Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Comics Review: RICHIE RICH: RICH RESCUE #2 (2011, Ape Entertainment/Classic Media)

I've decided to bow to the indicia and give Ape's "Richie reboot" the "factory-suggested" subtitle. Would that I had similar respect for this ish's lead story. "The Pursuit of Pesos" -- a title for which we are never provided even a particle of justification -- is a frequently illogical piece of hackery which takes a trope that was used on occasion during the Harvey era and, remarkably enough, actually underperfoms the expectations nurtured through several decades of reading RICHIE. I know that this comic is meant for young readers, but even they would probably scoff at the idea of Rich Rescue's going back in time "six million years" and running into that dear, familiar scenario of coexisting dinosaurs and humanoids. The kids of today have probably seen too many reruns of Jurassic Park and too many documentaries on The Science Channel to accept that premise without a heck of a lot more justification than what we're given here. And that isn't the longest faith-leap we're asked to take -- not by a long shot. Along with them having giant lizards as neighbors, we're asked to believe that the masked, brutish club-swingers who set a captured Gloria out as a feast for a local T-Rex possess (or have built, even) a "temple" that permits one to travel through time. I never bought Erich von Daniken's theories about ancient astronauts, but can you think of an explanation that would work better here?

In dishing out his "hot Jurassic mess" (Cadbury's words, not mine), writer Buddy Scalera evinces an almost cynical laziness and sloppiness. Our gang make with moss-covered comments such as, "I have a bad feeling about this" and "I have a feeling we're being watched," and Cadbury and Irona arrive in the past in time to help save Richie, Reggie, and Gloria's bacon... well, more or less because they do. It's not as if we learn how the duo managed it. "If [the time-travel device] worked once, perhaps it will work again," Cadbury comments. OK, but then how else could he have gone back in time? For sure, a lot of RICHIE time-travel and "ancient" stories from the Harvey era harbored illogical elements. Since this series begs to be taken "more seriously" as a modern-day updating of Richie's world, however, I think it is fair to hold it to a somewhat higher standard insofar as scripting is concerned. (Scalera also does absolutely nothing with the notion of Rich Rescue as a boon to the "less fortunate," unless you count a museum being desperate for the recovery of a "lost artifact" as one of life's unfortunate victims.)

The artwork for "Pesos" isn't the greatest, with Marcelo Ferreira drawing Gloria with something akin to praying-mantis limbs on more than one occasion, but it's hardly the main problem here. To be fair, there are a couple of nice, dramatic moments -- Richie (with a scared-sheetless Reggie in tow) parachuting in to try and save Gloria; Gloria flinging a wooden spear to cut a tangled Richie loose; Richie and Gloria sharing a heartfelt hand-clench when it seems that all is lost -- but my level of irritation with the script tended to undercut their effectiveness.

The "back matter" consists of a pair of short stories and another one-page "Keenbean's Corner" gag, the latter of which is arguably the best thing in the issue. "Ma Ma My Irona" (what kid will get that reference?) unspools yet another familiar notion from the Harvey past as Reggie, having won "rights" to Irona for a day, plans to exploit her but quickly lives to regret it. Actually, Reggie's actions are fairly tame compared with what he would typically do in similar Harvey stories; the worst thing that he asks Irona to do is to carry him to his limo. Artist Armando Zander draws a very attractive Irona, a Richie who looks like a child character on Pokemon, and an oddly angular Reggie. "Hello, Fellow Hostages, Are You Ready to Rock?," starring Cadbury and a gang of what can only be termed "anti-eco"-eco-terrorists, is about a guess-what situation and takes place guess where. I found it funny, if only because it reminded me of Cadbury's supposed "rock-posse past" as detailed in the made-for-video feature Richie Rich's Christmas Wish (1998), except that Cadbury does not "dress down" this time but is his typical, proper self. During the late 60s and early 70s, Harvey occasionally tried to place Cadbury in the incongruous situation of either being among hippies or dressing like a hippie; I'm glad that writer Matt Anderson allowed Cadbury to show his "with-it side" here without being patronizing or mocking. Finally, Patrick Rills and James Silvani show Keenbean engaging in some funny repartee with his "Know-it-All 3000," a sort of reprise of R.U.D.I. (from the 1985 version of The Jetsons) or P.C. (the "computer face thingie" that advises HD&L and their pals on the I-Team). They even include some "deleted scenes" from "Pesos" to bring the ish full circle.

Not without its bright spots, RR:RR #2 is nonetheless a big step backwards. Please, bring back the "rebooted" RICHIE villains and the "helping others" theme!


Pete Fernbaugh said...

I've not read as many Richie comics as you have, Chris, but when I have, they've always been enjoyable. The old Harveys, like the Disney comics of yore, were kid-oriented, but for the most part, never talked down to kids.

The writers of this comic (going on what you've written) and Warren Spector's DuckTales book over at Boom! seem to have forgotten that good kid-oriented writing doesn't mean it's for kids who aren't adults yet, but for the kids in all of us, whether we're 3 or 30 or 93.

That's why the best animation, whether on TV or in a theatre, appeals to everybody. It doesn't talk down to its audience because it's for kids; it speaks to that side in all of us that never grows up.

Chris Barat said...


I thought that the writing on Ape RR was reasonably good in the previous two issues. A lot of writers appear to have their thumbs in this particular pie, and it probably shouldn't be surprising that one would pull out a lemon, rather than a plum. The editor(s), however, should have noted the illogical plot of "Pesos" and asked for some revisions.