At first glance I thought this was a Scooby-Doo annual. I honestly did. Only after closer inspection did I realise what I had was not Scoob and the gang but something that in logo, cover design and colour palette seemed to be doing its damndest to emulate their vibe. I can’t really see this being anything but a conscious decision on the part of Humanoid’s younger reader imprint, BIG, and they can hardly be blamed for it; junior graphic novels compete in an ever crowding market and any new IP needs all the advantages it can get, so what’s wrong with a little subliminal familiarity? The question is, does the Scooby-Doo vibe continue once you open the covers?
Well, kinda. The Scooby Gang within is more akin to the Sunnydale than Mystery Machine variety – or at least aspires to be within its age limitations – a collection of ‘loveable’ misfits orbiting their own Buffy Sommers, in this case a compassionate zombie-witch baker called Gina. Yes, you read that right. If I also tell you that Gina bakes confections with names like slime muffins, bloodpuddings and snotcakes, you’ll get an idea of the level of horror we’re at here. Gina and her family and friends – vampire husband Philip Vorpal, Fowler the Fiend, and the Sherlock Holmes-like Jasper Pike – reside with many other monsters in the titular Scare City, a place deep beneath our own world, from which ‘topside escalators’ once transported the multifarious abominations to the surface to scare humans. I say ‘once’ because the monsters don’t use the escalators anymore in light of the fact that – please feel free to gnash or throw-up your fangs at this juncture – these days the world is a much kinder place. I read that and thought, W the actual F? Scooby-Doo this isn’t. Buffy this isn’t. It isn’t even Monsters, Inc. What it is is picket-fence, touchy-feely land, a fang and femur disguised lesson in how we should just all get along.
Laudable enough, and every kid needs a Monsters 101. But from this point on in Eisner Award-winner Paul Jenkin (Wolverine: Origin, Fairy Dust) and Fred Pham Chuong’s (Intertwined) rather odd hybrid of Hanna-Barbera and manga-lite, forgive me if I root for the villain of the piece. All Count Bloodfoot wants to do, after all, is assassinate a few prominent citizens to turn the monsters against each other and make them scary again. Quite right, too. Because they’re a vapid lot, the inhabitants of Scare City. I appreciate the fact that today’s kids are easily triggered, delicate little angels but call me traditionalist – what’s the point in having monsters if they’re the very antithesis of monstery? Mike Wild