Four new one-shot crossovers between the DC Comics universe and classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters landed today. Last year, a similar crossover event focused on HB properties that DC was already featuring in comics – Jonny Quest met Adam Strange; the Flintstones were invaded by Booster Gold; Space Ghost clashed, then teamed, with Green Lantern – the odd one out was the Banana Splits (not a cartoon, not appearing in a comic) teaming with the Suicide Squad.
This year, the focus is on HB characters from the ’70s, and the stories get weird and, in some cases, wonderful. We have Aquaman/Jabberjaw, Super Sons (Superboy and Robin)/Blue Falcon & Dynomutt, Black Lightning/Hong Kong Phooey, and Flash/Speed Buggy. Which are the winners and losers? Which are most worth your precious time and money? You know, a comic from when Hong Kong Phooey was on the air only cost 20 cents (adjusted for inflation, that’s about a buck in today’s dollars); these bad boys clock in at about $5 each. Our rankings and reviews follow below – in order. Minor spoilers ahoy.
Writer Dan Abnett knocks this story out of the park, and penciler Paul Pelletier does the same, somehow giving us a bit of that mirthful HB design dynamic, even when translated into more of a modern DC action style. Jabberjaw’s eyes seem to sparkle; his expression is as endearingly dumb as this version’s:
The Jabberjaw story is harmoniously integrated into those of the DCU – he’s from the future, an alternate future, and was accidentally shuttled back to Aquaman’s time as part of the schemes of a future villain called Ocean Master (not Aquaman’s Ocean Master) to change his own timeline. We get to travel forward to Los Aquales, meet the whole gang in Jabberjaw’s band, and get an easily digestible backstory for how there is super-intelligent sea life swimming around. There is a high joke density here, teamed with a certain poignancy – a homeless dolphin sleeps next to a sign: “will balance balls for food,” for instance. And the whole “no respect” thing – Jabberjaw’s catchphrase – is rampant and increasingly amusing: in this alternate future, Aquaman was only a cartoon character, a la Captain Planet, and nobody in the future takes him seriously – echoes of how he’s been treated poorly both in-continuity and by comics fans for decades.
Since the resolution is almost taken for granted in a one-shot such as this (heroes win!), it’s the ride getting there, the execution that matters, and not only is this the best of the one-shots, it’s a fun book with a little more heft than you’d expect. A fine book regardless of the crossover gimmick. Add that to the fact that there’s a Captain Caveman backup story by Jeff Parker – one of the funniest comics writers around – and artist Scott Kolins, and it ties Cavey into the Shazam mythos? WINNER.
2nd PLACE: FLASH/SPEED BUGGY
This story by writer Scott Lobdell and artist Brett Booth gets big points for two things:
(1) The story integrating Speed Buggy into the DCU is nearly seamless. Speed Buggy is borne of a scientist experimenting with and venturing into the Speed Force – the very thing that grants the Flash family their speediness. And the resolution perfectly explains why a talking car ends up wandering around with a group of teenagers.
(2) The villains are perfect. The DCU villain is Savitar, the so-called “God of Speed” – while his minions are versions of Speed Buggy that have been transformed by a very on point “Flash logic” into Speed Demon Buggy and, even more amusing, Reverse Speed Buggy (who amusingly, talks backwards: Peeb! Peeb!).
We also appreciate the scientist’s name, Dr. M. Blanc – after the man who voiced Speed Buggy in the cartoons, not to mention many more famous icons (a certain Wabbit, for instance). And we enjoyed that it was Wally rather than Barry. And a big, fun couple of crowd scenes allowing cameos for a motley crew from both the DCU and the HB properties at the end (see above!).
3rd PLACE: BLACK LIGHTNING/HONG KONG PHOOEY
By no means should being the third-best of these give the impression that the BL/HKP one-shot isn’t good. This Brian Hill-written book is the most action-packed of the four books, with the best art of the four – Denys Cowan pencils and Bill Sienkiewicz inks. What a dream lineup. It’s got this great 1970s vibe, with a real Kung Fu movie feel. The DCU villains represented are two of my personal faves, the Bronze Tiger and Cheshire; the HB villain is Professor Presto, who somehow never seems to cross over to “menacing,” even when he ends up with power over reality.
It’s nice to see Rosemary cast as Phooey’s student rather than in her classic role as a police telephone board operator. If we have a complaint, it’s that HKP is really the focus of the story; we would have appreciated seeing Jefferson Pierce (AKA Black Lightning) on a bit more of an even footing.
The backup – another by Jeff Parker, this one penciled by Scott Kolins, features the Funky Phantom, who is summoned as an expert witness to talk about our American forefathers’ intent in establishing the second amendment. Yeah, you read that right. It is a clever tale, and even though we’re in agreement with the points it’s making, it struck us as a bit heavy-handed.
In sum – number three, yeah, but a bronze medal = still a good book we’d strongly consider shelling out money for, even beyond the sweet art.
IN THE DOGHOUSE: SUPER SONS/DYNOMUTT AND THE BLUE FALCON
Not only was this our least favorite of the bunch, we’d probably save our dollars for a better purchase. It’s solidly okay – fine art by Fernando Pasarin and a story by Peter J. Tomasi that casts Blue Falcon solidly into his Batman analog role. But there is zero joy in this story; very self-serious, with a solid mix of every “dog and his boy” movie where one of them dies (in this case, more than once)… there’s just very little here that screams “buy me.” The best thing about the book is the villain, the Red Vulture, specifically his visuals. Overall, certainly not bad, but not exciting or noteworthy. Probably enjoyable enough when you read it in the inevitable trade collection of these four.
Overall? We’re tickled that DC continues to publish crossover such as this one, the similar one last year, and the Looney-Tunes crossovers as well. Another of those is coming up soon, and we’ll have the goods for you sooner than later.
Images: DC Comics, Hanna-Barbera