Over the last year, DC has published several comic books featuring classic Hanna-Barbera characters (like the surprisingly excellent The Flintstones) and the results have thus far been of a high quality. Does Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Annual #1 continue this trend?
Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Annual #1 (DC Comics)
I wish I could say yes, but I can’t. When I first heard about this annual, I got very excited. The Banana Splits’ old show was extremely campy and over-the-top, and I thought that tone would lend itself well to an oddball crossover special. The problem with this story is that none of the expected camp or comedic value is present, and no interesting new takes on the characters take its place. This issue exemplifies many of the problems that plague the worst crossover stories in comics. The two titular teams are thrown together in a way that fails to take advantage of the unique mixed cast. None of the Suicide Squad cast members have any meaningful interactions with any of the Banana Splits, and there’s no compelling within-team bonding moments either.
As I previously mentioned, this issue is sorely lacking the comedic joy that one would expect from such an eccentric mash-up of classic properties. The issue reads like it is supposed to be funny, but it isn’t actually funny. Though the writing, by Tony Bedard, is packed full of jokes, almost none of them land effectively. There are a handful of transitional moments in the story that show enough potential to make one ask if the ball is finally about to start rolling, but it never does. There are a handful of clever barbs in the issue, but they are the exception rather than the norm. Some of DC’s comics starring Hanna-Barbera characters have brought new life to old properties through intelligent social commentary or other inversions of expectations, but this story does not. Ultimately, the story’s main fault is simply that it is boring.
The artwork, by Ben Caldwell, is similarly disappointing. There are some pages with very good panel composition and layout, but most of the actual line-art feels generic and unmemorable. Bingo’s facial expressions are the most humorous and effective part of the artwork, but ultimately this is far from Caldwell’s best work.
This issue’s saving grace is found at its very end. There is an eight issue side-story about Snagglepuss written by Mark Russell and drawn by Howard Porter that serves as a preview for the character’s upcoming ongoing series. While short and perhaps a tad rushed, this story does a great job of introducing the newest iteration of the character. A snarky gay playwright who possesses both a pessimistic attitude and strong moral convictions, Snagglepuss is instantly endearing. A scene in which he is interrogated in court on moral charges harkens back to several prominent gay authors of the early twentieth century, as well as their struggles with identity and self-expression during that time period. Besides its impactful analysis of gay male cultural expression, this version of Snagglepuss also includes much of the camp for which the original version is well-known. A well-placed “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” is much appreciated.
Ultimately, however, this is not a good issue. Eight pages of high quality work slapped onto the end cannot make up for thirty pages of boring writing and art that fail to live up to an interesting premise. This is a comic that is not worth its $4.99 price tag.