Saturday, June 23, 2012

Comics Review: RICHIE RICH: RICH RESCUE #6 (Ape Entertainment, 2012)

By Jove, I think they're getting it!  Either that, or there's some mystical significance in the fact that the two best issues of RR:RR to date -- this one and #3 -- are both multiples of three.  I'd certainly like to think that we won't have to wait until issue #9 to top this, the first true "book-length" RR:RR adventure (save for one Warren Kremer gag and a pin-up page) and a tale fully worthy of the extended treatment.  Put plainly, what "Hero for a Day!" in #5 did wrong in terms of "reimaginings" of "classic" RICH cast members, the 22-page "The Loch is the Key" does right.  Richie's snooty would-be girlfriend Mayda Munny and publicity-seeking Aunt Noovo make their series debuts here, and, while both are fairly unrecognizable in a physical sense (Noovo much more so than Mayda), the new uses to which they are put generally make good sense in light of how the original characters operated. Writer Buddy Scalera, who mucked up the intros of Freckles and Pee-Wee and turned Dr. Derange of "Convac" fame into a villain in #5, completely reverses field with this effort, for which I'm quite grateful.  We also see the introduction of Jade Green, Mayda's hyper-talented "personal valet" (is this the mature Kim Possible's future, I wonder?), and learn that Cadbury's past includes an intriguing personal relationship not involving the seemingly inevitable Sir Ruddy Blighter.  The plot does go somewhat wobbly at the very end, and Marcelo Ferreira's anime-flavored art, though probably more suited to the somewhat more serious doings herein than James Silvani's art would have been, again plays some Skeezix-ish havoc with certain characters' extremities (poor Gloria looks particularly anorexic in some shots).  Still in all, there's a whole lot to like here, and I'm starting to have some real hope for the future of this title, provided that this level of attention to detail can be maintained.

"Loch" is both the very first Mayda Munny adventure story of any stripe that I've ever seen and, arguably, the best Mayda story ever, period.  Not exactly a daunting hurdle to vault, I will admit; the Mayda stories of the "classic" era, mostly of the five-page "filler" variety, focused with a relentless fixation on the spoiled "pocket Cher wannabe"'s efforts to get Richie to dump Gloria and become her boy toy, so high drama and physical stakes were not often in play.  (There was at least one "classic" story in which Richie tried to get Mayda to do various physical activities with him, but Mayda proved incapable of even walking through the woods without whining about being inconvenienced.)  Here, Mayda somehow gets wind of the news that Richie's Aunt Noovo (newly recast as a sensation-seeking media "monster hunter") has gone missing at Loch Ness and brings her own rescue team to the Loch to rival the efforts of "Rich Rescue."  It's not made clear whether Mayda, Jade, Mayda's cat Glitter, and Mayda's "highly advanced butler-bot" Serv-O (a reference to a "mechanical butler" of the same name who appeared in an early-70s Ernie Colon-drawn story; unlike that fake factotum, this one is the real thing) have participated in any other rescue missions prior to this one.  Mayda certainly seems to be somewhat inexperienced at this rescue biz; she lacks some of "Rich Rescue"'s equipment (subsequently bellowing, in true imperious fashion, to be given same), finds hiking a chore, falls into a hole in a cave while trying to recover Glitter, and gets her foot caught on a rock, necessitating a Richie and Gloria mini-rescue.  Therefore, it's certainly possible (though not explicitly stated) that she has decided to assume this challenge with the specific purpose of impressing Richie.  For, yes, she is still very much enamored of our hero, though the three-cushion clash between Richie, Gloria, and Mayda is a lot more subtle than that seen in any "classic" story.

