Scooby Apocalypse #1 review

In Paris, a bespectacled young woman releases something sinister into the air. One year later, at the Blazing Man alternate culture festival, a TV reporter and her cameraman are looking for a way to boost ratings. Nearby, a shaggy young man and his massive Great Dane are taking a walk, and if said walk leads to food, all the better….
When the first art for Scooby Apocalypse dropped at the comics news sites, many people assumed it was a gag on the part of DC. Hyper-hipster versions of Daphne, Velma, Fred and Shaggy, Scooby with an emoticon-spouting headset… monsters with no janitor qualifications? But DC insisted it was genuine, solicited a series, and here it is 
And it’s rather fun. The redesigned Shaggy I could do without, he looks far too cool to be the sandwich-snacking shirker loved by generations of TV viewers. Everyone else, though, is close enough to their regular selves to be non-jarring, and if I can take Scooby in female drag – and he’s always been a regular Bugs Bunny in that department – I can go with some story-driven cyber gimmickry. 
Said story, by Keith Giffen and JM DeMatteis, is an origin of sorts, as dog trainer Shaggy and scientist Velma, who work at the same secret complex, meet action woman Daphne and camera jockey Fred, who produce a low-rent scare show. Velma wants to whistleblow on a threat to the world, but the other three need some convincing…
Giffen and DeMatteis, and artist Howard Porter, have been at this a long time, they know how to craft a compelling comic series. They’ve just done it, as a team, with Justice League 3000/3001. So it’s no surprise that Scooby Apocalypse is a riveting read, even without all the monsters pre-publicity led me to expect (don’t worry, they’re on their way). The character work alone, the setting-up of story points, grips, while the Blazing Man festival gives Porter plenty of opportunity to dot the panels with non-supernatural grotesqueries. 
This is a gorgeous book, with Scooby looking far better than his live-action translation, and Velma, specs so thick we can’t see her eyes, a pint-sized treat. And when we do get an action sequence, Porter sells it superbly. 
I like funny Fred, I wasn’t expecting that. I was expecting the bubble machine-style emoticons to replace Scooby’s wonderful r-speak, but I was wrong. Giffen and DeMatteis do provide a story-related reason, and given this, I can easily see the hopelessly trendy emoji stuff being set aside. 
This extra-length opener also has a second story, a short entitled ‘When Shaggy met Scooby’, showing us the day canine trainer Norbert Rogers met experimental ‘smartdog’ Scooby Doo. 
I’m not down with its scene of cyber-enhanced dogs attacking pack runt Scooby – it’s a tad We3 for a Hanna Barbera book, even a non-all-ages offering – but there’s a lovely touching moment to balance things out. And while Shaggy is surprisingly brave here, I’ll assume it’s only spooky things that really scare him. 
The  colours of Hi-Fi and letters of Travis Lanham and Nick J Napolitano – now styling himself ‘Nick J Nap’, which is cute – also add to the visual appeal.  
The issue does beg one question – what the heck is going on in Giffen’s personal life? Reviewing Legends of Tomorrow, I’ve been perturbed by how his otherwise lovely Sugar & Spike strip has the former treating the latter like something she trod on. 
And in Scooby Apocalypse we have the exact same uncomfortable dynamic with Daphne and Fred – I’ll-tempered female constantly belittles puppyish male, belts him one and there’s no emotional comeback, no protest.
At least Velma is a tad sweeter towards Shaggy, and it turns out he has a crush on her – awwww. Any Shaggy/Velma shippers out there? 
Were this series replacing DC’s existing Scooby-Doo books I might like it a tad less – Scooby-Doo Team-Up, especially, is sheer delight, every issue – but it isn’t. It’s a sci-fi spin on some beloved characters, and if Shakespeare plays are game for constant reinterpretation, there’s no reason Scooby-Doo can’t be playfully tweaked. 
And it seems other artists are itching to join the fun, with this issue featuring variant covers by Joelle Jones, Neal Adams, Dan Panosian, Ben Caldwell and Howard Porter. Jim Lee provides the main cover, he having come up with the series concept and character designs (insert ‘so where’s Scooby’s Mandarin collar gag’ here). I don’t think Lee’s contribution merits the top cover credit, but he’s gotten away with it thanks to those meddling lawyers. And I am grateful to Lee for initiating this rather fun read. 
I was expecting this to be an Afterlife With Archie rip-off, but it’s no more a swipe of that series than early Batman was of Superman – it’s a matter of related concepts going off in different directions. Different characters, different tones. And I’m as hungry for both series as a certain ralking rog is for a Scooby snack. 

