With DC releasing another set of crossovers featuring beloved characters from Hanna-Barbera on Halloween, I can’t say for certain if this was intended to be a trick or a treat. As with most crossovers of this nature, you get a mixed bag. Some are surprisingly entertaining or so outlandishly bad that they’re good… Meanwhile, others have a tendency to justify the, “Why are you even doing this?” argument because they’re so terribly bad. So how did this batch turn out? Well… it’s 50/50 as far as the titles themselves are concerned.
Deathstroke/ Yogi Bear #1
Deathstroke/ Yogi Bear is perhaps the strangest pairing out of the lot. It is the one title that going into this, I wondered how in the hell they’d pull it off, and if I’m being honest… They didn’t. I’m all for playing with characters and doing something wildly different with them for a special, but the problem here is that they didn’t necessarily do anything different. You have Deathstroke, and he exacts as you would expect Deathstoke to act. He’s a killer and a mercenary. Then you have Yogi Bear, who is the fun-loving park dweller in search of a good’ol pic-a-nic basket.
Sure, you could have fun with this idea. You could replace with park ranger with Deathstroke, and give Yogi a new adversary that is a little more lethal than what he’s used to, but that’s not the approach Frank Tieri decided to take. Instead, we get Deathstroke and Yogi working together to find a missing Boo Boo… With rabid, mutated animals on the loose killing people. Yeah, see, again based on the first part of that description (Deathstroke and Yogi working together to find Boo Boo), this could’ve worked… But then you introduce the “rabid, mutated animals” part, and things just get weird – mind you, not in a good way.
Even what should’ve worked in this story – the team-up – falls flat. The innocent, aloof nature of Yogi should have been comedy gold when introduced to Deathstokes brutal methods, but Tieri barely played into this. There are scenes where Deathstroke kills multiple animals or people, and the response from Yogi is merely a throwaway line, if it even qualifies as that. While reading the issue, I kept thinking, “Man, that was a missed opportunity.” Which is, quite frankly, the best way to describe this issue: a missed opportunity. Tieri could’ve gone way over the top with this crossover, and while he does in certain aspects, he doesn’t embellish what makes this pairing such a fun and hilarious team-up.
The story isn’t awful, but it’s not great either. I’ll admit that it was slightly entertaining, but just barely. This story, for me, is about as mediocre as a story can get, it just happens to feature two characters who you would never expect to see share a story together. If there is one thing worth checking this book out for, it’s Mark Texeira’s art.
Green Lantern/ Huckleberry Hound #1
If you’re familiar with Mark Russell’s work, then, generally speaking, you most likely know what you’re going to get here. That’s not a bad thing, just merely a comment on his style of writing. You’re going to get a politically fueled narrative with a relevant theme pertaining to societal realities we face today… Which is exactly what Green Lantern/ Huckleberry Hound is.
Set during the socially turbulent 1970’s, Russell takes advantage of the state of our country then, to mirror the social inadequacies we face today. In this case, we have John Stewart, a newly appointed Green Lantern, witnessing and understanding the injustices endured by the black community – especially from police officers. In many ways, this is a powerful read. It touches on and accurately depicts scenarios that are all to real for the black community. From racial profiling and unlawful arrests to excessive force, Russell doesn’t hold back. It’s terrific and needed commentary for today! But… the story sells itself short.
Russell’s script, while accurate and poignant, is incredibly one-sided. Every cop in this story is a terrible person and apparently racist. Every. Single. Cop. For me, this tarnishes the story you’re trying to tell because it isn’t an accurate depiction. There’s a great, emotional arc for John Stewart here, and the themes presented here, as well as the ties it creates with Vietnam, family loss, and social injustice are nearly perfect, but are unfortunately brought down by the heavy-handed, one-sided tone of the story. Had there been one single officer who wasn’t abhorrently evil, then I wouldn’t complain, but every one of their depictions are to the extreme. That’s not to say they aren’t accurate for some cops, but extreme and not accurate of every cop.
