DC Comics and Hanna-Barbera have made quite an impressive team since the two entertainment giants have joined forces to form a nostalgia fueled juggernaut. Not only have the 1960’s cartoon characters enjoyed pairing up with top-tier DC characters but, these unconventional team-ups have attracted A-List creators as well including current Batman scribe Tom King.
As for the diabolical Dick Dastardly and his sinister sidekick Muttely, you may remember the devilish duo from the Wacky Raceland limited series. Set in a dystopian desert wasteland, this post apocalyptic tale of competing racecar drivers owed as much to Mad Max as it did to the old Saturday morning cartoons that originally spawned them. The pernicious pair has undergone something of a makeover since their turn behind the wheel of Wacky Raceland; Dastardly was a world-class pianist named Richard D’Astardlien. The somewhat less than brave pianist lost his wife and son due largely to his cowardice during a nanite attack, in an uncharacteristically selfless act he enters the race to Utopia as a last chance to see his loved ones reborn. As for Muttley, he was mutated and robotically enhanced through exposure to the SC-00-B2 serum by Professor Pat Pending giving him a slightly elevated intelligence as well as a heightened aggressive nature. This also shows that these stories were set in a shared universe with Scooby Apocalypse which would open the door for crossovers galore, however this is not the same Dastardly and Muttley of record.
Enter Lt. Col R. Atcherly aka Dick and Capt. D. Muller, a pair of F15 pilots flying daring missions predominantly over the Mid-East. This particular mission has their crosshairs set on the Islāmic nation of Unliklistan which was all but completely wiped off the map five years prior in a nuclear reactor mishap. Our pair of flying aces plus one (oh yeah Muller has gone against all regs and common sense to bring his dog along in the cockpit) are tasked with bringing down a missing drone full of secret surveillance data then returning home. Easy peasy lemon squeezey right? Wrong. There is a complex conspiracy in place and as if that isn’t enough to contend with there appears to be some kind of David Lynchian reality breach at work trying to change the world into a “real life” Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Let the games begin, this book, while exposition heavy at times, is pure fun and not at all what we have come to expect from the prolific Garth Ennis. Sure Ennis can spin a fine yarn of dueling fighter planes capturing the pathos of these pilots as he has done so well so many times before, but those were largely set in World War II and all firmly based in reality sans canine co-pilots and cartoon sound effects straight out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. So I was a bit unsure going into to this, especially since all of my favorite Ennis work is more horror than humor, however I am happy to say after reading the first issue that this mad Scotsman can write just about anything. He approaches the story as he would any other at the outset then methodically drops the more comedic elements on us one at a time until we are completely onboard for this madcap mission over Unliklistan. The dialogue is so strong and the characterizations so solid that the suspension of disbelief is almost automatic. Of course the final third of the issue does get more than a little crazy, but Ennis is such a precision storyteller that it all flows together seamlessly. In the hands of a less accomplished writer the end of this book could have felt drafted onto another story entirely, but Ennis pulls it off and leaves us wanting more.
Mauricet does a bang up job on the visuals calling to mind a bit of Kevin Maguire with a dash of Gary Frank and even a smattering of Frank Quitely. There is a believability to his anatomy while his facial expressions maintain a certain stylized look that is completely original. His renderings of the fighter jets are spot on, at least as far as I can tell and his dynamic page layouts help to pick up the pace when Ennis’ exposition threatens to slow the progress to a crawl. This is a great collaborative effort that pays off in a solid first issue.
Overall I have to say that Ennis was able to tell an engrossing story with the help of some first-rate visuals from artist extraordinaire, Mauricet. There were some narrative lulls, but the kinetic energy of the fantastic artwork proved more than enough to carry the issue when the need arose. I like the DC/Hanna-Barbera offerings, however I am happy this is a six issue mini because I don’t see enough in this particular iteration of these characters to justify an ongoing series, that being said I will certainly stick around for the entirety of this one. 3/5
Writer- Garth Ennis Artist- Mauricet