If I am being honest, I am probably not the biggest Scooby Doo fan out there. I did enjoy it as a kid, and some of the stuff done with the characters (like the excellent Mystery Incorporated series) works better than others. But, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a character I would go out of my way to see more often than not. Then DC Comics did their Hanna-Barbera line with all the characters in updated settings. Of the original four, Scooby Apocaylpse was the only one I skipped up to this point. Future Quest made for a fun Silver Age-style superhero verse. The Flintstones was absolutely brilliant. Wacky Racelands was…not good but it existed. So, how would the last of the original four work out?
It is the only series of the original four still running if nothing else, so let’s look at the first volume.
This series is probably way better than it has any right to be. The original concept was always Scooby Doo and his human friends Shaggy, Fred, Velma, and Daphne would investigate a mystery that led to some crook in a mask. True, many other incarnations had real supernatural shenanigans to deal with, but Scooby Apocalypse veers so far from any series norm as to make it almost it’s own entity. The characters are still (mostly) recognizable as themselves with some modern tweaking, but it’s the setting that made everything different.
The long and the short of it is the “meddling kids” are now twentysomethings that are meeting for the first time. Daphne is a former TV journalist who has fallen on hard times after hosting a popular “mystery revealed” type of show. Fred is her longtime cameraman who’s been in love with her since film school. Velma is a brilliant scientist with what is probably some kind of Asperger’s level of emotional distance and reclusiveness working for a secret lab called the Complex. Scooby Doo is the prototype for a “Smart Dog” program that didn’t quite work out as he’s cowardly and his speech box doesn’t work quite right. Shaggy is a dog handler from the Complex with some modern hippie ideas and a love for the outcast dog Scooby Doo. Chance brings the five together as Velma tries to spill the beans on a project the Complex was working on when suddenly the secret project is activated and it looks like most of humanity has been changed into various types of movie monsters. Now the foursome and Scooby Doo need to somehow find some answers and maybe they can reverse what happened before things get much, much worse.
So, here’s why this works: the writers are Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, and those guys create comics gold when they work together. Working with their Justice League 3000 artist Howard Porter, they do seem to have a good handle on the five characters, making them familiar and new at the same time. Journalist Daphne doesn’t quite trust scientist Velma, possibly for good reason, and Shaggy’s general mellowness makes for a nice calming agent. Scooby Doo himself may be the one character given the least to do, but there’s a lot of creativity going on here. The one problem I had with the series is something I also noted in the aforementioned Justice League 3000: these characters repeat themselves a lot and are rather verbal about it. For a monthly series, that may not be a bad thing. A causal reader might need a reminder every 30 days or so of why people are doing what they are doing. But in a trade that collects six issues, it seems awfully repetitive. There are probably better ways to do that recapping, but I don’t think Giffen and DeMatteis (probably more DeMatteis since he usually handles dialogue) have figured that out yet. And that repetition gets old after a while, so 7 out of 10 Huckleberry Hound references.