If that cover doesn’t grab you, I don’t know what will! And it’s not a cheat, we really do get Batman dancing the Batusi with Mystery Inc in the third issue of DC’s latest series crossing over with the world of Hanna-Barbera.
But first, we’ve got a mystery to solve. It’s party time at the Owl Court Hotel, but birthday girl Bibi is having a less than fantastic time.
And yes, Bruce Wayne is at the non-event, hoping to do a deal with Bibi’s Uncle Joseph.
The old man tells a scary tale of generations of would-be hotel buyers being scared off by a ghastly gauntlet of Talons.
Bruce insists he isn’t easily scared but later, after a visit to the loaded buffet table, Shaggy and Scooby-Doo certainly are.
Well, it looks like Uncle Joseph wasn’t whistling Dixie with his talk of Talons… can Scooby, Shaggy, Freddy, Velma and Daphne, and Bruce Wayne in his other identity, defeat the beaky bully? Or is that Batusi I mentioned a depressing dance of defeat following The Night of the Owlful Party?
I’m sure you can guess that one, but you can’t guess how entertaining this issue is. The regular superb Scooby gang of writers Sholly Fisch and Ivan Cohen, penciller Dario Brizuela and colourist Franco Riesco are absent as the creative reins are handed over to a new pairing. Matthew Cody writes and Erich Owen illustrates and colours and the results are a total treat. Inserting the Court of Owls from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s terrifically dark run of Batman into an all-ages comic is something I couldn’t have predicted would work, but Cody deftly folds the killer cabal’s iconography into a story starring a garrulous and greedy Great Dane.
While Cody draws on the talents of Owen to give the various Talons the creepy factor, he eschews all the unpleasant torture and bloodletting. Maybe one day young readers who enjoyed this story will come across Snyder and Capullo’s dark Court of Owls epic, but for now, they’ll sleep soundly at night.
The drama of the set-up is balanced by a great gaggle of gags, with this scene being one of my favourites.
What’s more, Cody – who wrote DC’s magical Young Adult Zatanna and the House of Mystery book – trusts the reader to get the story without spelling everything out.
Batman notes something odd, and without a word we see that Velma has spotted the same clue, and is ready with the old secret lamp lever.
Owen’s storytelling nails what’s needed and, indeed, he hits the mark throughout, from an atmospheric and cinematic scene-setter to the joy of the Bat-Dance finale. And wait until you see his century of Talon fashions! What’s more, Owen’s understanding of colour is exceptional.
There is a slight disparity in styles so far as Bibi versus the rest of the cast is concerned – she has a Mike Allred vibe whereas everyone else is Hanna-Barbera house style – but it didn’t throw me out of the book. I suspect Owen has drawn someone he knows, Bibi has a very specific look.
Applause, too, to constant letterer Saida Temofonte, whose light touch is perfect for Scooby stories, and editor Kristy Quinn, who lines up the talent and oversees the whole shebang.
If you’re angling for a smart Batman story, this is it. If you’re after Mystery Inc hilarity, it’s here in spades. While I don’t want the existing Batman and Scooby-Doo Mysteries crew to go anywhere, I’d love to see more from Cody and Owen. DC giving this 12-issue series an indefinite run would be just the ticket.