"The Gray Man"
"Cravin' the Raven"
Writers: Michael Kraiger, Rurik Tyler
Artists: Robert Pope, Joe Staton(p), Dave Hunt, Andrew Pepoy(i), Sno Cone?(c)
If any faithful readers wonder why an adult such as myself enjoys the simple pleasures of Scooby-Doo as instead sophisticated, "The Gray Man" should give an obvious demonstration. Where as most heroes of today's comics are portrayed as just plain dimwits, Scoob and the Gang exhibit the qualities of experienced, ghost breakers and crime solvers. It's this intelligence missing from the likes of the continuity Superman and Batman, missing from the likes of Daredevil and the simply awful Jessica Jones that above all appeals to me. Realism does not mean the abandonment of sense and sanity.
Fred, Velma, Daphne, Shaggy and Scooby seek a haven from a hurricane-induced rainstorm and find themselves at a beachside restaurant. They learn of a tall tale related by an ancient mariner and meet the regulars of the community. While staying at a cabin, strange things occur, and it's not that the gang merely solves the haunting in Michael Kraiger's story. They anticipate the crime, the criminals as well as debunking the ghost. They act like their experience dictates.
Robert Pope brings a sense of realism to the drawings. The gang looks a little cartoonier when compared to the supporting cast members who are given a bit of grunge, a few wrinkles and interesting individual looks. The depiction of the ghost is genuinely eerie, and the evocation of the atmosphere just promises spooky hi-jinks.
Today's continuity comic books can also benefit from research and history. Rurik Tyler provides this sense in the second mystery "Cravin' the Raven." While I disagree with his depiction of the gang, including Velma, being ignorant of Poe's works, his information about the author and his writings is accurate and up to date. The research provides more than information. It allows for astute and humorous observations from Shaggy and shows the reader how passionate the collector of the story is about Poe when contrasted to the mountebank in the tale who is merely interested in the value of the purloined object. Meanwhile, an unexplained joke--meaning you'll have to look it up for yourself--from Lewis Carroll plays an important part in the story.
Joe Staton I think is the artist who best depicts the Scooby and the Gang. He gives them vitality and an animated quality that often surpasses the cartoons. His artwork on this tale is no different. His design for the Poe character is reminiscent of the Poe look-alike in the classic Italian horror flick Castle of Blood. I'd be willing to wager the resemblance to such cinema was meant.
Scooby-Doo is more than just a lark. The stories are tightly written and depict recognizable characters that are intelligent and experienced in their art. The stories have no slap-dash qualities. These stories depict their roots both visually and in prose, and it is these qualities that make them more entertaining more often than not than the books for so-called mature readers.
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