Thursday, May 26, 2016

On The Shelf: A different kind of Scooby-Doo, and other crazy things that could make your brain implode!

This ain't your parents' Scooby-Doo. Not by a long shot.

DC has added a 3rd series featuring the beloved Great Dane, but Scooby Apocalypse is very far removed from the other, kid-friendly Scooby-Doo series. How far? Consider:

Shaggy, Velma, Fred, & Daphne are all grown up, and all have jobs. The predictable couplings are well in place. Daphne hosts a cable show, with Fred as her videographer/sidekick, and she's copped quite the attitude. Unfortunately, said show has fallen on hard times, airing in the wee small ones where it's likely to be DVR'd instead of viewed live if enough people know when it's on. Meanwhile, Velma is now a research scientist, and Shaggy a dog trainer (the backup feature shows how he got the job), at a top secret government facility that isn't what it seems. Scooby? He was a test subject for some sort of secret operation, but deemed a failure.

In the opener, the four discover that Velma's superiors aren't as benevolent as she thought they were. To sum it up, instead of saving the world, the owners of The Complex instead intend to, well, unleash hell, for lack of a better description.

What writers J. Marc DeMatteis and Keith Giffen have concocted is a very non-formulaic science fiction adventure that will be a welcome change from the 45-plus years of the same tired old mysteries. Add artist Howard Porter, who hasn't had anything relevant to do since his run on JLA 20 years ago, and you have a surprisingly entertaining story. I had my reservations at first, but now, I'm all in. I'm hooked.

Rating: A.

Scooby Apocalypse was the 2nd of the 4 Hanna-Barbera books being put out by DC. Future Quest preceded it by a week, and it was, as expected, a scorching hot thrill ride.

DC's resident pop culture geek, Jeff Parker (Batman '66 and its miniseries), has brought together Jonny Quest, Birdman, & Space Ghost, just in the first issue alone, but the final panel, which marks the return of the Phantom of the Spaceways to DC after 13 years, will blow your mind. For the first time, readers will see Birdman out of costume as archeologist-turned-government agent Ray Randall, as we never saw Birdman as Randall in the 1967 series or any comic book adaptations thereof. Artist Evan Shaner was assisted by the incomparable Steve Rude, who drew almost a dozen pages to get the book out on time, it would seem. The late Darwyn Cooke, who passed away days before the first issue hit stores, provided the character designs, keeping with the original concepts by Doug Wildey (Jonny Quest) and Alex Toth (Birdman, Space Ghost, etc.), and it's a shame that Cooke was unable to help with any interior artwork before his passing. He would, however, be very proud of what Parker, Shaner, Rude, et al have accomplished.

Rating: A+.

Meanwhile, DC's latest attempt at cleaning up its universe brings with it some unexpected shocks.

DC Universe Rebirth is an 80 page 1-shot, but for only $3, and worth every penny. Geoff Johns tells the story through the eyes of Wally West, aka Kid Flash. The original version, not the African-American reboot that was introduced in the New 52 and is part of the Flash TV show. Wally's been trapped in the Speed Force since the end of his last book, and his absence from the just concluded Titans Hunt miniseries only resulted in that book's writer, Dan Abnett, having to improvise finding someone to take his place. Digressing. As you're probably aware, the New 52 incarnation of Superman has been laid to rest, replaced by the pre-Flashpoint (1986-2010) version, which means Supes and Lois Lane are husband and wife again, but if you read the Lois & Clark miniseries, you knew that already.

Again, it is the closing pages of this issue that will get people talking. What Johns is also doing is integrating Alan Moore's Watchmen into the DCU proper, and I'm interested in seeing where that goes, for good or bad. Of course, if sales tank, DC will hit the reset button about 2-3 years.

Rating: A.

In answer to Rebirth, knowing they were going to be ripped to shreds online as a result, Marvel decided to play fast and loose with Captain America's history. Again.

By now, you've already read about the shocking final panel of Steve Rogers: Captain America 1. Editor Tom Brevoort is claiming this isn't a gimmick, and that Rogers had been a sleeper agent ever since he was a young boy.

Say what? Bollocks & balderdash!

Brevoort is in a no-win situation here, and so is writer Nick Spencer, who is trying to posit Rogers as a double agent, but for however long this story arc lasts, perhaps no more than 6 months, by my best guess, all Brevoort has done is throw shade on "Captain America: Civil War", which opened three weeks ago to rave reviews, by signing off on this lame grab for attention. It's clear what Marvel wanted to do. They wanted to deflect attention from DC and get cheap publicity.

Do I think that Rogers actually killed Jack Flag? No. You know the old adage. If you don't see a dead body....! This is not the first time Marvel has exploited Cap for cheap publicity, and probably won't be the last, but the timing was just pathetically bad.

As for the story itself, I can see this being a case of false memories being implanted somewhere to throw the enemy off course, and you know the payoff will be about 3-5 issues away. Unless they're really stupid and think this can work in the long haul. It won't. The last time they made a grab for publicity at Cap's expense was when they killed him off pro tempore, and we all know what happened after that. As long as the movies are in the public consciousness, there is no reason---at all---to do a stunt like this, because you're undermining your own company. Considering that there is a sequel to Civil War due soon, well, if brains were made of sandpaper, Marvel's editors would've wasted theirs by now.

Rating: B-.

In August, we know DC's going to promote anything and everything related to Suicide Squad and/or Harley Quinn to the moon and back. One of these cases is Harley's bi-monthly Little Black Book series, which will not only have Harley meet up with Superman, but it will be drawn by the one and only Neal Adams. The plot? How about marking the 40th anniversary of a Limited Collector's Edition 1-shot that paired the Man of Steel with the Greatest boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali, except that this time, Harley's lacing up the gloves for an intergender boxing match with Superman. Why the original story isn't being reprinted to coincide with this issue, I don't know, but this might actually be worth the price of admission.

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