Joker is a bit wordy, but the ideas make up for any gaps in the execution.

This Week’s Best Collected Editions

Werewolf By Night: The Complete Collection Vol. 1, Marvel ($40, Softcover): In one of the strangest and most delightful comics of the ’70s, Marvel took a werewolf and made him a superhero, right down to teaming him up with Spider-Man.

Disney Manga: The Nightmare Before Christmas, Tokyopop ($11, Softcover): The childhood classic gets a unique spin in this manga, which is finally in softcover.

Predator Vs. Judge Dredd Vs. Aliens: Slice And Dice, Dark Horse ($18, Softcover): This crossover is as gory and absurd as you’d expect, but if you love even one of these franchises, this is a hilarious read.