By Jeff Parker, Evan Shaner, Steve Rude, Ron Randall, Jonathan Case, Aaron Lopresti, Karl Kesel, Craig Rousseau, Jordie Bellaire, Steve Buccellato, Hi-Fi, Jeremy Lawson and Veronica Gandini
No matter what you think you know about these characters, Future Quest provides an all-new and somewhat serious tone for these one-time popular cartoons. Here, you get all of the Hanna Barbera characters you remember and some you may not; either way this universe is being depicted in a way like never before. There are mortal consequences, and real threats and not just formulaic storylines that link the characters together. Worlds are literally colliding and the result is one of the best, most solid graphic novels you’ll read this year.
DC Comics gives Hanna Barbera the New Frontier treatment, which not only means Future Quest was inspired by Darwyn Cooke, but also heavily influenced by the man as well. Before his untimely passing, Cooke lent his thoughts, ideas and notes to series writer Jeff Parker in a way that has shaped what will surely be one of the most enduring reboots of all time. Parker takes on a lot of responsibility maintaining the essence of these various franchises all while breathing new life into them. It’s a highly fresh perspective on Johnny Quest, Space Ghost, Birdman, and the Herculoids, just to name a few. And this is a star-studded comic book in more ways than one, considering there are as many beloved characters included in the story, as there are creators involved in the book. But it’s Jeff Parker who writes a story that is nothing short of action-packed. This is one of the most incredibly fast-paced stories around to the point where referring to it as a “thrill ride” would be selling it short it by a hundred miles.
Writing for so many personalities, all with different motivations at their core, in a unifying way that comes across this successfully, is truly remarkable. There’s good reason why books like this come around once in a blue moon. Partly because it’s not easy getting a green light for something this big, but more so because it takes something greater than talent to pull it off. Jeff Parker is just the guy to prove that good writing is one thing, but skillful writing is another animal all together. He creates a dynamic plot, with genuine consequences and circumstances that utilize all of the various players in a harmonious way that serves the overall story while doing the reboot justice. That is, if this is a reboot. In many ways it’s pure to the source material, but at the same time it feels new enough and refreshing enough to dictate a “reboot” label. The point is, Future Quest will delight fans of the originals as much as it will excite new readers. If you are old enough to remember watching the TV cartoons than rest assured you are in good hands with Jeff Parker. If you’re new to the Hanna Barbera world, then you’re bound to wonder why this stuff hasn’t been in a comic book this way before. In short, comics like this are rare, no matter what the subject matter may be. It’s not realistic to think that all of the many variables will come together in just the right way, but we sure can enjoy it when it happens.
Not only should we take pleasure in reading such a fine comic, but we should also give credit where it is due. This is not a money-making scheme by one of the big publishers, capitalizing on our collective nostalgia to generate sales. Instead we have to thank DC Comics for using their power to preserve such treasured material in a way that actually does make it better than ever. IDW did a similar treatment to the Hasbro toys / animation properties recently and so it seems to be going around; what’s old is new again. Thankfully no one seems to be simply cashing in, and so far these projects seem driven more by passion than sales, another reason why this one turned out so well done.
However, with an army of talented artists like Evan Shaner, Steve Rude, Ron Randall, Jonathan Case, Aaron Lopresti, Karl Kesel and Craig Rousseau you really can’t go wrong. Not only do they each bring their own unique personal style to Future Quest, but they each share the weight of handling the characters appropriately. With classic Hanna Barbera cartoons, even a spaceship done wrong will stand out to the right fan. In the face of so much potential criticism, it’s clear this creative team has tasked themselves with a higher standard than usual and it’s all for the love of the project. Whether it’s the retro flare provided by Steve Rude’s renowned style or the amazing series of covers by Evan Shaner, you get the very best effort one could hope for. There’s a grand sense of adventure here that comes through appropriately in the drama happening between action sequences, that take up most of the story. One location after another — whether it’s an alien planet or Earth — creates a visual experience that keeps readers on the edge of their seats. We may not know what will happen at the turn of a page, but we’re sure we will love it. You don’t have to get very far into Future Quest Vol. 1 to know it’s only going to succeed and to see that influences are as pure as the content.
With colors by Jordie Bellaire, Steve Buccellato, Hi-Fi, Jeremy Lawson and Veronica Gandini the book achieves its overall serious tone. From the outset we’re shown a side of this universe that we’re not used to, although it’s still a ton of fun from cover to cover. Scorched and burning scenery, death and misery — it all comes across in the color more than anything. Readers’ expectations will be skillfully managed, as the colorists render a surprising amount of uncommon realism. Contrast matters in a story where fantastic things happen on an otherwise average day. Life is upended for some, dire straits for others, and either way it’s up to the heroes to overcome their differences and unite as a single force in order to save the day. If the colorists weren’t capable of showing the differences in real and surreal side by side then the project may have fallen flat. Thankfully, this is just another example of Future Quest working perfectly on all cylinders.
Future Quest is a triumph and hands down one of the sharpest books around. Precision on all fronts combined with sincere loyalty from the creators has made Hanna Babera new again and you wont be sorry you checked it out. When you’re done, place it on the shelf next to New Frontier and your collection with grow in value by leaps and bounds.