Hanna-Barbera cartoons all thrive, at root, on simple formulas. It’s always Old Man Jenkins under the mask, Fred Flintstone switches personalities when taking a bowling ball to the noggin, George Jetson will always wail about how he has to push a button. What makes DC’s four Hanna-Barbera crossover specials this week that much more intriguing is that these formulas are right out the window, making for a fresh take on some classic, and some barely remembered, shows.
DC’s already debuted four books riffing on Hanna-Barbera properties, most notably Mark Russell and Steve Pugh reimagining The Flintstones as darkly funny social commentary. But all of the ideas, even if they haven’t entirely worked, have the virtue of being bold, and that carries over to these specials.
The four specials range from the obvious, like spacefaring heroes Space Ghost and Green Lantern, to the outright bizarre, with the Suicide Squad being rescued by, er, these guys:
We also see time travel doofus Booster Gold crash land in Bedrock for a crossover with the Flintstones, and Adam Strange visit the brisk, smart adventure bookFuture Quest, which mixes all of Hanna-Barbera’s TV heroes and adventurers into one book. Fascinatingly, the creative teams behind these books play them absolutely straight, so it’s not quite as strange as it sounds on paper; Booster Gold probably really would both meet the Flintstones and screw up their lives. It’s the backups, though, previewing the next round of DC’s Hanna-Barbera books, that get really weird, because they’re essentially all twists on funny animal comics.
We’ve already discussed Snagglepuss, and that story is surprisingly intense for a tale about a talking pink kitty. But we also see Top Cat scam Batman and be revealed as a sort of Howard The Duck of the DC universe; a revelation that the Jetsons’ Rosie is now George’s dying mother transferred to a robot in an unexpectedly sensitive story about how technology will change how (and if) we die; and, strangest of all, comics legend Howard Chaykin taking on the barely remembered Ruff ‘N Reddy, reimagining them as ’50s comedians struggling to make it on TV. Around the time Chaykin, most notable for his comics aimed squarely at adults, has his heroes beat two rivals comics senseless for stealing their material, it’s clear Chaykin has no intention of mitigating his taste for dark material.
People who love these cartoons will likely have mixed feelings, but it’s not like DC is destroying the masters of the cartoon. And if these specials are any indication, we’re in for a fairly wild ride.
Man-Thing #2, Marvel
R.L. Stine’s purple, smart-alecky take on the walking compost pile that is Ted Sallis takes a few curious turns here, something Stein eases along by making the book both lightly funny and even, in places, touching as Sallis discovers he still has his rational mind, but can’t communicate. And, of course, something else is going on, that he’s struggling to figure out. But watching is part of the fun, and if that’s not enough, Stein has a gleefully campy back-up story as well.
Rick and Morty #24, Oni Press
Kyle Starks and Marc Ellerby pull off not just making the comic feel like an episode of the show, right down to terrible tragedy befalling Morty, but they also manage a pretty funny parody of underrated SF horror film Event Horizon into the bargain. Especially if you’re waiting for season three, this is among the best TV adaptations out there.
Doc Savage: The Ring Of Fire #1, Dynamite
David Avallone and Dave Acosta deliver a fun mix of real history and pure pulp with this Doc Savage story. It appears volcanoes are suddenly appearing under U.S. ships in the Pacific, and the Man of Bronze is sent to investigate. It’s a brisk action yarn, helped by Acosta’s slick artwork, and Acosta manages to offer winks at the audience without getting too campy. Pulp fans in particular should seek this one out, as it promises to be a heck of a yarn.
X-Men Prime #1 and Inhumans Prime #1, Marvel
Now that Terrigen has been destroyed, and both mutants and Inhumans are more or less facing their last generations, what comes next? It’s an intriguing setup in these two books, in part because, as you might have guessed, the new status quo isn’t going to hold very long. There’s a lot, here, from the X-Men returning to the world to the Inhumans finally dumping their creepy caste system, setting up new plotlines, and better, a lot that feels worth exploring.
Peepland #5, Titan: Christa Faust and Andrea Camerini wrap up the excellent crime tale told from the perspective of a sex worker in Times Square in the ’80s.
The Old Guard #2, Image: Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez continue their story of seemingly immortal warriors who can die. It just takes a long, looooong time, and, of course, people are interested as to why.
Jughead: The Hunger #1, Archie: Jughead’s bottomless taste for beef is finally explained, with him being a werewolf, in a one-shot that’s both funny and scary as hell.
Hadrian’s Wall #5, Image: Kyle Higgins, Alec Siegel and Rod Reis pick back up their mix of SF and murder mystery, and if anything it’s just getting more gripping.
James Bond: Hammerhead #6, Dynamite: Andy Diggle and Luca Casalanguida wrap up their incredibly fun miniseries on an ambivalent note. Bond might save the day, but he may, in the end, have lost the war.
This Week’s Best Collections
Black Hammer Vol. 1: Secret Origins, Dark Horse (Softcover, $15): Jeff Lemire and Dave Ormston’s smart comic, about heroes trapped in a world where they have no powers, but all their memories, is worth reading, and this trade is a good place to catch up.
Saga Volume 7, Image Comics (Softcover, $15): The grand, bestselling space story continues, with some of its best issues in this recent volume.
Doom Patrol Vol. 3, DC Comics (Softcover, $35): Grant Morrison’s classic run on DC’s team of misfit heroes gets collected, letting you savor all the weirdness Morrison brought to ’90s comics as it filtered into the mainstream.