– Post may contain spoilers –
There’s the old expression of the calm coming before the storm. While the series is almost surely gearing up for something big, this issue plays it slow and gives the gang time to rest up and talk things out while also having one character come to a depressing realization. You’d think in a comic about gruesome monsters and gritty survival that having an issue with practically no deformed creatures would disadvantage the series, but issue #9 of Scooby Apocalypse is one of the strongest entries into the series yet.
The issue starts with the gang holed up in a random house after escaping the hospital. Fred is still healing and Velma is still attempting to log in to The Complex’s servers. (It’s seriously just called The Complex? I had assumed that was just a shorthand name.) Velma ends up making a startling and sickening discovery, and she finally begins to come to terms with her own involvement in the apocalypse. We finally start to see Velma’s eyes, previously shrouded behind her glasses, showing how she can no longer hide behind her defensive guise now that she has confirmed the truth herself. Despite all her protesting, she realizes she is in fact to blame for what has happened, and she is going to have to grapple with the consequences.
Besides Velma’s revelation, the gang receives a few panels to engage in more mundane, yet still insightful, banter. It’s relaxing and enjoyable to say the least, largely in part because of the lack of eye-roll-inducing monsters around. In fact, there’s not much of anyone around. Shaggy comments how the town is completely empty, a fact I have actually been noticing too. Even at the hospital area and the supermarket, with a population as high as the United States there should be more creatures or bodies around than the series is showing. Fred passes it off as people possibly just vanishing as a result of the nanites, but I’m not sure I buy that, and apparently Shaggy doesn’t either, as his danger senses continue to tingle. It seems too convenient. The apocalypse is only a few days old, but already the setting feels akin to Season 4 The Walking Dead, where encounters of both the undead and living are more seldom thanks to the passage of time. Something’s off, and whether it’s a future plot revelation or just writing convenience remains to be seen.
Speaking of missing people, I can’t be the only one wondering about the gang’s families, right? Aside from Velma, we’ve hardly had any mention of the gang being worried about their parents, siblings, or friends. It’s unnecessary for the story’s sake, but taking some time to address this issue could provide some additional background for our cast.
After the gang leaves the house, the group travels to both a gas station and a motel for additional supplies and shut-eye, respectively. Velma and Daphne pair up to gather supplies while the guys watch the Mystery Machine. Their conversation comes dangerously close to devolving into their typical back-and-forth argument, but it barely manages to avoid doing so by providing new dialogue showing how both characters are in fact trying to set aside their differences in order to work together. The exchange is a little shaky, with some of Velma’s lines coming off more like forced foreshadowing, but overall it works, if only because it avoided being the same old annoying conversation to which we’ve gotten accustomed. However, with Velma making a decision at the motel regarding her involvement with Project Elysium, it’ll be interesting to see how their character growth holds up to this new development.
The last portion of the issue focuses on Scrappy-Doo as he seeks out supplies for his followers. While the visuals are mostly of him ripping apart creatures in his way, the meat of this segment comes from his inner monologue revealing why he is so bitter towards Scooby-Doo and his overall situation. There’s an emotional scene at the end where Scrappy encounters a starving pet store dog, leaving readers to ponder a gut-wrenching question. If the humans all got turned or eaten, what happened to the poor animals without the fortune to tag along with Scrappy? It’s a minor detail that helps view the setting through a wider and more melancholy lens than just monsters vs. survivors, and it also helps paint Scrappy as a more complex character. Frankly, I hope we get more moments like this one. I went into this segment thinking, “Ugh, a Scrappy scene.” I turned the last page thinking, “Wow, what a Scrappy scene.”
Wagner’s art is back on full display this issue, accompanied by that of new artist Bill Reinhold, with Eaglesham illustrating Scrappy’s story at the end of the comic. There’s no awkward art shift this time, as Wagner and Reinhold’s art styles are not staggeringly different, so the more cartoon-like designs are tolerable. I’d argue he actually appropriately adjusted his style somewhat to lean a little more on the gloomy side. The first part of the issue kept reminding me of television sitcoms, albeit if they were more depressing in tone, so the less gritty style actually felt appropriate. I’m still not enthusiastic about Wagner’s art given how well the art of Porter and Eaglesham fits the bulk of the story, but I will admit it comes off as less silly when it’s not directly compared to their styles and when Wagner’s not drawing intense action scenes. I do hope we see more of Porter in subsequent issues, though, as his art was such a treat and really helped sell Scooby Apocalypse as a mature title.
The humor is firing on all cylinders here too. Comedic timing with the gang’s dialogue is close to the best it has been over the series’ entire run. The series engages in a little more potty humor this issue, but it is executed more tastefully this issue and doesn’t take away from anything else happening. That Giffen and DeMatteis can intertwine such genuine (if often morbid) humor with such a dark narrative truly speaks to the capabilities of this series. It’s not always operating at its best, but when it is the series has the potential to stand among some of the best titles available.
This calm probably won’t last much longer, but it has so far been a welcome break from the near-repetitiveness of the monster encounters. Even Daphne admits it feels like all they do is encounter monsters and loot stores, so changing it up for a bit is welcome. Now that Velma’s secrets are coming to light, it will be interesting to see how both she and the rest of the gang handles them. This is going to be a make-or-break moment for the series as it begins to finally reveal the truth about what happened. Now that Scooby Apocalypse is starting to take the plot plunge, one can only hope that it will stick the landing.