Now, you might be wondering why I haven’t said anything about Huckleberry Hound… Quite frankly, I can’t tell you why he’s even here. Aside from a few lines that turn him into a soundboard for Stewart, he plays no distinct role in this story. It’s a shame. As much as I love aspects of this story, I wish Russell would’ve found a better story to tell for this crossover, and saved this narrative for a Green Lantern or Justice League one-shot.
As for the art, Rick Leonardi provides some respectable work. His pencils aren’t incredibly detailed, but there’s just enough to get the point across. He does excel with his layouts and approach to storytelling though. Each page is full of visual context that helps lift this story to another level.
Nightwing/ Magilla Gorilla #1
Of all of the DC/ Hanna-Barbera crossovers we were graced with during this wave, Nightwing/ Magilla Gorilla is my favorite, and easily the most entertaining! Why? Because it’s fun! And that’s what I think these crossovers should be. Fun. When you look at this from a surface level, you might wonder how something as absurd as a book featuring Nightwing and a talking gorilla could work, but it does. Most of this success plays into the characters themselves, their personalities, and the genuine goodness that can be found in them! When all is said and done, they’re likable characters who mostly enjoy other people.
For this issue, we’re treated to a Hollywood satire that brings Dick and Magilla together out of fanfare. Magilla is a famous, Hollywood actor, but as a longtime fan of the Flying Graysons, he’s been moved by Dick’s story and wants to produce it for film. It’s a nice change of pace to put the Graysons at the forefront thematically – not necessarily because of what happened to them, but because of who they were and how much they were appreciated. We often get moments of this from Dick’s perspective, but rarely from an outside perspective that has no personal connection to the family.
We can’t just have a feel-good, happy story though. At some point, something dramatic has to happen. In this case, it’s a murder mystery, with Magilla being painted as the prime suspect. I wouldn’t consider the mystery gripping, but it is a fun ride, with both leads coming off as engaging and enjoyable throughout the story. In fact, the characterization is so good that I wouldn’t mind seeing Heath Corson get a shot as the permanent writer for Nightwing. The story is illustrated by Tom Derenick and Tom Grummett, who not only blend their art quite well, but perfectly balance the various tones of this story! Of all of the crossovers, Nightwing/ Magilla Gorilla #1 is the best bang for your buck.
Superman/ Top Cat #1
Whenever DC releases a batch of crossover one-shots with another brand, we typically expect an abundance of mediocrity, a surprisingly good read or two, and then a complete dumpster fire from the bunch. Superman/ Top Cat #1 is the dumpster fire of this bunch. It stinks. I love Superman, and like Nightwing, his persona opens him up to the possibility of telling some incredibly fun stories for these crossovers… but this is… bad.
I blame part of this issue’s shortcomings on the fact that neither Superman or Top Cat feel like the focus, but instead, Kalien, the alien plant that is set-up as the antagonist for this issue, is. There’s a lot that happens here, but none of it feels relevant – even for a story that is ultimately as irrelevant as the crossovers are. In fact, Superman and Tom Cat kind of feel like they’re just here for the sake of inclusion.
Overall, Superman/ Top Cat #1 is a thin story with little plot and a predictable payoff. When you don’t utilize your main characters, put more of a focus on your distaste for kale, and play into the cliché of a misunderstood monster, what do you expect? Who wrote this issue again? Oh yeah, that’s right… Dan Didio. The guy who has been sinking this ship for years now…
Then, in addition to all of these stories, DC published a Secret Squirrel backup story throughout all four crossover issues… And it’s so bad that I can’t help but think that DC decided there was no way they could legitimately publish this as a standalone issue at a price point of $5.99. In fact – and I hate saying books aren’t worth their price because of the amount of work that goes into them – but I have to wonder if the $5.99 price point is the best strategy for these crossovers. At the moment, I’m not convinced they are…