The Bullet is back, Gang! After weeks and weeks of unavoidable life junk, I, your courageous comic connoisseur, am back to let you guys in on what’s good to read this week and what’s not. Enough intro, though. Let’s get right to it.
The Birth of a Cartoon Multiverse
Shared Universes are becoming all the rage. And this week, Hanna-Barbera joined the fray in what was one of my must-reads this year, and it did not disappoint. Back when I was a young(er) lad, I dug Space Ghost, and The Herculoids, and Jonny Quest, and Hanna-Barbera’s other properties. I never really considered myself a fan, really, because hey — I was a kid. I just loved cartoons. But when DC Comics and Hanna-Barbera promised me a mash-up of their characters, all the love I had for these properties came flooding back. But if it didn’t already work, here’s another reason why it does: even if you have no clue who Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, Frankenstein Jr., or Birdman are, it still works.
Future Quest #1 leads off with Team Quest, which was brilliant in that Jonny and Hadji have so little baggage attached to them, the reader can pick up who they are right away, along with their relationship to Dr. Quest and Race Bannon. To us older fans, this stuff is old hat. The younger fans might need to hit Google. and that’s okay. Early on, we’re introduced to a guy named Ray Randall, who is one of two agents assigned to Dr. Quest to assist the investigation into the appearances of mysterious vortexes. If you know Randall as Birdman, of Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, you’re bound to get a little surge of excitement at his appearance. If you don’t you’re still okay. Writer Jeff Parker, whose work on Batman ’66 is resume’ enough, gives the reader just enough information to tell us why he’s there without bogging us down with a lot of unnecessary exposition.
As far as story, Parker brings us dimensional vortices, kid adventurers, and cosmic heroes and villains, all in a Challengers of the Unknown meets The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen kind of feel. I was immediately drawn in, as I’d hoped, and based on Parker’s scripting, I’ll be around for the second issue. The tone is lighthearted and playful, but there’s still a sense of danger for our heroes. Parker wisely doesn’t overload us with too many characters, with the Quest family taking point, with smaller roles from Birdman and Space Ghost. This serves to let the plot unfold gently without getting crowded. Evan “Doc” Shaner’s art style helps in that regard, capturing perfectly that clean style of classic Hanna-Barbera animation. Shaner is able to switch from kid adventurer antics to James Bond-style action without you realizing there was any transition at all. And Jordie Bellaire’s colors complement the whole thing wonderfully.
After years of the buffoonery of Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, and Harvey Birdman: Attorney-at-Law, and The Venture Bros., it was a little odd to return to the more straightforward, heroic versions of these characters. But, as Future Quest can definitely prove, these characters are still beloved in their wholesome, non-satirized ways, reminding us of the more innocent time they represent.
You can take one look at the cover of Future Quest and know right away if it’s for you, or if it’s not. It has a strong sense of adventure, looks great, and moves quickly. You don’t have to have been a fan of Hanna-Barbera to enjoy this book. I’ll even give you a pass if you don’t know who the Herculoids are. All you need to enjoy this book is a love of good, comic book team-ups.
Next week: DC’s Rebirth event. This is DC’s “Hail Mary” pass to get it right, and judging by the stuff I’ve seen, it’ll definitely have fans talking. Stay tuned.