Writers: Robbie Busch;John Rozum
Artists: Vincent DePorter; John Rozum(p), Horacio Ottolini(i), Paul Becton(c)
The dummy or vent figure has a long history associated with horror, and why not? It’s a ghoulish looking modern-day twist on the homunculus. The Dummy— an enemy of the Vigilante—was a villain who pretended to be one such floppy-legged demon. In Doctor Who the Doctor faces a creature named Mr. Sin who uses the dummy as his disguise and whose evil intelligence derives from the cerebral cortex of a pig. On Superman the Animated series, the Toy Man wears a head in homage of the vile mannequin. The dummy has been featured as the nasty in the Twilight Zone and films such as Devil Doll. Alan Grant is the creator of Batman’s most memorable pre-Crisis foes: one of them being Scarface who is the manifestation of the Ventriloquist’s darker personality.
Normally in the genre, the plot is simple: evil ventriloquist’s dummy takes over ventriloquist or ventriloquist is oblivious to the fact his dummy is a supernatural murderous swine. The last show to use the dummy in its plot was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Naturally, it wasn’t what was expected. Following such an exalted example, Robbie Busch in Scooby-Doo puts his own twist on the traditional plot. It’s a twist that can only work plausibly in a cartoon, and you may see the surprise coming, yet you must admire the ingenuity. Within the story, readers will also see another subversion of cliché. Women of stereotype tend to be frightened by furry little animals. Not Daphne or Velma. Indeed, they express concern for the little creature that is not only in a historical sense wonderful but also exemplifies their winning personalities.
Vincent DePorter is known for his inking, but this time he tackles the entirety and does so with aplomb. Mr. DePorter’s style while suiting the animated books sharply contrasts his partner’s work. Fans will see some DeCarlo in his faces, and take on the stars is more angular than the model but never the less a valid interpretation. There’s an extreme clean-ness to the work that combined with his choice of design leads to an almost art-deco version of Scooby-Doo and the Gang.
John Rozum’s “Dragon’s Eye” concludes on a high note making use of Freddie’s intelligence as well as Velma’s and Daphne’s skepticism. Scooby and Shaggy are somewhat forgotten, yet more than any other storyarc DC has inflicted on its readers, the “Dragon’s Eye” really did seem connected. Thus, Scooby and Shaggy were the stars in different chapters—most notably when Scoob saves Freddie’s life and in the last chapter when both Shaggy and Scooby take the roles of guardians. Freddie felt extraordinarily disgusted with himself when he felt he let the villain get away early on, but in this chapter he redeems himself. Not that I considered his actions any less intelligent or formidable earlier. The character felt less than perfect, and in this chapter, he achieves his goals admirably. So, what’s perhaps the most unusual thing about this groundbreaking Scooby-Doo storyarc is that the characters really did change from what they were in the beginning.
In terms of plotting, it’s pure Scooby-Doo with the twist of the scheme not being about real estate except in the broadest sense. The story reinforces the tenets of Scooby-Doo; though the movie, which still can be included in the canon, did break these rules but with style and substance. There’s also a sneaky little hint of continuity included. Rozum I believe was the writer who answered the question asked by many a Scooby-fan: if every one of their villains have been petty criminals in masks, why are they always running away as if being pursued by real monsters? To quote Daphne: “You never know when one of them will turn out to be real.” Likewise, Freddie decides in the conclusion to “Dragon’s Eye” to put aside his own ego and his own certainties to insure the villain will be utterly defeated.
Joe Staton and Horacio Ottolini as usual do their professional best. This time they evoke an eerie mood from an often-overlooked gem of horror: the Chinese ghost story. Readers will enjoy the unusual setting and the weird atmosphere of a spectral sandstorm—or is it just in the mind that sets up the intricate menpo and uniform of glowing samurai. A big kudos goes to Paul Becton’s coloring. The realist browns and sands stones combined with those all important flesh tones and the gang’s more vibrant costumes contrast and therefore accent the otherworldly ruse.
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