Future Quest #1 is the first series in a new collaboration between DC Comics and Hanna-Barbera, putting their iconic cartoon characters in brand-new adventures. And unlike a few of the other Hanna-Barbera series DC has planned, Future Quest isn’t interested in changing or updating its heroes. Instead, the series keeps the tone and design of those classic Saturday morning cartoons, creating an all-ages adventure that any reader will enjoy.
This first issue sets the stage, opening on a surprisingly somber end to a massive battle between the Space Force and what will be the main villain of the series, Omnikron. From there Future Quest returns us to the present day, where Jonny and best friend/adoptive brother, Hadji are whizzing through the Florida Everglades, testing out their father, Dr. Benton Quest’s newest jetpacks. They and Race Bannon, the Quest family’s bodyguard, are on the look out for mysterious vortexes which have been cropping up more and more lately. While back at the lab, Dr. Quest continues studying the strange phenomena, sharing what he’s learned with Inter-Nation agents, Deva Sumadi and Ray Randel – a.k.a. the sun-powered superhero, Birdman.
But what seems like an idyllic afternoon of boyhood adventures and super science is interrupted when dozens of vortexes begin appearing, offering glimpses at strange worlds full of equally strange creatures. Matters are only made worse when the villainous Dr. Zin deploys his battle drones to beat Quest to the strange debris the vortexes have been leaving behind.
Though the characters who appear throughout Future Quest all debuted in animation, they certainly have comic books in their DNA, having been created by comic artists – chief among them, the great Alex Toth. The initial designs for Future Quest were by another comic book great, the sadly now late Darwyn Cooke, whose retro style served as a perfect stepping off point for the series. However, the artwork in the book itself is handled by both Evan “Doc” Shaner and Steve “The Dude” Rude, with Jordie Bellaire supplying the colors. The team is a wonderful match for these Hanna-Barbera action heroes, bringing a boldness to the art that is very reminiscent of the era, yet with enough modern influence to not appear out-dated.
Shaner brings an exuberance to Jonny Quest, a cheerful kid who is right a home being shot at and chased by robotic walking spiders. The panels of Jonny and Hadji with their jetpacks are exhilarating, giving readers a real sense of motion as they zoom through the trees and eventually make a rough crash landing. For Inter-Nation agents Deva and Ray, Shaner has them appear quite dashing, giving them the feel of hip, world-travelers and evoking a bit of old Hollywood glamour.
As the fill in artist, Rude proves well-suited both for the series and Shaner’s style, making his contributed pages almost indistinguishable from Shaner’s. Rude’s lines and shadows are heavier, but that actually lends itself well to Randal’s emergence as Birdman, a scene with a more muted pallete that allows for Rude’s linework to really shine. He’s also responsible for positively psychedelic layout featuring Dr. Zin that plays with the nebulous space of his lair. Bellaire’s colors are bold and bright, as they should be given the lightness of the property, but they don’t shy away from being a little dark and moody when the story’s tone gets serious – which it unexpectedly does during those opening pages.
Future Quest #1 is only the first chapter in what promises to be a thrilling adventure very much in the vein of those classic cartoons. Jeff Parker has certainly given the story a bit of a mature edge, but the book is far from cynical. Those expecting Future Quest to take cues from something like The Venture Bros. will likely be disappointed, because while admittedly those spoofs – like Space Ghost: Coast to Coast or Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law – have in many ways renewed interest in the Hanna-Barbera line, they lack the sincerity of the originals. Parker isn’t writing this story as farce, but rather as a genuine and exciting adventure, one that’s shaping up to unite the stars of Hanna-Barbera’s action cartoons in a really interesting way.
As a debut issue to a big crossover event, Future Quest #1 knocks it out of the park. Fans who grew up watching these cartoons will find themselves transported back to Saturday mornings sitting in front of the TV, wearing their PJs and eating a big bowl of sugary cereal. Still, Future Quest #1 is very accessible to new readers, offering an easy to follow introduction to these Hanna-Barbera heroes, their relationships and motivations. Without a doubt, Future Quest is off to a very strong start, and as more characters are assembled, the series promises to only get better and better.