As previously reviewed modern comic book iterations of Scooby Doo, The Flintstones and Wacky Races have illustrated, reviving an old pop culture property, in the case of Future Quest, quite a number of them, comes with a unique set of challenges.
Not insurmoutable challenges of course but fairly sizable ones nonetheless that brand new original ideas don’t have to grapple with, possessed as they are of an expectations-free blank slate.
One of the first exciting things you notice about Future Quest is that it has not succumbed to this pressure, boldly preserving the clean, retro-future lines of the original 1960s-era action cartoons that Hanna-Barbera produced as a marked departure from the lighter, frothier fare of Huckleberry Hound and the like.
Taking in the artwork by Evan “Doc” Shaner, Steve Rude and, Jordie Bellaire and Dave Lanphear, and the zingy, breathlessly-excitable but portentous dialogue by writer Jeff Parker, it becomes immediately obvious that the re-imagining of a slew of Hanna-Barbera characters has paid due homage to what went before while updating the look and feel of properties like The Herculoids, Jonny Quest and the Mighty Mightor and placing them in a fast-paced, thoroughly imaginative story arc which makes good use of a newly-expanded universe.
What is impressive is the way the new series creators have managed to seamlessly weave together characters that, while they shared the same look and paint-by-numbers narrative feel, weren’t ever really connected in their original incarnations.
Jonny Quest for example is a young inquisitive, impulsive boy on earth, the son of a cutting-edge scientist Dr. Benton Quest, who together with his adopted brother Hadji, and bodyguard/secret agent Race Bannon goes on all kinds of adrenaline-pounding action adventures.
The Herculoids by contrast are inhabitants of the planet Amzot, later changed to Quasar – in Future Quest, both planets make an appearance – a motley crew of lifeforms, human and otherwise, fighting to keep their planet free from outside interference.
And yet despite these considerable differences, Future Quest has found a way to weave these disparate characters into a compelling, coherent narrative, that also features Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, Space Ghost, Frankenstein Jr. and The Impossibles.
It helps in an undertaking that audacious that the series has chosen a commensurately expansive narrative universe for this crew of otherwise disconnected characters to inhabit.
While the threat posed is extraterrestrial in nature, a creature called the Omnikron which has decidedly Borg-like tendencies assimilating every alien civilisation with which it comes in contact with obviously catastrophic consequences for everyone involved, the action largely but not exclusively takes place on Earth where an evil scientist called Dr. Zin is hoping to harness and control the Omnikron’s attenpts to reach our planet for his own self-interested purposes.
The head of an organisation called F.E.A.R., a delightfully silly Get Smart-esque acronym that is anything but goofy in practice, Dr. Zin is a rival of Dr. Benton, with the two men, leaders in their field along with Professor Linda Kim-Conroy, studying and responding to vortexes that have opened up across Earth, delivering parts of the Omnikron but also beings like The Galaxy Trio, and glimpses of Space Ghost among others.
Slowly but surely over each issue, the universe in which everyone is imaginatively interconnected in a Cold War-style battle to the death – if the Omnikron reaches Earth and establishes itself in its full terrifying majesty, then the battle is well and truly over – builds and grows, developing an all-enveloping story that brings these characters together as if they always belong together.
Even more impressively, as the story takes shape at a reasonably breakneck speed, Future Quest still finds the panel-space to neatly introduces each new character with minimal fuss but exposition-rich fulsomeness, artfully bringing everyone together in a way that makes sense, despite their disparate origins.
What results, so far at least, is a cracking good story, one that positions Future Quest as an epic tale of good versus evil, with the artwork lending it the look and feel of an old-fashioned movie serials with some unobtrusive but welcome modern touches.
Future Quest is a triumph, the perfect melding of past and present that acknowledges the weight of nostalgic expectation and pays homage to it while still creating something utterly new, highly-engaging and unique that is begging for eventual transition to a sprawling cartoon series all its own.