* Or, if the inside front cover indicia is to be believed, RICHIE RICH: RICH RESCUE #1. Given that this first "regular" issue of Ape RR has already been quite successful -- the first printing sold out in a matter of days -- perhaps this "quasi-official" title is pointing the way to spinoff titles to come, which would certainly be in the classic RICHIE tradition. RICHIE RICH RECLAMATIONS, RICHIE RICH REDEMPTIONS, RICHIE RICH RECOVERIES, RICHIE RICH LUCRE-FUELED LIBERATIONS... the possibilities are not quite endless, but they're close!
I liked Ape RR #1 a great deal more than I did the FREE COMIC BOOK giveaway. Though the main story, "Boon Under the Bay," is somewhat weighed down by an excess of expository dialogue, how can you really criticize writer Bill Williams when the man boldly decides to revive The Googol, perhaps the ultimate one-shot RICHIE villain? The fact that the story is set in the South Pacific (where Rich Rescue have gone to assist locals crippled by the eruption of Mount Blamma-Toa) and features "local native" characters not of the stereotypical grass-skirt-clad variety certainly suggests that Williams consulted the original Googol tale. So does the fact that a treasure (a long-lost pirate's hoard, in this case) serves as the story's McGuffin. I suspect that a number of the Rich Rescue tales in our future will take this same approach of Richie and friends getting sucked into an adventure as a sideshow during a "less exciting" rescue mission. This partially addresses my concern that the stories would be mechanical rescue exercises, but surely the two plot strands could be combined at some point? The whole point of Richie being a "helper of the less fortunate" will be lost if the rescue angle is merely used as an excuse to jump-start an adventure in a distant clime.
As a lead-in to the main event -- following a one-page text intro by The Harvey World's resident Struldbrug, Sid Jacobson -- Brent Erwin and Jack Lawrence's four-page "Welcome to Rich Rescue!" gives us a peek at what appears to be the "official opening" of Richville's new Rich Rescue HQ. This is nothing like an origin story, as Richie clearly refers at one point to previous missions. Certain readers, especially those firmly wedded to the "old-school" Richie, will surely have a problem with this; exactly when and why did Richie suddenly decide to go all "Rescue Rangers" on us (not to mention his friends and employees)? I think we deserve to be told at some point. Perhaps the info will be imparted during a flashback in a future story.
Jacobson and Ernie Colon's five-page backup story "Of Demise and Men" is a nice tribute to two of the most important figures in Richie's life -- and a story so retrograde it's positively Uranian. Fer gosh sakes, we even get the ultra-familiar RICHIE trope of a pair of slovenly-dressed crooks -- one "street-smart" and one "dirt-dumb," of course -- one of whom has a cigarette clamped between his lips! The story of a kidnap of Cousin Reggie for a million-dollar ransom (calling Dr. Evil!) is fairly trivial but does make for a funny final-panel gag where the joke, for once, is on Richie. The setting of an amusement park reminds me of such 70s stories as "Richieland" and "Meadow Lark Park."
A one-page "Keenbean's Corner" gag (I'm glad to see that Ape is preserving some of the traditional Harvey formats here) features some lively artwork by James Silvani and some fairly amusing byplay between Keenbean and Reggie. No effort has been made to redesign Keenbean in any serious way, which is fine with me, but I was disappointed to see Bascomb, who appears in the first couple of panels of "Welcome to Rich Rescue," reduced to the role of a generic chauffeur. Gone are the Terry-Thomas mustache, the gap in the front teeth and, much more to the point, any indication that Bascomb retains his remarkable ability to "drive anything." One would think that Bascomb could be every bit as useful to Rich Rescue in "tight travel situations" as the "younger, bulked-up" Cadbury promises to be. If this is to be Bascomb's fate, I really have to wonder what will become of Richie's parents.
If you're not interested in reading a revelation about The Googol, stop here, do not pass GO, etc. Otherwise, I'll spill the beans after some
What I found fascinating about Alanna Salhi turning out to be The Googol is that she is (1) a "native islander" and (2) a "serial criminal." In the original story, Col. Blakely more or less stumbled into the role because he was tasked with flying the Pacifica Jewels to safety from the Japanese. This distaff Googol, by contrast, is "one of the Seven Scavengers," who control world piracy. Also, the native treasurer of Pacifica played a major role in the original story, but as a one-shot good guy. In a story with several offhanded PC references to environmental despoliation and endangered species, it was actually a surprise to see a "person of color" in a villainous role. (Of course, gender may have trumped race here, since Col. Blakely was your stereotypical middle-aged white guy.)
The last panel of "Boon" suggests that more pirates are lying in wait for Rich Rescue. I wonder whether we will see other traditional villains "retrofitted" to this wide-ranging profession. I do know that one promised future villain, The Stench, sounds a heck of a lot like The Onion to me.