Written by Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis
Art by Howard Porter
Based on a concept by Jim Lee
Published by DC Comics
The 30-something comic readers have a deeply conflicted relationship with the pop culture of our youth. On the one hand, we fondly remember reading Archie’s adventures with his friends and watching Scooby Doo unmask the monster of the week. On the other, we go back and re-experience those things and they are terrible. Unfunny, pandering, superficial grabs at the wallets of American parents. And as we have become the dominant comic consumers, we’ve agreed to reconcile the daffy figures of our pasts to our adult capabilities. So we get beautifully mature books like Mark Waid’s Archie or the new Power Rangers series. And, when we are mad at how taken we were by bad art, we feed Archie to zombies (and man, Afterlife With Archie has turned into one of the best, most thoughtful books you can get, but you know you bought it so you can watch sweet teenagers ripped to shreds) and, this week, we drop the Scoobies into Hell.
And just like with the other properties, it turns out that growing up the Scoobies a little makes them unbelievably interesting.
In this version of the characters, Daphne is the spunky host of a low-rated mystery reality show, and Fred is her cameraman. They’re headed to Burning Man to check out Velma, a scientist blowing the whistle on the apocalyptic misdeeds of her secret organization. Scooby Doo is a prototype SmartDog experiment, and Shaggy is his beloved trainer and best bud. Most of this issue is spent drawing the team together, so the actual Apocalypse doesn’t hit until the last splash page, but the inciting event is a clever nod to the best parts of that charmingly brain-dead cartoon empire.
Giffens and DeMatteis have nailed the tone on this. The characters are all likeable but have more complicated and distinct personalities than we ever saw on TV. The plot is less about torturing them as survivalists and more about telling a great horror story about uncovering nefarious plots, a huge step up from unmasking the creepy caretaker who’s been haunting the old lighthouse. These writers are not ashamed of their source material, but they’re not stuck in the mission to feed more of the same crap to the nostalgia of the customer.
This book is going to be great. It gets humor from being an update of Scooby Doo, but it’s an amazing start in and of itself and would be a must-read even without the familiar characters. Now that you’ve gotten some sleep after the DC Rebirth midnight launch party, come back to Ultimate Comics and see what Scooby Doo’s rebirth has in store for you.