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Salad Days: Like so many Disney animated TV shows of the 90s, Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers was focused on developing a unique story-platform for the longtime Disney characters.
cover art

Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers #1

(BOOM! Studios; US: Dec 2010)

BOOM! Studios seems to be intent on channeling many of the earliest memories of twenty-something year old comic book readers. The revival of Disney’s Darkwing Duck, a gem of after school programming, in comic book form met with so much success that it prompted the publisher to expand the limited miniseries into a permanent ongoing series for the Duck Knight. BOOM! now attempts to bring back to life another treasured animated series, one with a theme song that is indelibly and inescapably imprinted on my brain.


Chip ‘N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers has launched as an ongoing comic book series. Just the dynamic image of the team astride the Ranger Plane is enough to de-age me by two decades where I sing along to the theme song in all its late 80’s/early 90’s lyrical glory, something I still catch myself doing when the beat inexplicably remerges from my mind’s recesses.


Written by Ian Brill, the same man behind the surprisingly good Darkwing Duck comic, and penciled by artist Leonel Castellani, the comic wastes no time in hitting the ground running. Chip ‘N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers catalogues the adventures of Chip, Dale, Gadget, Monterey Jack and Zipper during their quest for a cure to an unknown illness that is causing their fellow animal inhabitants to act a bit wild, in one scene almost turning zombie-like. Interspersed with flashbacks, very apropos, the series also looks to develop the titular Rescue Rangers a bit more as characters than their after school timeslot allowed.


The comic itself is a bit hard to follow at times. Strange cuts and abrupt shifts without the necessary transitions are jarring to say the least. The book opens with a very effective flashback that is later touched on to great effect, but midway through the Rescue Rangers encounter a bit of difficulty in their journey and plummet over a waterfall. This is laced with a quick cut that makes it very unclear if this is a flashback or a flash-forward or perhaps a misprint and this segment was meant to be included earlier in the story.


Regardless of these questionable storytelling decisions, or faux pas, should the aforementioned printing error be the culprit, Brill nails a particular segment very well that not only enhances a character and the story but speaks to the reader, at least those who watched the show. The scene in question is a flashback that depict Gadget’s attempt to ride a bicycle with the aid of her father. By and large, the target audience of the original Rescue Rangers television show was probably around this stage of development during the series’ heyday.


Brill begins with this father/daughter moment, one where he tries to elaborate that he may not always be there for his child in the future, before he is suddenly cut off by a bicycle mishap. It’s a fitting reminder of growing up. Learning to ride a bike is one of those milestones from child to adolescent. Those who watched the original television show undoubtedly recall much of it as a childhood flashback, precisely the way Gadget recalls learning to ride her bike with the aid of her father.


Chip ‘N’ Dale: Rescue Rangers is able to take advantage of this storytelling device, reminding the audience of their formative years watching the show, because moving into a new medium, that of the comic book, has enabled Brill to tell a more complex tale than 22 minutes of children’s programming circa 1990 most likely would have allowed. Comics allow many of these childhood properties to receive a little bit of extra mileage. Not only does this comic allow the Rescue Rangers to live on but the same applies to the bevy of licensed properties that have thrived as comic books. Classic 80’s and 90’s televisions shows, G.I. Joe, Transformers, Darkwing Duck and plenty of others are thriving comic book franchises.


Does this mean these properties are not “fit” enough to exist on television anymore? Possibly. The tastes of today’s children differ from my generations tastes just as certainly my tastes deviated from my parents’. While new incarnations of Transformer cartoons exist and G.I. Joe has made the leap to the big screen, do either properties recapture the magic of their original form? That’s debatable depending on who is consulted. Nevertheless, the fact remains that many licensed property comics carry on the spirit and traditions of these characters to new audiences in a new format. If just one young kid reading this comic today becomes a fan of Rescue Rangers, I’ll consider the entire enterprise a success.

Rating:

Rocketed to Chicago as a young adult from a doomed suburb, James now writes for truth, justice and the conspicuous consumption of comic books. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, Jacobin, The New Humanism, Salon, Bookslut, and elsewhere. He blogs, occasionally, at Graphically Apparent.


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