Run, don't walk, to your favorite neighborhood comics shoppe and get a copy of Wacky Raceland #1. Or, if you're a godawful Millennial (you young'uns with your complicated hair and your fancy vests), download it onto your phone so you have to squint to read it. What's wrong with you people? What the hell is wrong with good old-fashioned paper, which is how Ike read a comic, damn it! However you read it, you must read it. It's just that important!!!!
Wacky Raceland #1 by Ken Pontac (writer), Leonardo Manco (artist), Mariana Sanzone (colorist), Sal Cipriano (letterer), Brittany Holzherr (assistant editor), and Marie Javins (editor). $3.99, 28 pgs, FC, DC.
Good readers, when I first heard that DC was going to be doing comics based on Hanna-Barbera cartoons, I was skeptical. How can I not have been, given DC's rather sketchy track record? Then I heard that Jeff Parker and Evan Shaner were doing Future Quest, with Jonny Quest and a bunch of other characters, and I was heartened.
Parker and Shaner are fine creators, and the comic (with 9 inexplicably placed pages drawn by Steve Rude) was quite good. (Parker noted at Emerald City that DC did mention making it "darker," but he mentioned that Race broke necks in the original cartoon, so no, it probably didn't need to be darker, and we're all the better for it.) I also saw Jim Lee's redesigns for the Scooby-Doo gang, and if there's one thing you don't need, it's Jim Lee redesigning things. Hipster Shaggy? Cyberpunk Scooby? Angry Daphne? O ... kay. I made a joke about everyone involved in the comic needing to be punched, including the people who run the stapling machines, and I guess that includes me, because I used store credit to pick it up. I hoped it would be a "so bad it's awesome" comic, but despite the fact that it's from the Giffen/DeMatteis team, it was just kind of there. Too much origin storying, not enough craziness. It's not the worst comic I've ever read, but it's far from the best. Perhaps the final page promises absolute craziness in the future, but I'm not sure I care.
Then there was Wacky Raceland. Oh, how I have waited for Wacky Raceland, good readers. DC turning the really silly 1960s cartoon Wacky Races into a Mad Max-inspired post-apocalyptic comic? This had trainwreck potential ALL OVER IT. I've never heard of writer Ken Pontac (he writes kids' shows, cartoons, and video game stories), but just the premise made me all a-tingle. I've liked Leonardo Manco's art in the past, although I don't love his reliance on photo references, but how many photos can you find of wacky cars racing in a post-apocalyptic wasteland? So I had faith that Manco would do some serious drawing, which is never a bad thing.
I hoped that Pontac would basically say "Fuck it" and go batshit crazy with this, like Giffen and DeMatteis should have done with Scooby Apocalypse. I LIVED IN HOPE, PEOPLE!!!!!
And then ... this week arrived. Wacky Raceland showed up at the comics shoppe! Yes, I will have another post about the DC Rebirth titles just so I can shit all over DC (because that's what I do, don'tcha know). Yes, Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber's excellent new comedy crime comic, The Fix, shipped its third issue this week. Yes, one of my favorite current comics, Keith Giffen and Bilquis Evely's weird Sugar and Spike reboot, came out in the latest giant-sized Legends of Tomorrow (which is not only an amazing value - four 20-page comics for 8 bucks every month - but the other three series running in it are pretty good, too, except I'm not allowed to say that because I'm a Marvel shill). Yes, Lumberjanes and Gotham Academy are crossing over in what I imagine is a singularity of adorableness (I haven't read it yet). Yes, Ethan Hawke's Apache wars comic (stunningly illustrated by Greg Ruth) managed to make it to Arizona this week. Yes, Matt Kindt and Brian Hurtt's new graphic novel came out. NONE OF THAT MATTERS, GOOD READERS!!!!! WACKY RACELAND HAS ARRIVED!!!!!
I was, of course, really worried. Could it be the blast of batshit insanity that I wanted, nay, needed it to be?
