Friday, July 8, 2011

Comics Review: CHIP AND DALE'S RESCUE RANGERS #8 (July 2011, kaboom!)

Ian Brill wraps up his work on this sadly disappointing title with what, from all appearances, seems to be a heartfelt Valentine to Rescue Rangers fandom. If there were ever any doubt that "Stranger Danger" was very heavily influenced by the fan-culture, then part four should put the matter to rest. We get the return of yet another one-shot fan-fave character, several bits that appear to be directly lifted from existing fan-works, and a "Ranger-obsessed" antagonist who appears to have stepped straight out of a hitherto unseen "Gadget-gouging Angstfic." The overall plot still makes little sense in places, but I give Brill extra points for effort. I wonder: Did Brill write this story without knowing that RESCUE RANGERS was going to be cancelled, or did he find out "midstream" and tailor his ending to salute the fans? Either way, it made for a pretty good way to go out.



Bringing Tammy back as a nurse who aids the injured Chip strongly suggests that Brill may have had a peek at "Of Mice and Mayhem." One difference: Tammy claims that "Chipper" and the other Rangers "inspired" her to become a nurse, but, judging by Dale's reaction, the Rangers apparently didn't know about Tammy's career choice until this very moment. That seems a little strange to me, as Tammy's expertise could clearly come in handy on the Rangers' cases. Wouldn't she want them to know how "one day" on a case with them changed her life?

We already knew that Glitch was obsessed with Gadget, but the dark-haired mouse's holding of a grudge since nursery school strikes me as a bit... excessive. Yes, even when compared with the mad-on sustained by Gadget's infamous sister Widget. Even before Widget began to plot her "crunchy vengeance" against her "perfect" sis in John Nowak's stories, she had been battered and bruised by harsh treatment; her desire to avenge herself on Gadget was as much a cri de coeur against the world's unfairness as it was an expression of hatred for Gadget. Glitch doesn't appear to have that excuse, as she was successful enough as a "Gadget wannabe" to build some inventions and hire a Ranger gang. What makes me suspect that Glitch may be Brill's version of Widget is an odd comment that the latter makes after Gadget has fallen into her paws: "For once in your life, things are not going to go your way." Um, I don't see "losing" Geegaw Hackwrench and subsequently hiding in an old plane protected by booby traps as comprising a perfectly "wonderful life." I can, however, imagine Widget saying such a thing to Gadget "off screen." I am actually sorry that we almost certainly won't be seeing Glitch again -- in "official form," that is.

Glitch subsequently pivots from a simulacrum of Widget into a sort of gloss on Leviathan, "The Dark Savior," by breaking down and pleading with Gadget to like her. Here is where I started to think that Gadget would make a later effort to rehabilitate Glitch, and such an offer indeed comes to pass... but not before Glitch switches gears again and lets her mates put Gadget, Dale, Monterey Jack, and Zipper in a cage with an owl (a possible reference to the one lonely action scene in "Death of a Comedian"?). Chip drags himself out of bed long enough to save the day with Foxglove's muscular help (since when has Foxy's physical strength become her main asset? I thought she was the magick-in-training?), Glitch "spurns with her heels" Gadget's offer to let Glitch be her assistant, and the other Danger Rangers are... either neutralized or eaten by the newly-tamed (thanks to Zipper!?) owl, I honestly don't know which. This was a pretty decent action sequence, but it was simply too short, at least given the buildup... and the refusal to explain what happened to the other DRs strikes me as being "too squeamish by half."

A concluding "coffee scene" back at the hospital, full of heavily portentous dialogue (from Dale! It's actually the most intelligent he's ever sounded, outside of a couple of fanfics) on the meaning of being a Rescue Ranger, has the feel of (1) a veiled apology for the title's cancellation and (2) a doggedly insistent that Brill really, truly did "get" these characters. That wasn't really the problem, Ian; the problem was pulling out-of-left-field plot stunts like having the body of the mysterious Reginald Deront actually be composed of... bugs? Or completely forgetting about the Ninja Porcupines? If Brill had paid more attention to basic plot construction and less to dialogue highlighting his "understanding" of the Rangers, then this title would have been a far easier read. As it was, I often got the impression that Brill was composing his RANGERS plots with half of his brain otherwise engaged in plotting for his first love, DARKWING DUCK. Using a RANGERS-only writer and sticking with the somewhat simpler plotting style of the TV series (with fan-friendly, extra-large helpings of Angst and character interactions, of course) may not have been enough on its own to cure the persistent problem of low sales, but it certainly couldn't have hurt.

So, will the Rangers ever appear again in comics form? I doubt it, but I certainly think that they deserve to. A lot depends on how long kaboom! lets its DARKWING and DUCKTALES titles run. If kaboom! is quick to abandon the field, then I can easily imagine Marvel-or-whoever concluding that titles based on "old TV shows" simply won't cut it and sticking to the classic characters, plus perhaps a comic based on a newer series like Phineas and Ferb. A word of advice to unhappy C&DRR fans: if you want to see the gang in comics again, then support the animated-Duck books!

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