Wacky Raceland #1 (of 5) Rumination/Review - Hanna Barbera or Twisted Metal Meets Mad Max
Updated: Jun 27, 2020
• Mariana Sanzone (Colorist) • Leonardo Manco (Cover Artist)
(Variant Covers) • DC Comics (Publisher)
Synopsis - Spoilers
Wacky Raceland opens following a race. All of the racers are in The Armageddon Bar blowing off steam while their vehicles wait outside discussing the relationships that they have with their drivers.
Meanwhile inside the bar. The racers banter back and forth and relax. All goes well until a large 3 headed 3 legged mutant attempts to pick a fight with Penelope Pitstop. The fight doesn't go well for the mutant as he's tossed aside and a huge bar fight breaks out.
This scene sets the tone and serves as an introduction to the series. The comic then flashes forward and we're formally introduced to the racers and their vehicles.
00. Dick Dastardly & Muttley - Mean Machine
1. The Slag Brothers - Boulder Mobile
2. The Gruesome Twosome - Creepy Coupe
3. Professor Pat Pending - Convert - A - Car
4. Red Baron - Crimson Haybaler
5. Penelope Pitstop - Compact Pussycat
6. Sergeant Blast & Private Meekly - Army Surplus Special
7. The Ant Hill Mob - Bulletproof Bomb
8. Lazy Luke & Blubber Bear - Arkansas Chuggabug
9. Peter Perfect - Turbo Terrific
10. Rufus Ruffcut & SawTooth - Buzzwagon
The comic flashes to another period of time. This time we see Penelope is attempting to outrun an apocalyptic flood. The flood overtakes her and instead of dying she wakes up to the disembodied voice of an entity calling itself "The Announcer". Shockingly her car is also now suddenly alive and sentient.
The Announcer makes his pitch and tells Penelope that he has infused her vehicle with their shared experiences and with transport her to a utopia that has not been ravaged by floods if she wins its race. At first, Penelope declines the offer but accepts when the announcer threatens to drop her back off at her flooded island.
The comic shifts back to the race and we see that Penelope has crashed and her vehicle has a busted axle. The situation gets even worse when a giant monster, a Sandipede emerges from sands.
In another location, The Announcer announces that they have sent a swarm of Africanized Battle Jackets onto the track which has now reduced the chances of survival by 27%.
Private Meekly and Red Baron hear the announcement and we learn that Meekly is transgendered and was once a man. We also learn that Red Baron is basically a Nazi when he calls for a new Reich to cleanse the world of godless abominations like the Private.
They two Racers are interrupted by Lazy Luke and Blubber Bear who admonish them both for arguing while the Battle Jackets are attacking.
Meanwhile, Peter Perfect makes an attempt to rescue Penelope from the Sandtipede. The attempt nearly fails but Penelope drops a grenade into the monster's mouth and blows it up.
The book shifts to Dick Dastardly & Muttley. Dastardly is the closest to the finish line and is fired upon by two of the other racers. He manages to escape but before crossing the line Penelope steals the victory when she jumps ahead of him while riding a Sandtipede.
With the victory established the book shifts back to the present. The bar fight is over and the comic ends as the racers get notification of the next event.
Lazy Luke & Blubber Bear
"And sometimes the Bear Eats You"
The backup feature starts with Lazy Luke & Blubber killing a group of cannibals. The comic then flashes back to when the characters were kids and the aftermath of an earthquake. They believe this is their last day on earth and we get the reveal that this was the first time that Luke tasted alcohol.
The comic flashes forward, we see Blubber carrying Luke who was injured during the opening fight with the cannibals. They continue their travels and are attacked by a Bear. The Bear rips Blubber apart and while the focus is on him, Luke grabs a machete and repeatedly stabs the bear, killing it.
The comic ends as Luke cook's the slain bear over a fire. Blubber is dying from his wounds and would have passed away if The Announcer did not make a timely offer to save their lives and take them to a utopia loaded with liquor if they win his race.
I've been meaning to revisit Wacky Raceland for a while but hadn't got around to it because of my work schedule. The comic is entertaining but has its share of problems that are more pronounced now that I'm looking at the series with analysis mode turned on.
Ken Pontac is the writer of the series. I'm not familiar with his work but he's been around for a long time and has done a lot of work in animation. A quick glance reveals he's done work on some of my favorite cartoons such as Mighty Max and ReBoot.
I can recognize from his IMDB that he's done a great job in bringing a dark and mature flair to franchises that would traditionally be aimed squarely at children. With that knowledge in hand, I can see why Ken was tapped for this series.
The biggest selling point of the comic is the complete revamp of the Wacky Races cartoon and blending it into a sort of Twisted Metal and Death Race amalgamation. It's still Wacky Races but without any prior knowledge of the franchise, you'd be forgiven if you didn't recognize it at all.
The Twisted Metal connection is also firmly established in my mind because "The Announcer is essentially Calypso from the aforementioned series. The entity offers our racers a second chance to visit a utopia by engaging in a death race. The difference between the two franchises so far being that Wacky Raceland isn't quite as dark. The setting is also inherently more fantastical than Twisted Metal.
The biggest problem with the issue from the beginning to the end of the book is flashbacks. There are several flashbacks in the comic. The flashbacks to Penelope Pit Stops past add flavor to the book, but the bar fight could have been cut entirely, or been pushed to the end of the issue.
There wasn't much reason not to tell this story in a linear fashion. It cuts into the pacing and needed character development. By the end of the book, the flashbacks become more of a distraction than a positive addition to the narrative.
The flashbacks also aren't helped by the messy art direction. I appreciate that there is a huge splash-page identifying the racers and their vehicle's but without that info, all of the cars and racers would have been indistinguishable. The art isn't horrible but there is a lot going on and I believe that Leonardo Manco is simply doing the best that he can with the script.
The character given the most attention is Penelope Pitstop. She comes off as confident, tough, smart, and resourceful. The other characters are given some lines to establish minor traits but they aren't really given enough attention or space to really be memorable. I expect that the series will continue this going forward. Spotlight a few characters during the race and establish others in the backup stories.
The art from Leonardo Manco and is probably the weakest aspect of the issue. The problem is that the series has to establish so much in a short amount of time, the world, characters, vehicles, and the dangers therein the setting. It's impossible to convey all of that information in 20+ pages. In light of those conditions, the art isn't terrible but it's really messy in spots, and hard to distinguish what I'm supposed to be looking at. This is also hurt by the heavy blacks laid down by the inker. The art direction in this issue simply isn't the best and outside of a few panels nothing really stands out.
Overall the issue is intriguing but fails at establishing the premise. I have to project a lot onto the book in order to make the story work. I write all of my reviews before typing them out and rereading my review was more entertaining than reading the actual book because I minimized the attention given to the flashbacks.
There are moments of genuine promise and some of the concepts are great. The finish with Pitstop riding the Sandtipede to the finish line is genuinely awesome and I wish there was more of that here.
There is a problem with the execution of the comic, it is uneven mostly because of the flashbacks. I'm not writing the series off yet but it's not starting from the strongest position.