There is no way this would work as a straight comic. That's kind of what doomed Scooby Apocalypse, despite the final page. I was extremely nervous, good readers, as I gazed upon that marvelous Tommy Lee Edwards cover. But I had to read it!!!! And so I opened the comic. And what did I see? A lurid pink twilight outside a ramshackle place called the Armageddon Bar, with an eight-legged lizard silhouetted against the sky as it leapt around. Then, in the second panel, the cars talk to each other. THE CARS TALK TO EACH OTHER!!!!! Yes, all the cars in Wacky Raceland are sentient. Holy shit, that bodes well. In that same second panel, a random dude wanders the parking lot puking. BECAUSE WHY THE HELL NOT?!?!?!? Then, on the second page, one of the cars blasts the lizard into oblivion because the lizard dared pee on it just before the random dude vomits on said car. Oh, this is a good beginning, good readers. THIS IS WHAT I'M HERE FOR!!!!!
Then we go inside the bar. One dude has the greatest haircut in history. You think I'm lying?
Another dude is wearing a bear's head on his head. He is, apparently, brain-damaged, but even if he weren't, he's living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland - if I had a bear's head, I'd sure as shit wear it! Plus, he has a bear's arm. HE HAS THE ARM OF A BEAR!!!! Penelope Pitstop - the only character beside Muttley that I knew just by looking at her, mainly because she was the only woman in the cartoon and she's dressed in pink - lounges in a booth surrounded by empty bottles, and she's approached by a three-headed mutant with, I swear to FSM, a leg with a fishnet stocking on it where a penis would usually be. A group of identical weird-looking dudes - the Ant Hill Mob - offers to help Penelope out, but she doesn't need it, throwing the three-headed mutant over the bar, which of course leads to a bar fight. Because of course it does. We're on Page Five, by the way.
TALKING CARS, FRIED LIZARD, PUKING RANDOS, BEAR HEADS/ARMS, THREE-HEADED QUASI-CROSS-DRESSING MUTANTS, IDENTICAL WEIRDOS, HOT GIRLS, ARMORED DOGS (that's Muttley, who shows up as the three-headed mutant gets thrown over the bar), AND BAR FIGHTS ... ON THE FIRST FIVE PAGES!!!!!
Then there's a double-page splash. You might recall my strident rage about full-page splashes last time I reviewed recent DC comics, but I don't have anything against splash pages as long as they're stuffed with content (and this week's DC Rebirth titles have some really nice ones). The one in this comic takes us back in time to the day's race, and Manco gets to draw every single racer and their cars. They're all here: Dick Dastardly and Muttley in a beautiful Mean Machine; Penelope in the Compact Pussycat; Sergeant Blast in the Army Surplus Special; Professor Pat Pending in a helicopter car; the Ant Hill Mob; the Red Baron in his flying car; the Slag Brothers driving a car with mammoth tusks on the front; Rufus Ruffcut and Sawtooth; Lazy Luke and Blubber Bear (the dude wearing the bear's head on his head); the Gruesome Twosome driving a car adorned with bones; and Peter Perfect. It's glorious, I tells ya, GLORIOUS!!!!
Pontac slows down just enough to give us Penelope's origin story, which still only takes up two pages (I should be precise and note it's only 1¾ pages - this comic is lean). She's Greek; her family died in "the flood" which helped destroy the world; a disembodied voice called the "Announcer" saved her and promised her (and the other racers) a trip to "Utopia," the only place untouched by the disaster, if she races and wins; the Announcer has somehow made her car sentient; she gets some kind of enhancements that presumably allow her to survive and thrive in the wasteland. Boom! we're done - do we really need any more?
The comic goes back and forth from the race to the bar fight (Manco gets to draw a full-page splash that, again, puts Ethan van Sciver's "Hal hanging in the sky doing jack shit" to shame - there are TWENTY-THREE characters on the page, all fighting each other, plus a bunch of bats, and also someone getting their head caved in), and each page is awesome.
