Scooby Apocalypse #1
Written by Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis
Art by Howard Porter and Hi-Fi
Lettering by Nick J. Napolitano
Published by DC Comics
'Rama Rating 5 out of 10
Stemming from “a concept by Jim Lee,” DC’s Scooby Apocalypse is far from the most original or new idea in the world, with similar ideas being laid out as early at 2008 by artist Travis Pitts (no relation). But this series, which currently feels more sci-fi than Mad Max or Dawn of the Dead, lacks the necessary bite, wit or charm to hook in readers, instead moving at a glacial pace to explain why the Mystery, Inc. team even got together in the first place.
Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis have written some of the best comic bookss of all time, and given their body of work, you'd think that Scooby Apocalypse would have been more fun. Instead, this debut issue is a vivid reminder in the stark difference between fun and funny, and while this debut issue has some mildly funny moments sprinkled in (like Fred mistakenly attacking Velma as a "mole people”), the fun stops abruptly and gets ridiculously serious. In this series, Velma is part of a secret society of scientists that believe nanites are evolving and will attack the Earth and take over humanity. Daphne and Fred are fallen TV stars looking for a comeback, Shaggy is a hipster dog keeper and custodian, and Scooby is a failed military experiment. I say "failed" because he talks like a toddler and doesn't know how to kill.
What the book does have going for it is Howard Porter slinging some of his best ink since the early days of his run on JLA. The world and atmosphere is completely immersive, with Porter going all out with the backgrounds even down to the most minute detail, such as the pseudo-Burning Man festival early in the issue, not to mention a clever Dynomutt Easter egg later on. But the designs for the characters themselves are... well, not that stellar, particularly the instantly-dated hipster Shaggy. They kept the essentials of each member to make them recognizable from a long distance, but it's when we get closer it's how things start unraveling. Hi-Fi's coloring is so-so, and I wish they scaled back on saturation, with everything looking like they had a reflective surface and just came across as unappealing.
So the plot is basically explained over several pages and that's the bulk of the book. How the world could end. Velma explains in lengthy and verbose detail about the group of scientists, the nanite plot, and how they might be able to prevent it. There comes a point though where we get the picture almost right away, but she keeps talking and elaborating. After a while, it explains entirely too much.
Remember that scene in Matrix Revolutions with Neo talking to the Architect? Yeah, that. Giffen and DeMatteis could have easily condensed that whole exposition speech and included more character development. Daphne and Fred are the most fleshed-out of the gang, with Velma being a brainy exposition device and Shaggy, well, Giffen and DeMatteis are still figuring out his whole deal. He's kind to animals and bit of a foodie, but there's no capturing the spirit of what makes this group work as a collective unit.
Scooby Apocalypse was probably the most controversial of the Hanna-Barbera line when it was announced, as it just comes across as dated. It might have worked a decade ago right as steampunk is passe today, but there is something here that could be molded into actually something good. The last page had me excited for what the creators have in store, but it felt like a chore to get to the best part. That's not how a debut issue should work, and with the marquee names behind this, one would expect more.