Have you ever gone to a movie and left going,”What did I just watch?” It’s not that you didn’t enjoy it, it probably had a stellar cast (with extra cool cameos), most likely it was a genre parody, and you really wanted to love it. But, “What did I just watch? Also, why is this even a thing?” Then the inexplicable sequel comes out, and you go watch that, more out of morbid curiousity than anything.
That’s sort of how I felt after reading Dastardly & Muttley. These have always been a couple of my favorite Hanna-Barbera characters. I always cheered for them to win the Wacky Races cartoon, and even with the drastic re-design for the post-apocalyptic reboot Wacky Raceland, I found them the be the most compelling characters in the series. I will admit to suffering from a touch of nostalgia but, at the same time, I love seeing new iterations of my old favorites and try to view these things on their own merit. I legitimately enjoy the 1998 Godzilla and the 2001 Planet of the Apes, both of which are terrible travesties when compared to their respective source material.
With Dastardly & Muttley, the intention seems to have been to take the duo back to their more comedic roots. The story beings in a generically middle eastern “-stan” country, and the launch of their new power reactor that uses the rare element Unstabilium 239. Naturally it ends in much exploding.
Soon after, a USAF recon flight flown by “Dick” and “Mutt” is flying over the area in search of a downed predator drone that was gathering intelligence on the disaster site. For some inexplicable reason, Mutt snuck his pet dog into the fighter jet and, for some equally inexplicable reason, Dick didn’t notice until they were in the air and well into their mission.
Well, the drone has somehow managed to still be flying and it crosses the path of the jet, covering it in a strange, multicoloured cloud of weirdness. At this point, we start going full on Roger Rabbit, with the control stick of the jet becoming a cartoon steering wheel, Mutt’s eyes popping out, and the eject button being labeled “beautiful shiny.”
Dick wakes up in a hospital and is immediately question by a pair of adequately generic secret agent types, until one of them starts talking like Elmer Fudd. Remember, these are Hanna-Barbera characters, not Looney Toons, although both are owned by Warner Brothers (as is DC Comics). The issue ends with the anticlimactic reveal (because it is ON THE COVER) that Mutt has somehow merged with his dog.
On the positive side of things, the art (by Mauricet) is very well done. He manages to balance the “real world” aspects and the ever growing “weird” aspects extremely well. The “real world” is real enough to convey that it is intended to be normal, but just cartoon enough to make the “weird” stuff seem weird but not implausibly out of place. Even though I’m not fully sold on the plot yet, I do feel that Garth Ennis’ writing hit the tone they were aiming for, so that gives me some hope for the remaining five issues.
I really want to love this, but find I can’t. Maybe I’m so jaded that I just didn’t get it. I want to keep reading this, though, mostly out of the aforementioned morbid curiosity and the hope that it gets better instead of just more confusing.
I’m giving this a 2 out of 5 for now. Again, I really hope this gets better. This story and the version of the characters it presents, may simply not be for me, but I also can’t see younger readers getting some of the decades old references. (But do they really need to?)
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