“Bark or Byte?”
Writer: Sholly Fisch
Artist: Erich Owen
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Editor: Kristy Quinn
Review by Lauren Fiske
The Batman & Scooby-Doo Mysteries #2.11 is here! In this issue, the Mystery Gang teams up with Batman and Oracle to figure out why Wayne Enterprises’ newest technology is going off the rails. It’s back to back issues with some Bruce Wayne face time and the usual order of events with Scooby and Mystery Inc.
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Let’s dive in.
I cannot express how excited I got when I saw the cover art for The Batman & Scooby-Doo Mysteries #2.11! Seeing a strange digital spectre threatening Shaggy and Scooby brought back memories of my all time favorite Scooby Doo movie, “Scooby Doo and the Cyber Chase”. This classic came out when I was a kid and involved Mystery Inc. getting sucked into a friend’s video game and only able to escape by completing every level, which were all based on their old capers. I’ve seen this movie sooooo many times and have been looking for a copy for years, so I got excited when I saw this issue.
Some elements of the movie definitely carried over into the issue, so I do wonder if the creative team knew of it. Sadly, though, this tale fails to live up to the movie’s standard, but that’s not really the problem (more on that later). I really enjoy the idea of Oracle running backup for any tech issues Wayne Enterprises might encounter and her inclusion in this issue, although in a different form than usual, is one of its only saving graces.
I wish I had more nice things to say about this issue, but there’s really not much, so we might as well get into it.
The creative team-up of Sholly Fisch and Erich Owen always makes me a bit nervous, since I don’t usually enjoy their work individually. I find that my reviews of their collaborations are often lower and I find it more difficult to find things I like about them. The Batman & Scooby-Doo Mysteries #2.11 took the cake, though.
I didn’t like this issue. Even ignoring my usual thoughts about the creative team, I was hoping for a story resembling a childhood favorite, and sadly this issue didn’t hold up. The overall concept was fine, the characters were generally good (other than the disappointing antagonist), and I could even excuse the fact that I personally don’t enjoy Erich Owen’s art style… but nothing about this story made sense.
This issue is very reliant on the ideas behind AI, virtual reality, and just general technological knowledge. It was predictable that the AI created by Wayne Enterprises has issues (Scooby and Shaggy even predicted this), but that’s not the problem. The ways that the characters describe and experience the technology is completely inaccurate. There are many things I could point out that aren’t right from this issue, but I’m going to stick to the ones that I, an average technology user, know about.
First up, the virtual reality headsets. I don’t care how advanced Wayne Enterprises’ inventions might be: it’s still just a headset. Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby “enter” the internet, the comic acts as if the three are literally transported to a nonexistent plane. That’s not what VR does. Programs for VR aren’t set up that way. Even if they’re more advanced, VR is set up to do different things and doesn’t physically remove your mind from your body. VR is not teleportation. This also means that when the group encounters a “firewall” that it’s not literal fire? Also, you’re moving in real life when you move in VR, so how were they passing through any sort of space without smacking into stuff?
The Matrix reference is a bit much as well. It’s really frustrating to see the characters running around and interacting with the atmosphere when such a space doesn’t really exist. Other franchises have explored this idea to some extent, but it’s confusing in this series as there’s normally been some level of normalcy to the mysteries. Other parts of each franchise push the boundaries of reality, but this one’s just nonsensical.
Also, the things that are being said are just inherently wrong. It’s hard to get into it too much or explain it because it’s just incorrect. Running through virtual backgrounds so fast that they break? If we assume that the characters are really in this other space, that fictional place is the internet, which would be infinitely faster than Shaggy and Scooby. Tearing off an avatar’s mask to reveal a different avatar? Assuming that Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby are dead because their avatars are destroyed? None of it makes sense, and it’s just unclear how far readers are expected to suspend their expectations of reality.
The thing that frustrated me the absolute most, though, was Oracle. She’s an excellent character that’s known as one of the best hackers in Batman’s world. The key to finding the bad guy ends up being I.P. addresses. This is literally how hackers are tracked around the world. If Oracle’s so brilliant and technologically savvy, the first way to find the “ghost in the machine” would’ve been via their I.P. addresses! Even I know that, so she would, or should have thought of that first.
It just feels like readers are being spoon fed this information. Usually mysteries do try to pass on content in subtle ways to readers, but this was excessive and unnecessary. We weren’t told details of the mystery but literally how the internet and tracking down wrongdoers works. If this were an educational comic, this might be understandable, but there were other ways to have the big reveal be I.P. addresses rather than making Oracle look like she isn’t the expert we know her to be.
I tried with The Batman & Scooby-Doo Mysteries #2.11. I really, really did, but reading this issue just frustrated me and almost gave me a headache. So many things were incorrect or nonsensical that I couldn’t get into the story. I can appreciate the creative team trying to do more with these stories and bring the characters of the Batman and Scooby Doo franchises into the future, but this wasn’t the way to do it and none of it adds up.
A lot of things were inherently lackluster in this issue, for sure, but the lack of knowledge about the internet, spoon-feeding the information to readers, and making Oracle seem incompetent earned this issue its poor rating.
Maybe I’m being harsh. I might be going too hard on this one, to be fair. I still have hopes for future issues, but I won’t be revisiting this one again. Or, maybe I shouldn’t be judging a book aimed at children as a tech-savvy adult. Of course, I hope everyone else out there loves it, this review is just one person’s honest opinion.
Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment