I had mixed expectations going into this issue. On one hand, it’s written by Matthew Cody, who previously wrote my favorite issue of this series. On the other, it’s drawn by Scott Jeralds, who I was less than impressed by when he drew issue four. Well, my expectations were subverted on both counts. This issue was terrible.
I never would have expected to dislike an issue of this series so much. The writing is shockingly bad compared to what Cody has done before but what sunk any chance of my enjoying this comic was the art. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever seen art quite this bad from a DC Comics series. It’s unacceptable and I’m not letting Jeralds off easy.
So let’s start off with the splash page that opens the issue proper.
What is even happening here? This looks like a photo collage. Every element is in a different perspective or scale. The mayor is depicted as if through something like a fisheye lens. Sheriff stone is drawn as if from below. Batgirl, Batman, and Gordon seem to be in the same perspective but they are scaled incorrectly. Batgirl should be shorter than Batman, of course, but here she must be under four feet tall. Gordon also seems a bit too small based on how far away from Batman he is and Sheriff Stone certainly is. He’s closer to the camera than Gordon but somehow scaled smaller. I could easily continue on this topic. Almost everything is incorrect in this image. Even the art styles of the individual elements don’t match. I have no way of verifying it but I think there is a strong chance that most of this comic is traced. As an artist myself, I do not and will never condone tracing for any purpose besides practice.
Okay, that was just the start. Next up we have the case of the copied face.
Reusing a part of a panel (and to make matters worse only four pages apart) is not okay. Unacceptable. This damages the sequential storytelling, and distracts from the narrative, not to mention it’s incredibly lazy.
The only thing that makes me question the use of tracing in this issue is just how bad many of the panels look. You’d think if they were traced they’d at least look about as good as the original art. Either Jeralds isn’t even good at tracing or some elements are traced and others are not.
For example, why is Gordon drawn significantly better than Batman despite being in the background and not the focus of the panel? Gordon also conforms to the Batman: The Animated Series character model while Batman doesn’t conform to any model I can think of.
Speaking of character models, it’s very frustrating to me the way they are mixed and matched. Mayor Janet Nettles and Sheriff Stone are characters native to the fantastic series Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated and retain that design verbatim (maybe because it’s their only appearance). Scooby and the Gang however do not match their design from that show. Rather, they follow the standard ’69 model. Even when they are posed ineptly.
So, the art is abysmal and rather insulting to any self-respecting artist. I sincerely hope I never come across DC publishing art of this caliber again.
Now onto the writing. It’s not offensive like the art but it’s still worthy of an abundance of negative criticism.
There might be the barest glimpse of a good story here. The Ghost Clown is quite possibly my all-time favorite Scooby-Doo villain and I think there could be something intriguing to this series playing him off the Joker. Unfortunately, all that potential gets lost in an outlandish story that jumps from beat to beat without much originality or excitement. None of the jokes land either which makes for a particularly dull read. This issue indulges in the “Fred is an idiot” trope to find a lot of its humor which is already something of a turnoff for me but they don’t even do it well. Fred’s fear of clowns, for example, comes out of nowhere and is pretty low effort.
I guess it’s a joke that plays on subversion. You wouldn’t expect his fear to be caused by their big shoes. Except, I would, because I’ve seen nearly identical jokes hundreds of times at this point and I’m already annoyed at Fred’s mischaracterization in this issue.
- I don’t recommend this to anyone.
At its core, this is the least interesting script this series has had to offer by a decent margin. Much of what takes it from uninteresting to bad is in the details. Then when you throw some of the worst art I’ve ever seen in a big two comic on top of it there’s just nothing left to like. It get’s one point for being a comic that exists and half a point for including the Ghost Clown. Don’t buy this comic.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman-News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.