12 thoughts on “Scooby Apocalypse #1 review

  1. Like you, I liked this a lot more than I expected to. I hadn't even intended to pick it up, but then I saw there was a sketch cover, and so I decided it was worth a try, because I could at least ask an artist to draw Shag and Scoob at an upcoming con.

    But then reading the book, I really enjoyed it. The humor is pretty broad, as you'd expect from this team — that Daphne punch isn't surprising in that regard. And it's comics, so conflicts get phyiscalized — I find it best to not take such things to literally unless the tone of the story calls for it. If we look at how often Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm threw punches at each other or tried to set the other on fire, they'd need counseling and a restraining order. But we know it's all in fun.

    I think Lee did the character design work, too, so that might be why he gets cover credit. My one quibble with the design isn't Shaggy — he looks a little more robust than he ought to be, but I love the arm tat — but Velma. She's a longtime cartoon crush, so I'd appreciate her a little less bug-eyed. But on the whole, I thought the crew was well-imagined — particularly because, as you say, this is just one spin on the characters, not the only way to see them from here on out.


  2. “And it's comics, so conflicts get physicalized”

    That's the problem. There's already plenty of violence between the heroes and villains. We don't need more between the heroes themselves.

    “I find it best to not take such things to literally”

    We're asked to take EVERYTHING literally. When Doctor Doom launches the Baxter Building into orbit it's really a metaphor. And even if it was, I don't need an excuse for domestic violence to make me queasy.


  3. “When Doctor Doom launches the Baxter Building into orbit it's really NOT a metaphor.” That's what I meant.


  4. Jasae, I hope not.

    Rob, aren't surprises nice.And I think Velma just needs a shining knight to clean her specs.

    And thanks, Anon, for saying it probably better than I could.


  5. I'm not crazy about the punch either — I think it's a little hack-y and rote, and JMS/Giffen/Bender are all capable of doing better. And I'm certainly sorry it made you queasy, Anon.

    But I have to disagree that all comic-book violence is meant to be taken literally, and to its logical real-world conclusion. Again, Ben Grimm's punches can level cars. If he hits Johnny Storm, that's life-threatening. (And, vice versa, fire is extremely dangerous.) And yet we look at their fights as if it were roughhousing among boys, rather than two men using deadly force against each other. The context matters; when we read those pages, we don't read them with literal, real-world consequences in mind. Instead, it's more akin to duck season/wabbit season antics.

    Now, I don't think the team here has established that context yet with these particular iterations of the characters. I think it's a lazy gag, a way to end the conversation visually instead of through dialogue. But I also think with characters who have been known to eat sandwiches the size of their torsos in one bite, a little artistic license is allowed.


  6. The punch was weird, yeah. It's like that moment when Peggy Carter tests Steve's shield by just casually drawing her weapon and firing in his direction. It's just off kilter enough for the comedy aspect to noooot really work like it's clearly supposed to. “MOLE PEOPLE!” made me laugh though!

    Other than that I thought it was a fine first chapter. I enjoyed the back up story more because of how charming Shaggy trying to earn a living but sticking up for the little guy for no other reason than it's the right thing to do, but the main one, even for an info dump, was full of little touches like Fred and Daphne's TV gig which I'm pretty sure is a reference to her paranormal documentary show from Zombie Island or even just Shaggy and Scooby hanging out trying to grab a bite. The current trend in both latest shows has been Velma feeling slightly isolated even among the gang because of her smarts so it's neat to see that play out in a sci fi setting. And even if Daphne punching Fred for “WAS THAT A JOKE?!” was weird it was nice to see the series sprinkle little touches of humour in amongst an over the top take on the concept like this.

    Like the fact Shaggy and more importantly Scooby are the least weirdest things in a Burning Man crowd. As much of a testament to the brand's ability to be adapted into anything as an apocalyptic Ghostbusters/Power Rangers/21st century commentary setting is, Scooby and the Gang do Burning Man would be similarly fitting/incongruous and therefore kind of amazing idea, esspecially considering Warner Bros went through a phase of teaming Scooby and the Flintstones up with the WWF.


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