Seemingly since the Scrappy era (more modernly with Get A Clue) there has been this weird notion to break off the gang into different pairings, for whatever reason.
More recently, there’s been an uptick in telling origin stories of the gang (The Mystery Begins, the incredibly cringe inducing Daphne & Velma movie, & the upcoming SCOOB!), to varying degrees of success.
So, how does this novel that combines those two very things fare?
Well, gang, it looks like we have a mystery to solve!
As always, this is your official ***SPOILER ALERT***
First and foremost, this book is earnest as hell.
This is most definitely not a story of 4 fun loving teens traveling the country solving mysteries with a big, goofy, loveable talking dog in tow.
This is the most serious treatment of the characters to date, and that’s both a good and bad thing.
Good because, like Mystery Incorporated, it gives me exactly what I always wanted to see from this franchise, a slightly less goofy and more serious series of mysteries.
The down side to all that earnestness being that the main attraction to the franchise, the aforementioned loveable and goofy talking dog, is declawed and dull down to almost being a footnote.
That’s right, gang, Scooby doesn’t talk at all, he’s just a normal dog.
Which works for this iteration, but does take away a big piece of the puzzle.
Let’s get this out of the way now so we can move onto the fun shit, my only major issue with this book/continuity would be the personalities and characterizations of the gang and their backgrounds.
For one, they all seem like rich, or formerly rich, kids with inattentive, dismissive dickhead parents.
But also, Shaggy throws the best parties in town, but really has no interest in them.
Fred is an aloof hippy dippy yoga lover.
The only ones that actually feel right are Daphne as a bit of a bratty child of divorce, whose mother is a multi-millionaire game designer, and Velma, in that she’s a lonely social outcast who feels like she’s probably the smartest person in any room she may enter…in the vein of what the incomparable Mindy Cohn was doing in Mystery Incorporated, just without the controlling psycho attitude.
Fred and Shaggy feel like they were dumbed down and swapped, for no real reason other then they just aren’t the focus of the story.
It’s a little frustrating, but through the comicbook “Multiverse” filter, I can deal with it.
Onto the good stuff!
The thing I enjoy the most is that this is clearly influenced by my absolute favorite Scooby series, Mystery Incorporated!
And it goes beyond just the town using the Crystal Cove name, the darkness and spooky edge to all of the mysterious goings on are just magnificent.
This version of Crystal Cove has its own founding curse that the town uses to wrangle in a tourist trade.
The curse of Crystal Cove is that generations before, every member of the town just up and disappeared without a trace.
Every year the town holds a festival to mark the day, and the ghosts of the missing still haunt the town to this day.
In my view, I think it’s pretty clear that author Josephine Ruby (a mysterious pseudonym for someone whom not much is known about, that nods to Scoob’s creation) loves Velma, because she’s the most fleshed out and faithful.
And bonus, unlike Mystery Inc, Velma is so damn likeable from start to finish that if you didn’t love her before, you probably will by the end.
Velma is that lonely kid that everybody fucked over and likes to push around, make eat shit until they need her and then they come a-callin’.
Daphne and Velma were once the best of friends, and it all changed once Velma saw something she wasn’t meant to see and told Daph, the reaction was less than ideal, and Daphne turned on her in a big bad way.
The plot forces them to put aside their differences for a common good, but the oldest wounds have the deepest scars.
To start wrapping up, I truly did love this book far more than I expected I ever would.
There is some of the anticipated “boys are trash & girls are perfect” type of tripe you get in these types of novels, but not overwhelmingly so.
This new continuity is familiar and interesting, Ruby is building her own world and it works well enough to keep me interested and welcoming future installments.
The cliffhanger left me wanting the next book now!
I so hope that these sell well, because this is the first step on the path to one of the last two pieces of Scooby I crave most: Serious, full length, Scooby novels!
I need somebody, potentially even Ruby herself, to write serious novels about the whole gang, in the same way Mystery Incorporated did, but in prose.
The best books ignite your imagination, and this did in so many ways.
Check it out, gang.
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Special thanks to @ACFerrell1976 for her continued editorial assistance.