Scooby Apocalypse #1

Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Howard Porter's "Scooby Apocalypse" #1 is neither the abomination the internet feared nor the super-cool reimagining the creative team is aiming for; instead, it falls somewhere in the middle. The redesigns and updated origins are a mixed bag. Some are quite fun: Velma's exaggerated glasses and shortness made me smile, Porter and colorist Hi-Fi give the setting a cool vibe and I didn't mind Shaggy's hipster slacker redesign. Other elements -- such as Scooby's sometimes disturbing facial expressions and the doom-and-gloom plot -- contribute to an odd, not-quite-humorous-not-quite-serious tone. As a result, "Scooby Apocalypse" #1 is definitely interesting, but it didn't have a sure enough voice to win me over.

As the issue opens, the gang isn't a team yet: Velma is involved in a global super-science conspiracy, Shaggy is working as Scooby's handler in a secret government program and Fred and Daphne are filming episodes of a low-ratings mystery show. Therefore, most of issue #1 is devoted to bringing them all together. In doing so, Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis serve up a script that's heavy on talking heads. There are many introductions, explanations and revelations to get through, and Velma's dialogue is very verbose. As a result, the story inevitably drags. I kept wishing for a sharper, shorter summary as the long scenes went on.

However, "Scooby Apocalypse" #1 certainly has its own visual vibe. The issue opens at the Blazing Man festival, a Burning Man stand-in that Howard Porter and Hi-Fi take full advantage of. With out-there costumes and psychedelic greens that slide into electric blues, they create a world that looks as "groovy" as it does near-future. The backgrounds are packed, and the crowds are fully fleshed out. Throughout the issue, the characters are quite expressive, and Porter gives them each unique body language, from Velma's absurd, energetic runs to Fred's purposeful strides. Admittedly, there isn't much variety in framing or perspective; Porter uses too many close-up panels, but he's given so many conversations to portray that this was almost inevitable. In addition, Scooby's expressions sometimes look a touch monstrous or disturbing -- an effect that makes some sense in the world of the book, but contributes to the strange tone.

This tone is really what kept "Scooby Apocalypse" #1 from impressing me. Under the direction of Jim Lee, Giffen and DeMatteis have updated these characters' origins in various ways. Velma is the mover and shaker, but she's also distractingly melancholy. Moving between lines like that and a talking dog wearing emoji glasses just didn't feel consistent.

Daphne is a hungry young reporter, with Fred as her loyal co-host. However, the Daphne-Fred dynamic is uncomfortable. In trying to portray Daphne as the strong wild card, they instead make her a bit of a jerk. In what seems intended to be one of the issue's few out-and-out jokes, Daphne punches Fred for a crack about a "ratings sensation." It definitely reads as uncomfortable rather than empowered, out-of-place instead of amusing. I couldn't quite figure out why the moment was even in the issue. Going forward, the creators will need to iron that dynamic out.

Scooby and Shaggy, at least, have pretty much the same personalities. As with other Scooby comics, Scooby's distinctive "ruh roh" voice doesn't always translate into easy reading, but it works most of the time.

All told, "Scooby Apocalypse" #1 is an interesting, inoffensive reboot that needs more magic of its own to match the source material. I really wish this first issue had shown more than it told and moved more quickly to its most promising part, but the tone and the pacing just didn't get me excited.

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