-Post contains spoilers-
Following their Mall-Mart escape, the members of the Scooby gang seek medical attention for Fred in a conveniently-located hospital. While Velma works to treat the injury, the rest of the gang becomes aware that they are not the only humans in the hospital after hearing blood-curdling screams.
This installment is largely focused on Daphne and Shaggy as the two of them venture with Scooby-Doo through the hospital to find the source of the screams. Shaggy prioritizes helping Fred and getting him back to the Mystery Machine before they begin their search so they can make a quick escape, further showing that he possesses a logistically adept mindset. While he’s not exactly the best person to come up with a plan or figure things out, what he can do is rein in the rest of the gang and keep them on track with his everyday logic. He doesn’t just prove he has a good head on his shoulders; he also proves he’s willing to function as a capable member of the team. By volunteering to not only accompany Daphne but also to search the unfamiliar hospital for medicine shows that he, like Scooby-Doo, is willing to dust his terror under the rug to help those he cares about. This is similar to his role in the cartoon, though he often needed coaxing with a Scooby Snack there. To reference Game of Thrones, a man can only display true bravery when he is absolutely terrified, and Shaggy is more and more becoming the epitome of bravery in their twisted world.
Daphne, meanwhile, is almost frantically concerned about the other people in the hospital. Given her stubborn and brash nature, one might think she’d be apt to ignore them. However, she is genuinely worried and wants to rush to find the other people to save them. Perhaps it’s her journalistic side urging her to investigate an unknown quantity, similar to how she constantly badgers Velma for information. Whatever the reason, Daphne finally displays a likable quality in her heroic daringness, slightly distancing her from the hot-tempered cliche she was becoming. Even Velma begins to break away from her archetype, rushing in to save Daphne and crew when she thinks they are in danger. (How many different remotes does she have for that drone?)
The monster this time around is actually fairly terrifying. A crazed (blue) physician trying to “save” his patients, the monster is a welcome break from Halloween-style ghouls and goblins. In his wake, or perhaps the wake of other beasts, gory human remains lie scattered across the hospital floors and beds. I’m thankful we get a bit of atmosphere build-up this time around instead of just jumping into the fray as has been the standard thus far. Gory details like the ones in this issue help to really sell the whole apocalypse deal.
The monster’s (or perhaps the hospital’s) abilities don’t exactly make much sense, though. The whole building transforms into a conglomeration of melded doctors and nurses that tries to block all the exits for our heroes. Velma and Fred, upon later hearing about this, don’t believe what happened, so maybe future installments will expand upon the seemingly bizarre nature of some of these beasts’ powers. After all, we don’t want Daphne, Shaggy, and Scooby-Doo to feel like they just imagined the whole thing forever. Unless, of course, it turns out they did.
An unexpected, and disappointing, writing choice is how Scooby-Doo was immediately present at the start of the issue, despite his disappearance being a cliffhanger last issue. I was sure he was going to run into some trouble on his own or at least cause some inner turmoil within the gang regarding his missing status. But no, he’s just there. We don’t even get to see him reunite with the gang. I wonder how he lost all those creatures as fast as he did…
The biggest and most noticeable problem with this issue is the art shift. Dale Eaglesham illustrates the first half of this issue, and his gritty style meshes fairly well when compared to the series’ main penciler Howard Porter. Eaglesham’s art work is great, and I actually prefer his Fred design to Porter’s. It’s a shame when Ron Wagner takes over for the second half of this issue, employing an art style that looks, for lack of a better word, cartoonish. As soon as the style changed I was instantly reminded of the old Scooby-Doo cartoons, which would be a great thing if this was a more lighthearted series. But given the gore and heavy tone of this issue, the shift is really jarring and just kind of ruins the mood of the rest of the issue. Not to mention, Scooby-Doo and Velma are both proportionally off in several panels, with the former looking enormous and the latter appearing almost a child. Scooby Apocalypse generally has very strong visual presentation, but the shift to Wagner’s work in this issue drops the ball.
Aside from some artistic issues, this was a good issue overall. While the monster was in fact an unexpected and appreciated twist on what we’ve come to expect, its powers still don’t make much sense. I hope that doesn’t just get chalked up to a random writing choice and in fact the powers of these creatures gets explored later. I’m willing to overlook it for now and instead focus on the breathing room we got this issue to develop the members of the gang. It’d be nice to do a little more with these monsters besides having the gang just fight or run from them, as the series is still very much a “monster of the month” comic right now. But if the series can continue to build a decent atmosphere around the monsters each issue until we meet our destined antagonists (The Four), I don’t think this formula will go stale too quickly. Details are always important in a series, but they are practically paramount to this series’ continued life at this point.