This title has already softened Reggie with a fair bit of success, but the challenge of making Mayda palatable in the RR:RR environment was, if anything, even more daunting.  Self-absorbed, mean-spirited, disrespectful, lazy, and bitchy, the "classic" Mayda had only her looks going for her and was almost completely defined by her desire to wreck Richie and Gloria's relationship.  At least the "classic" Reggie played his pranks on lots of other people besides Richie (his rivalry with Richie also led to a non-trivial number of adventure stories).  Scalera sands off some of Mayda's spiky edges by giving her a few moments of introspection (e.g., she admits dejectedly to Jade that Richie's boyfriendship is the one thing her money can't buy) and, remarkably enough, letting her admit to herself that Richie and Gloria DO in fact "make a great team."  The latter, in particular, goes miles beyond anything seen in a "classic" story.  Sure, Mayda's still very self-centered and can't quite bring herself to thank Gloria to the latter's face, but this reconstituted "baby" has already come a long, long way.  She also gets the humanizing trait of being somewhat boy-crazy in general, falling for one of Aunt Noovo's cameramen after Noovo and her crew have been rescued.  She may not get Richie in the end, but at least she has the potential to have other relationships in this brave new "universe"!  (Reggie certainly hopes so; he appears to be quite smitten with Mayda.)  Ferreira's redesign of Mayda's physical appearance makes her look a bit more "exotic" (with a darker skin tone) while preserving the black hair and ever-so-slightly collagen-ized lips.  The end result is pretty attractive, though, on occasion, a shouting Mayda looks more like Lilo, only all grown up now and with big bucks and gadgets.

Jade Green is also quite attractive, in a "female samurai" sort of way, but we honestly don't get to see her do all that much in the way of physical combat, or anything else proactive for that matter.  (Though I do like the somewhat bemused way in which she reacts to Mayda's comments, demands, etc.)  What we do see is Cadbury and Jade reuniting "after all these years." Evidently, they were something of an item back in the day, said "day" including a time when C&J apparently served as some sort of "agents," presumably of the "secret" variety, and participated in adventures as a team.  Well, I wouldn't even have put it past the "classic" Cadbury to have provided such service, so this isn't really a stretch, though the "personal relationship" angle opens up a whole new can of Spotted Dick, so to speak.  Cadbury also makes a fleeting reference to having attended "the Academy"; to what could he be referring?  SandhurstStarfleet?  I certainly hope that this Cadbury-Jade business doesn't wind up being a one-issue "throwaway."  There are definite possibilities here.

As for Aunt Noovo, there seems to be little relationship at first glance between the heavy-set, bespectacled, good-hearted-yet-intently-image-conscious Noovo of the "classic" era and the skinny, jeans-wearing, top-knotted, acerbic "monster hunter" introduced here... but, hold on a minute.  It must be admitted that the new Noovo is at least somewhat akin to the old in that she seems to be "all about the image."  For the RR:RR Noovo, self-proclaimed "beloved TV personality," getting the story is the thing, and looking good doing it is just as important.  She even sends Gloria DVDs of her series as birthday gifts, for crying out loud.  I'd be willing to bet that Scalera at least considered the original Noovo's personality when crafting this new version of the character.

The character dynamics here take up so much of the oxygen that it's easy to forget that there's a plot going on, too... and here, we find a few soft spots.  The inevitable appearance of the Loch Ness Monster and the explanation of its connection to the Rich family and Greymoor Castle (another reference to a "classic" tale; Buddy is nothing if not diligent in these subtle references) is handled OK, albeit in a rather predictably PC-ish sense, but Richie, why the heck didn't you tell your team about what they were going to encounter once they got to the Loch?  You may not have known what happened to Noovo, but you surely could have alerted "Rich Rescue" to the rest of that setup and avoided numerous surprises, perils, and headaches.  You're fortunate that Gloria didn't punch you out after you told the backstory on the final page.  I also really feel that some explicit explanation should have been given as to why Mayda was involved in "rescue ops" to begin with.  Simply having her show up, and then appear with her crew in the "Munny Matters" pin-up at the back of the book, doesn't quite cut it, I'm afraid.  Finally, what's with the green ghosts on Ferreira's cover, which are conspicuous (or as conspicuous as incorporeal entities can ever be) by their complete absence in the story proper? 

BTW, Ape, good show in tributing the recently deceased Sid Couchey on the credits page here.  You may have messed up his name and confused some of his credits in past issues of RR GEMS, but this goes a long way towards redressing those (from a fanboy's perspective) grievances.

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