Whenever there’s a remake, there’s rage, a tiresome and predictable reaction these days. And it becomes more tiresome and predictable when the property in question is famous for being terrible. So the outrage, in some quarters, that DC would dare, dare, reinvent Scooby-Doo smacked of the ridiculous. Seriously, this is the cultural river the barbarians must not ford? Really? The cheesy mystery show with the talking dog? There are people who refuse to read this, and too bad, because the comic is pretty good. Great, even!
This isn’t a huge surprise if you’re a comics fan. DC put some major talent behind this book, giving it to writing team J.M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen, and their artist on Justice League 3001, Howard Porter. Giffen, it should be noted, reinvented He-Man as a serious, two-fisted fantasy, and DeMatteis is experienced in both comics and animation. In fact, he’s working on the current incarnation of Scooby-Doo. The writers have also worked together, on and off, for years, enjoying a memorable, irreverent run on various version of Justice League in the ’80s and ’90s.
And, honestly, this might be the first time Scooby-Doo is remotely tolerable to anybody over the age of 8. The plot spins out from Scooby himself; he talks in this continuity thanks to military experiments, but he’s too gentle to deliver the viciousness the military wants. Fortunately, Shaggy, a dog trainer who works for military scientist Velma, saves him and they strike up a friendship. Fred and Daphne enter the picture courtesy of a failing reality show, and then, well, suffice to say everything goes wrong. Velma triggers the apocalypse, humanity is now all monsters, and it’s up to the gang to save the world.
Is it all a bit silly? Yes, absolutely, but DeMatteis and Giffen are fully aware of that, and helping matters considerably is the underrated Porter. Justice League 3001 has demonstrated more than once Porter is a master of deadpan comedy, and has a riotous imagination to boot, and he gets to exercise both here, whether he’s reinventing the gang, making gentle fun of the pretentiousness of Burning Man, or, of course, paying tribute to the show’s justifiably famous monster design.
What it is, above everything else, is fun. The dialogue is snappy, the art is beautiful and subtly funny, and perhaps most importantly, underneath it all, the soul of the show is there. What makes a good remake is that it keeps what people love about an idea while doing its own thing elsewhere, and Scooby Apocalypse delivers on that.
Afterlife With Archie #9, Archie Comics
Archie’s zombie book, back after a long hiatus, focuses on Reggie, and strips him down to his troubling essence. Reggie has always been, well, a jerk. That’s his defining feature. But Afterlife has been all about taking Archie characters out of their archetypes and exploring the human foibles behind them: Archie is decent to a fault, Veronica is spoiled but sweet, and Reggie? Well, there’s not much sweet about Reggie, is there? In fact, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa argues that perhaps there’s something very, very wrong with one Reggie Mantle, and it makes for reading far more chilling than any zombie attack. Artist Francesco Francavilla once again delivers vivid, disturbing horror, but his most chilling panels are often just Reggie’s eyes, staring coldly. If you’ve missed out on this book, this is an ideal jumping on point, and you’ll never view Reggie quite the same way again.
DC Rebirth #1, DC Comics
DC is back at it with a new line-transforming crossover. And, honestly, Geoff Johns’ script is, for better or worse, hewing to the formula. A beloved character is reintroduced as the linchpin, a familiar character is revealed as an unlikely threat, and there will be lots and lots of consequences, in the form of new comic books to read.
The line on this book elsewhere is that it’s an apology of sorts from DC and Geoff Johns about the New 52 or the tone of DC’s cinematic universe, but that feels more like fans projecting than any sort of theme to the book. The basic idea of this crossover is that the New 52 picked up with a “missing decade”; after the events of yet another DC crossover, Flashpoint, things were supposed to return to what passes for normal in the DCU, but instead somebody fired things up right at the beginning of everyone’s heroic career.
New readers are going to be completely lost amid all this discussions of Flashpoints and missing decades. Treated as what it really is, though, an overview of DC’s upcoming new books, it’s hard not to smile a bit. One of the pleasures of a DC reboot is seeing a character like Ryan Choi or Ted Kord coming back in a fresh and exciting way, or seeing a new hero and a basic premise and being intrigued by the idea that something new might be coming. New readers will likely find more to love in the upcoming Rebirth specials than in this, but it’s a nice little bit of nostalgia.
Shaft: Imitation Of Life #4, Dynamite
David Walker and Dietrich Smith began the second Shaft miniseries with a musing about whether life imitates art or vice versa. Now they’re ending it with an unexpected and delightful payoff about why that matters to Shaft that we won’t ruin here. Walker and Smith have stepped up to the tough challenge of making Shaft more than just a nostalgia piece, and the result is one of the tougher, and more memorable, crime comics on the stands.
Bloodshot Reborn #13, Valiant
The latest arc from Jeff Lemire, with Lewis Larosa and Stefano Gaudiano on art, would seem to be going to a classic end for your traditional “The End” plot for a superhero, with Bloodshot confronting a dangerous enemy straight out of Valiant’s current 4001 arc. “Seem” being the operative word, and that’s all we’ll tell you. Suffice to say it’s a thrilling, clever issue, and a smart twist on the typical superhero story.
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #7 (Marvel)
Marvel’s best all-ages comic is a genuinely insightful look at what it means to be the smartest kid in the room, and this issue has a hilarious twist to go with it.
Lobster Johnson: Mechanical Monsters Of Midtown #1 (Dark Horse)
Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, and Tonci Zonjic once again deliver a tasty slice of dark pulp.
Joyride #2 (BOOM! Studios)
If you’ve ever felt a longing to explore the cosmos, this breezy, funny book about teenagers on the run from a repressive Earth will ring true.
Mockingbird #3 (Marvel)
Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk take a slight detour from their funny, unnerving superheroine book to talk about why Bobbi Morse is Mockingbird, and it’s both an explicitly feminist statement and a surprisingly inspiring look at somebody who strives to do better, no matter what.
Aloha Hawaiian Dick #2 (Image)
A strong sense of place and atmosphere makes this tropical noir from B. Clay Moore and Jacob Wyatt stand out.
This Week’s Collected Comics:
EC Archives The Haunt Of Fear Volume 3 (Dark Horse, hardback, $40)
A gorgeous collection of classic ’50s horror comics, looking the best they have since they were first published.
They’re Not Like Us Volume 2 (Image, softcover, $15)
A story about psychic teens turns, subtly, into a musing on fitting in and how some people will go farther than others to feel like they belong.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume 3: Squirrel You Really Got Me Now (Marvel, softcover, $18)
Marvel’s delightful comic about Doreen Green, the superheroine who negotiates before she fights, collects its latest arc into a extremely funny third volume.