Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Comics Review: CHIP AND DALE'S RESCUE RANGERS #1 (December 2010, Boom! Studios)

All due apology to GeoX -- who, in his latest post, waxed properly eloquent about all the good things that Boom! Studios will be offering to "classic" Disney comics enthusiasts next year as part of the "Boom 2.0" roll-out -- but C&DRR #1 may be the single most important comic that Boom!'s Disney "arm" has published to date. "The Duck Knight Returns" got plenty of attention from the wider comics-reading world, as well it should have, but the folks who snapped that arc up probably included a lot of people who were already general comics collectors, in particular of superhero titles. The new C&DRR, by contrast, has the potential to draw a lot of people back into collecting Disney comics who may have dropped off the radar after Disney canceled the first version of the title in 1991. The cohort of remarkably loyal C&DRR fans who frequent The Acorn Cafe and other haunts have been waiting for a new wave of "officially sanctioned" C&DRR material for quite some time. If Boom! hits the mark with this title -- and, judging by the first issue, the omens look very favorable indeed -- then a whole new cohort of readers will climb on board the Boom! bandwagon at precisely the time when the line's overall "creative vector" is pointing due north. You've heard of "synergy," I suppose? This could be "it," whatever "it" is.

The splash panel that appears on pages 4 and 5 of Ian Brill and Leonel Castellani's "Worldwide Rescue, Part One" definitely indicates that Boom! "gets it" regarding what is expected from this title. As enjoyable as the Disney Comics work of Scott Saavedra, Tom and Mary Bierbaum, and the Jaime Diaz Studio was, it -- much like the DUCKTALES stories produced by William Van Horn and John Lustig -- was rather sui generis, veering somewhat far afield from the parameters established by the TV series. Such major villains as Fat Cat and Professor Nimnul didn't appear very often -- in the case of the overused "Mr. Fat," that actually was something of a relief -- while minor players like The Pi-Rats, Bubbles ("The Case of the Cola Cult"), and Dale's pipistrell paramour Foxglove ("Good Times, Bat Times") fared little better, not even getting much "muzzle time" in the C&DRR stories that ran in DISNEY ADVENTURES DIGEST. Now, however, after 20 years of fanfics and such, C&DRR fans have a very clear idea of the full potential of the show's extended cast, and they want to see these characters used in "authorized" stories. I count Castellani's splash, with its mass gallery of series regulars and much-loved one-shotters, as the comics equivalent of an olive branch thrown to the fans, and as a very politic way of reassuring them that none of their favorites will be forsaken. (So, too, is the sepia-toned opening flashback sequence in which a young Gadget saves her aviator father Geegaw -- a character who'd never made an "official" appearance anywhere, save in fanfics, prior to this -- from drowning by throwing together a doohickey.)

"Worldwide Rescue," with its scenario of "animals gone wild" all over the world -- perhaps due to misuse of an "Animal Rescue Signal" device constructed way back when by a group of critters that included Geegaw -- bids fair to include a rarity for "official" C&DRR stories, namely, a globe-girdling mission with a purpose. One complaint that I always had about the TV series was that, when the writers wanted to put the Rangers in another country -- or even such an exotic setting as Hawaii -- they simply tossed them in headfirst, with little to no backstory being provided. Scott Saavedra did a story line called "Rangers Coast to Coast" for Disney Comics, but even that consisted of a bunch of pretty much unrelated plots hooked together. The Rangers' quest to reassemble the "Super Key" that will enable them to enter the A.R.S. and find out who's misusing it (actually, we already have a clue as to who's behind the scheme, but maybe others are involved as well) gives this story a strong "throughline" that should sustain it well. It's already clear that some of the places and critters that the Rangers will be visiting will leave the door wide open for logical appearances by familiar faces. Part 1's final panel sees a dramatic appearance by several of said faces, and, given that the "animals gone wild" include a pack of Brazilian bats, I think I can guess who might be flying in to follow them. A "true" C&DRR story also includes some manner of character conflict, and Brill gives us one here. Monterey Jack's sudden (and temporary) abandonment of the gang -- and Chip's sharp reaction to it -- shows that Brill has definitely been paying attention to the fact that good characterization is one of the reasons why the Rangers are so popular. Castellani's artwork is, quite simply, magnificent -- the best C&DRR comic art I've ever seen, by far -- so we should have no worries on that score.

The only shadow I can cast on this otherwise "scathingly brilliant" first ish is that some CD&RR fans whom I've seen comment on the release have said that they might be willing to wait to buy it (gasp!) until the collected paperback is issued. Now, I can't imagine why any fan who's been awaiting new C&DRR material for years would be willing to wait even that long while the new stuff is sitting on the shelves, but the poor economy may be playing a role in the decision. In any event, this situation does illustrate that releasing so much recently published material in collected form may sometimes rebound to the line's overall disadvantage, especially when there is a built-in audience for such material.

No comments: