By Graeme McMillan
Wandering into Scooby Apocalypse #36 after skipping the majority of the rest of the series — I read the first handful of issues, before deciding that “It’s Scooby-Doo, but with zombies and taking itself very seriously” wasn’t really my bag — is quite an experience. The very first page features Velma’s brother, apparently melting and screaming, “Dais… eee…” in what the artwork identifies as a building belonging to a web design company. The second page features what looks like a skinny ice monster trying to strangle Velma while saying, “The Nanite King has come, mother — to offer you a great gift.” What has happened to the Scooby Gang and how can we pretend it’s all a horrible dream?!?
Obviously, a lot has happened in this three-year descent into what not to do with a beloved animated franchise, and “The End is Here!” — a somewhat lazy title for a final issue, let’s be honest — is an issue more concerned with tying off loose ends than explaining backstory to anyone unlucky enough to be reading without paying attention to what came before. Why, exactly, did Velma apparently create a nanite plague that’s transformed most of the world into monsters? Hopefully it was explained elsewhere, because it’s not really addressed here. What’s the point of Rufus, her melting brother? I have no idea. Why is she married to Shaggy? Why is this even a question that I have to ask?
Even without all the context, though, there’s a sense that this is more of a rushed conclusion than creators might have liked; there’s a lot of scenes of strangely weightless emotional resolution here, with characters declaring that they really love each other despite their differences or reflecting on their journeys, with each one increasingly forced and emphatic. In one two-page sequence, Scrappy-Doo — now a cyborg half-man half-dog hybrid, somehow — declares that it’s “been an honor” to know the Scooby Gang, Shaggy and Scooby declare each other family and best-friends, Shaggy tells Velma that he loves her “an’ only [her] — with all my heart,” and Daphne then appears to declare that it’s time for a group hug. Which leads Shaggy to declare, with open arms and increased font size, “Group hug!”
I’ve not even got onto the fact that Fred is now a literal zombie. Maybe we should just ignore that altogether, except he turns out to be the nonsensical Deus Ex Machina that somehow ends the nanite threat because… his nanites are good or something…? I’d say it was unclear if it wasn’t for the heavy exposition attempting to make everything obvious for the reader: “We’re returning home. Our faction rejoining yours — merging! Melding!” It’s simply that the explanation makes no sense when you really think about it. Somehow there’s… a virus in the good nanites that disables the bad nanites but couldn’t be activated until zombie Fred gives the Nanite King a hug, but still disables all the nanites around the world except for the ones that it doesn’t, because… that’s just what happens.
The thing about this book is… well, it’s not that Scooby Apocalypse is a bad comic, although it is. (It’s a really lovely looking comic, though; Pat Oliffe’s pencils, when inked by Tom Palmer, have a wonderfully rough, angular edge that’s a joy to look at.) It’s also not that the entire Scooby Apocalypse concept, which basically boils down to “What if we tried to take Scooby-Doo seriously and make it into a grim body horror sci-fi story,” is utterly misguided and fails to understand that the comedy and genre subversion of more traditional takes is the appeal of the whole thing, although that’s true as well.
No, it’s that Scooby Apocalypse #36 is such a very particular brand of strange that only comes from the wrong decisions continually being made. “Scooby-Doo versus a zombie plague” is a boring idea, but when you factor in, “we’re removing all the comedy,” that makes it worse. “They’re zombies because of nanites” is played out, but adding, “Velma made the zombies” is… pointless. Scooby-Doo is a cyborg! Scrappy-Doo is, once again, a cyborg half-man half-dog creature! None of these are good ideas.
When you put them all together, it’s overwhelming not in any useful, self-consciously zany way; your brain just shuts down and you stop caring. The world is saved in Scooby Apocalypse #36, Fred sacrifices himself for the greater good, and Velma has a baby — called Frederick Rufus Rogers-Dinkley, we learn on the last page — and I felt literally nothing, aside from being glad that everyone involved got a paycheck. The series lasted three years, so it clearly had fans somewhere, but I genuinely can’t work out why; based on this issue, this is an anti-comic, something that exists to remove all thoughts and feelings from you as you read it.
Something that, in fact, turns you into a zombie. Is that irony, or simply tragedy?
Scooby Apocalypse #36
Writer: J.M DeMatteis
Penciller: Pat Oliffe
Inker: Tom Palmer
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Editor: Harvey Richards
Graeme McMillan is a writer for the Hollywood Reporter, Wired and Playboy, as well as being one half of the Wait, What? podcast. He can be found on twitter here.
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