DC Comics has done a lot of good stuff with the Hanna-Barbera properties, but many of the better ones involved taking the old characters and somehow modernizing them into something very different from the original incarnation.
But then there was Future Quest. I’d actually read the original series in individual issue form, but seeing how much I was digging some of the other stuff in trade form, I picked up the first volume reprinting the first six issues, and here we are.
Unlike the other Hanna-Barbera-based series, Future Quest actually opts to mostly play the original cartoons straight. Imagine, if you will, that the various action and superhero cartoons, even the comedic ones, produced by Hanna-Barbera over the years were actually part of a single shared universe. And that everything would be centered around the cast of Johnny Quest. It would be as if Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the entire Marvel Universe, but kept all the action within the pages of Fantastic Four with everyone from Spider-Man to the Silver Surfer making guest appearances to save the day from a single, massive threat.
And that’s what happens here. And ancient alien intelligence, one that absorbs all organic life that comes into contact within itself, is out there wiping out whole civilizations. This being has already decimated almost the entire Space Force, an intergalactic police force, with its last member thrusting it into another dimension. But this being won’t stay there for long. It’s got its sights set on a new world: the planet Earth. To stop it, the many heroes of both Earth and beyond will need to unite and bring their individual skills and talents to the task.
At the center of this is the Quest family. Dr. Quest’s longtime opponent Dr. Zin is working to bring the entity to Earth under the mistaken assumption that he can control it. Benton Quest in turn reaches out to the SHIELD-like Inter-nation, the agency Race Bannon works for, to get some additional agents, and during the course of the adventure, more heroes will arrive to help.
You know, I wasn’t much of a Johnny Quest fan when I was a kid, so I don’t know off-hand how much of the Quest stuff here comes from that show or was borrowed (perhaps inadvertently) from The Venture Brothers.
But really, aside from the fact that writer (and sometimes artist) Jeff Parker is not afraid to kill off some characters, this one is just like a Silver Age-style tribute to a lot of characters. We may see Johnny Quest and his friends and family in the middle of things, but there are nice roles given to characters like Space Ghost, Birdman, the Impossibles, The Herculoids, Mightor, and Frankenstein Jr. If the book has a weakness, it isn’t so much the huge cast as it is the way the narrative bounces around to tell side stories that have less to do with the main narrative than establish a backstory for yet another new character. I don’t mind the new characters, or even giving them backstory, but when the fate of the Earth is so uncertain, maybe we don’t need an unrelated two part Impossibles story happening somewhere else. 8.5 out of 10 rampaging dinosaurs.