I absolutely love Scooby Doo. It was one of my favorite cartoons growing up and I’ve enjoyed almost every iteration and new spin on the show. I was even a part of a Scooby Doo book club in elementary school and also actually enjoyed the live action films, stupid as they are. So when DC puts out a rather controversial and odd-looking take on the Mystery Inc. team, I say bring it on. Is it good?
Scooby Apocalypse #1 (DC Comics)
At Burning Man Festival, special TV reporter/host Daphne Blake is on the scene with her cameraman, Fred Jones. The two got a message to come there to meet with an informant–someone who’ll blow the lid on a huge government conspiracy. The informant? Dr. Velma Dinkley. Also in the area is dog handler Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, who is taking Scooby Doo, a failed government project, out into the festival for some fresh air and food. However, what none of these individuals know is that the world is about to head towards disaster…
The Initial Impression
Is this what everyone feared? Did DC get it completely wrong and did it go off the rails? As of right now, no. This comic is not as bad as you may think. While it does have its problems and the story only starts really picking up at the very end, for what it is, Scooby Apocalypse is a perfectly good start to this alternative universe story. I’ll ultimately need to see and read more of the book first before I can give a full judgement, but for right now, this wasn’t too bad.
Starting with the story, the first issue of this comic is merely about setting the stage for the coming apocalypse and the characters. We are introduced to each player in the story, what they are about, their personalities, and how they all end up together. We establish how the apocalypse will start and what its purpose is. On one hand, getting all of this setup out of the way is good. The audience gets to know the origin story for everything and everyone right away, allowing them to know what they are getting into and also to wonder how the rest of the series will play out from here. Plus, we get a mystery at the end that seems rather intriguing. On the other hand, the story here is loaded to the brim with awkward exposition that has to explain all the motivations for the characters and the reasoning behind the apocalypse. It really grinds the pacing and flow of the story to a halt, especially towards the end when things are supposed to be more tense, and comes off as a tad unnatural with the characters saying things the others should already know.
As an adaption of Scooby Doo, it’s a very different approach to the source material as you’d imagine. However, Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis do feel like they understand the characters and are able to write them well and give unique spins on them that make sense. Velma as a scientist working on a big project for the government? Odd, but believable enough for this alternative universe (some of her decisions and moments aren’t exactly great, though). Daphne as a TV host and Fred working with her as her cameraman? Well that actually happened before in other cartoons, like in ‘Zombie Island,’ so that works well here. Scooby Doo as part of a government project that involves making dogs smarter and Shaggy as a dog handler? Probably the most head-tilting decision here, but it works and helps with building this strong bond between the two (definitely helped by the backup story at the end where the two first meet). Everyone here feels close enough to their original counterparts and thus, the story works well in its own little universe. Of course, we’ll have to see more in the future to see if that remains consistent or not.
In regards to the writing, it’s good but flawed. When it’s not exposition heavy, the dialogue and exchanges between the characters are usually enjoyable, especially with Shaggy and Scooby. There’s a sense of chemistry and friendship in how they play off each other, so it helps with the characterization. Though admittedly, the dialogue can have its odd moments, like Velma saying out loud to herself that she’s planning to betray the group she is working for in their base (seems like that should be in a word balloon or text box). The pacing is slower due to how dialogue and exposition-heavy the book is, but not so much that the story feels tedious all the time. It’s usually rather tight instead, with no superfluous page or panel anywhere. The humor is generally good and I did find myself chuckling or smiling a lot of the time. My favorite moment has to go Daphne and Fred meeting Velma in person for the first time and what results from that. Lastly, there are some plot points and explanations that don’t make a lot of sense. Without going into detail, the reasons behind why the apocalypse happens seems a bit too out there to believe that someone went along with these plans initially or that any of this operation resulted in what we see on the final page.
Howard Porter provides the artwork on the book and I’m mixed on it, though leaning more towards good. The layouts were well put together and dynamic, making for a pleasant and easy to follow experience. There’s a lot of detail put into each panel when it comes to depicting the locations and different objects, which results in a livelier and more realistic world in the comic. Outside of one or maybe two, every panel has a background in it and it really shows how much effort went into drawing this book.
And see this is why you don’t get invite to parties Velma.
The characters are probably the iffiest part of the artwork. Character design wise, everyone looks close enough to their original counterparts that you can tell who they are (though Daphne and Velma’s body physiques feel like they should be switched around). The foreshortening though can be troublesome at times, like when Fred throws something with his right arm towards the reader, but his left arm disappears completely, except for his left hand that now looks incredibly tiny. Facial expressions usually are good and you tell what everyone is feeling, except for Velma. Due to her wearing thick glasses that obstruct her eyes and eyebrows (and her long hair in the front), you mostly have to go by her mouth for her expressions. The problem is that she’s always looking happy or at least neutral, even when she’s discussing heavy and sad events or things. Velma never really captures the mood of a lot of the scenes unfortunately, so I hope Porter improves with drawing her in the future.
Is It Good?
Scooby Apocalypse #1 is an interesting start to what has been a controversial idea to some. It shows promise, gets the characters well enough, got almost all of the setup already out of the way, and has some nice artwork. Though, it suffers from problems in the writing and the art, especially around Velma. Still, this is a series with potential and I look forward to discovering whether or not it succeeds as time goes on, especially now that apocalypse has arrived for the characters.