Pontac makes sure the race resembles the races in the cartoons if you view it a bit askance - Peter Perfect tries to rescue Penelope, but of course, in this reality she's far badder-ass than he is, and Dick is always ahead in the race but never wins - but because it's in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, he can have a lot more fun. Here's some of the things you will find in this comic:
- Giant creatures called "sandtipedes" that have dozens of legs and several rows of sharp teeth
- TWENTY-THREE characters on one splash page, all engaged in a bar fight (I know I just mentioned it, but it bears repeating)
- Something called "Africanized battlejackets," which are armored swarming insects
- A Nazi Red Baron, which makes no sense but why the hell not
- A transgender character talking about cutting off her junk because she's happier as a "damn fabulous woman"
- Giant creatures getting blowed the fuck up
- Penelope doing something that she declares is "so metal" which is, indeed, one of the most metal things you will ever see
- Dick Dastardly actually smacking Penelope on the ass, which gets him punched
THIS IS ALL IN TWENTY PAGES!!!!! Which is, not to put too fine a point on it, exactly how many pages DC allots to all its titles, yet this feels so much longer than certain other comics where we get splash pages of Bruce Wayne languidly hanging from a helipad. It's packed with content, and said content is all awesome. AND THEN THERE'S A BACK-UP STORY!!!!! Yes, DC charged us $3.99 for the privilege of reading Wacky Raceland, but they eased the pain by adding an eight-page story at the end, and if every issue of this comic goes that route (IhopeIhopeIhope!!!!!), that's a pretty good value (a slightly better value than $2.99 for 20 pages, and a MUCH better value than $3.99 for 20 pages, obvs). The back-up story is charmingly called "And Sometimes the Bear Eats You" and is the "secret origin" of Lazy Luke and Blubber Bear. It's just as awesome as the main story, frankly, as Luke drinks a lot (and both of them drink when they're not yet teenagers in a flashback, which is awesome), a bear attacks, and things get amazingly bloody. For people who think I complain about Geoff Johns's bloodthirstiness when he writes stories where people get their arms ripped off because I don't like seeing people getting their arms ripped off in comics, well, they're wrong.
I just don't think it's the best tone for superheroes, but I don't have an inherent problem with it. I mention this because the bear rips off someone's arm, and it's AH-MAH-ZING. So ... yeah. Pre-teens drinking as their world explodes, bear attacks, and carnage. What's not to love?
I really have no idea if this is a good comic or not. It's wildly cynical, of course, as DC simply tries to cash in on old cartoon properties that their core audience has a soft spot for. But they got Parker and Shaner (and Rude) for Future Quest and let Parker do pretty much what he wanted, they got Giffen and DeMatteis to try to recreate some of their magic (and Howard Porter's latter-day artwork is very nice, although I still prefer his 1990s stylings), and they unleashed Pontac and Manco on this sucker, so it's not quite as cynical as you might think. I'm not sure it's a good comic simply because it's so batshit insane that I don't know if I love it because it's as batshit insane as I wanted it to be or because it's actually good. I guess it doesn't really matter - I can love things unconditionally occasionally, and Wacky Raceland makes it really easy to do. It's nice to see that in a world where we actually get an explanation of why Scooby can talk (it doesn't matter - it's a cartoon, for crying out loud!!!), Pontac gives us an "Announcer" who metaphorically snaps his/her fingers (it's a disembodied voice, remember) and cars are suddenly sentient. It's so COMICS! that I almost cried tears of joy more than once reading this comic. I have no idea if this will continue or if I'll even get issue #2 (if they keep the back-up stories, I probably will, but if they drop it to 20 pages but keep the $3.99 - which I fear they will, as issue #3 says "32 pages," which is the same as their $2.99 books - I will probably trade-wait), but with half the year still to go, this is the favorite to get my SHARK-MAN AWARD FOR AWESOMEST COMIC OF THIS YEAR AND POSSIBLY EVER, which is of course the most coveted award in comics!!!!
Buy Wacky Raceland. I PROMISE you won't be disappointed!!!!!