Dastardly and Muttley #6 Review
The old saying goes “dying is easy, comedy is hard.” If that holds true, one wonders the difficulty of creating a comedy that doubles as a reality-bending, metafictional love letter to an old Saturday morning cartoon? As challenging as it is, the insanely brilliant Garth Ennis and Mauricet have made such a comedy in the pages of DC's Dastardly and Muttley. With issue #6's conclusion, Ennis and Mauricet reveal an endgame that turns the already enjoyable series into a thought-provoking existential gem.
Dastardly and Muttley picks up where the last issue ends: the US fighter pilots Acthlery and Muller (along with their fellow pilots Zadarnowski and Longman) attempting to destroy the chaotic drone War Pig One. The drone's payload, a reality warping chemical called Unstabilium, is radically changing the composition of the entire world into a cartoon nightmare full of anthropomorphic animals, giant mallets, and other such satirical terrors. If matters weren't grave enough, the pilots have been exposed to the material, so they are fighting off the effects of the Unstabilium as it slowly turns them into the characters Hanna-Barbera fans would know as Dick Dastardly and Muttley. When the only solution appears to be colliding with the drone head on, with unpredictable consequence to their person, the pilots are faced with an ultimatum: save the world or their very lives.
The Hanna-Barbera line of books overall is a triumph, reinventing the classic stable of characters in modern and layered ways unique to the specific creators and titles. But even placed beside its esteemed peers, Dastardly and Muttley exhibits unique ambition and creativity that, along with the visionary minds behind it, deserves special recognition. As the story progresses, the book incorporates its source material in an unexpected twist that fundamentally changes the entire mini-series, and even the original cartoon, for the better. It is such an inspired conclusion that at first seems random but in retrospect has been telegraphed throughout the run of the book and makes it a more rewarding experience as a collected work.
The downside to such a unique and high concept conclusion is a potential alienation of an audience. Ultimately this is a niche product with a surreal concept that will not please everyone. But this is also the final issue in a six issue mini-series, the audience that will find this off-putting already left the proverbial party. Ennis is already aware that the people reading this issue are well acquainted with his brand of insanity, even expecting it. This allows for him to create a strong script, uninhibited, that is held together by the same devilishly witty humor the series has operated with since issue #1.
As original and thought-provoking as it is, Ennis also is adamant that his script functions as a dark comedy. He uses the humor as a brilliant glue that holds the story together, supplying comic relief for dramatic moments, and spreading out the high concept cosmic ideas with antics more in line with the Dastardly and Muttley cartoon. It is really well balanced, different, and handled with total artistry. That strong script is also once again joined by the visual talents of Mauricet. Mauricet continues to be the perfect artist for the comic, considering his ability to mix cartoon and realistic styles. This issue utilizes that skills spectacularly, with the chaos of the climatic issue brought to surreal life thanks to Mauricet's beautifully blended sensibilities, making scenes as beautiful as they are jarring.
Dastardly and Muttley was a creative series from start to finish that has excelled into something more within the final pages of its series. It is undeniably preaching to Ennis' converted, creating a one-of-a-kind work that is delightfully meta, genuinely funny, and expertly made. What was once a high concept dark comedy with elements slightly inspired by a Hanna-Barbera cartoon has transformed into an amazing subversion of characters that honors the source but still pushes the limit of what licensed work can do.