Thursday, June 9, 2016

On The Shelf: The Wackiest Race of All Time, and other goodies

Remember Wacky Races? Sure you do.

The 1968 Saturday morning series is getting a major makeover in more ways than one. First, there's word that Cartoon Network and WB are planning on rebooting the series for airing later this year, and this comes 10 years after CN turned down a pilot for a possible generational reboot.

On the other hand, there is DC Comics' Wacky Raceland, which takes the concept of the series, in turn inspired by the 1965 Tony Curtis-Jack Lemmon movie, "The Great Race", and flips it on its engines. There are cosmetic changes galore in this series, inspired in its own way by last year's "Mad Max: Fury Road". Consider:

*--The race announcer (Dave Willock in 1968) is now a disembodied female voice who has assembled the racers in what amounts to a death race that Roger Corman would be envious of.

*--Penelope Pitstop, we learn in issue 1, is of Greek descent, and her parents were killed in a flood that destroyed the world. Penelope's racing suit has been modified into more of a skin-tight pink ensemble, with a cowled mask under her goggles.

*--Muttley, Dick Dastardly's canine sidekick, is twice as big as before, and has the same kind of visual aids that Scooby-Doo has in Scooby Apocalypse. Hmmm. Something tells me there's a crossover between these two books afoot in due course.

*--Sgt. Blast, 1/2 of the crew of the Army Surplus Special, has been gender-flipped, likely so that Penelope can have another female racer to talk to. For what it's worth, Hanna-Barbera had previously introduced viewers to a female commanding officer named Sgt. Bertha Blast (Jo-Anne Worley, ex-Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In) as Olive Oyl's CO on The Popeye & Olive Show in 1981. However, it seems that the original Sgt. Blast underwent gender reassignment surgery somewhere.

*--Muttley aside, the other prominent animal characters have been flipped to human. Blubber Bear, for example, has been repackaged as a human named Blubber who was Lazy Luke's BFF dating back to their youth, as explained in issue 1. Sawtooth, Rufus Roughcut's partner, appears to have similarly been repackaged. Why DC decided to take this path, I don't know. Doesn't seem to bother writer Ken Pontac, though.

*--Perhaps the biggest change is that the cars now have artificial intelligence (AI) and can communicate with each other and their drivers. Technology, folks. Gotta love it.

Artist Leonardo Manco seems to be having the time of his life drawing this series. I'm so digging Dastardly's punk haircut, and the fact that there exists some comraderie between the racers. Oh, and don't assume Penelope's a damsel in distress this time. Nope. She clocks Dastardly not once, but twice, in the space of a couple of pages.

Rating: A+.
Moving on, we left out DC's digital first miniseries, Adventures of Supergirl, from our last report. The series, spun from, of course, Supergirl, has been plagued by some unforseen printing delays that pushed back the first issue by two weeks, and that means the bi-weekly miniseries will wrap just in time for it to be collected in trade paperback in August. For now, we'll give it an Incomplete grade until the next issue happens along.

Meanwhile, Dynamite's Gold Key Alliance is staggering toward the finish line, as it is a 5 issue miniseries. Writer Phil Hester is capable of better, but he hasn't been able to bring all of the characters together after 3 issues, and that should've been done already.

Rating: C. (Was Incomplete)

As of this writing, I only have one of DC's Rebirth relaunches in hand, and it's Green Arrow. Relative newcomer Benjamin Percy has done right by fans of the Emerald Archer who might've been angered by the decision to kill off Black Canary (Katie Cassidy) on Arrow two months ago. What Percy has done is have Canary & Arrow together again for the first time, assuming they never crossed paths at all during the New 52 era (2011-6). He's given us back the Oliver Queen that those of us who grew up in the 60's & 70's remember, the social activist who fought for the little guys, and placed him in Seattle, where Mike Grell set his 80's run on the series. This will be one to watch, kids.

Rating: A-.

Over at Archie Comics, there are changes afoot on Jughead. First, artist Erica Henderson is gone after the first arc to concentrate on her other gig, Marvel's Squirrel Girl. Derek (Good Luck) Charm takes over with issue 7, and writer (Paint) Chip Zdarsky will take his leave after issue 8. Issue 9 sees Sabrina debut in the New Riverdale continuity, which certainly should treat her better than she has in the horror line. Speaking of which, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina issue 5 finally hit stores a couple of weeks back, and writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa continues to churn out dreck. First, he killed off Sabrina's canonical boyfriend, Harvey, in issue 4, but now, the dude's been resurrected, with the mind of Sabrina's warlock dad, Howard, inhabiting his body. You know what that means, kids. Aguirre-Sacasa is teasing an incest storyline after a sort. The man spent the better part of a year in Hollywood getting Riverdale sold to the CW, and was a writer-producer on Supergirl, but couldn't bring himself to find someone to take over his books while he was away. I don't know how much longer readers of the horror line can tolerate such crap if Aguirre-Sacasa takes another extended leave of absence.

As it is, Afterlife With Archie issue 9 arrived a week later, but fans have to wait until August for the next issue, featuring Josie and the Pussycats. Something tells me the horror line will be kaput by this time next year.

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