Best Shots Advance Reviews: ROCKO'S MODERN LIFE #1, PARADISO #1

Image Comics December 2017 cover
Image Comics December 2017 cover
Credit: Image Comics
Credit: Jorge Monlongo (BOOM! Studios)

Rocko’s Modern Life #1
Written by Ryan Ferrier
Art by Ian McGinty and Fred C. Stresing
Lettering by Jim Campbell
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Your favorite NickToon not called Hey, Arnold! gets a wildly clever and true-to-form reboot in the debut of Rocko’s Modern Life. Ousted from his job at a call center, Rocko must now pound the pavement in order to find a job to pay his bills and support his beloved pup Spunky - but he’ll soon find the job hunt is even more harrowing than he could have imagined. Capturing both the episodic nature of the original cartoon and the show’s off-kilter sense of visual and verbal humor, writer Ryan Ferrier delivers a relaunch that is more than worthy of retaking the position that the absurdist cartoon left after its cancellation. Along with the screen-accurate, eye-grabbing artwork that perfectly replicates the wavy, almost psychedelic look of the cartoon from Ian McGinty and Fred C. Stresing, Ferrier and company have done very, very right by everyone’s favorite button-down-wearing wallaby.

Right from the get-go, readers will be struck at just how uncannily similar this debut looks to the original cartoon. Though the visuals of the show aren’t exactly that tough a nut to crack, artists Ian McGinty and Fred C. Stresing want this comic book to feel like the TV show, and man, do they succeed, adding in bits like Rocko’s torrential sweat pouring from his collar. Moving beyond keeping the character designs intact, the pair pepper in several callbacks to visual gags from the show and keep them coming until the issue’s cliffhanger.

But even if the comic wasn’t blessed with an art team that fully understands the show’s visual beats and color scheme, Ryan Ferrier’s script does a tremendous job of updating the show’s surreal sense of humor for an all-new audience. Though we may have been a bit too young to fully understand the struggle of a single, unemployed person just trying to make good for himself and his dog at the time, we damn sure understand it now, and this debut’s script leans into it.

Filled with clever wordplay and several pointed jabs at fandom gatekeeping, corporate greed, and the idea of the American (pardon me, O-Townian) Dream, Ferrier strikes a nice balance between presenting jokes for adults and a younger audience. But while Ferrier is clearly working for an established audience and with a recognized IP, he is still making it his own, within the confines of a “traditional episode” of the show. In short, if you have been missing the specific weird humor that Rocko’s Modern Life delivered on a week-to-week basis, then you are very much in luck. (And for newcomers, welcome! His neighbors are angry frogs. Don’t worry about it.)

When the main “NickToons” line of shows went off the air, an entire generation of latchkey kids cried out in anguish. Thankfully, BOOM! Studios have heard our cries and have not only revived one of the mainstays of the line, but did it in such a way that it feels like it never left. Filled with plenty of snort-inducing laughs, both visual and scriptwise, and aesthetically accurate and pleasing artwork Rocko’s Modern Life #1 is a triumphant return for Rocko and the gang.

Image Comics December 2017 cover
Image Comics December 2017 cover
Credit: Image Comics

Paradiso #1
Written by Ram V
Art by Devmalya Pramanik, Dearbhla Kelly and Alex Sollazzo
Lettering by Aditya Bidikar
Published by Image Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Crumbling cities. Killer robots. Otherworldly technology.

If you can make it in Paradiso, you can make it anywhere.

In many ways, this new title from Image Comics isn’t so much a concrete hard concept as it evokes a feeling, a sense of place, a world-building that we’re only starting to catch an inkling of. There’s a lot of style as writer Ram V and his team slowly start to roll out the substance to this post-apocalyptic world, reminding me a lot of Rick Remender’s work in Seven to Eternity and Low. While some readers may find this series to be too esoteric for their tastes, there’s a lot of potential to Paradiso’s mythology.

That all said, don’t expect this book to hold your hand - we’re dropping into the deep end of the pool immediately, as we watch a young boy run away from a bizarre killer robot, firing bullets at us as it’s surrounded by ominous-looking screens. But V gives us few answers as he then flings us ahead in time to the world of Paradiso, where we hear whispers of a long-lost world of technology, as well as engineering wizards known as the Tinkermen. Our main character, Jack, has a mission - to get inside the dangerous city of Paradiso - but his history is only implied at this point, particularly the strange diode he wears across his neck.

With so much of this first issue’s narrative being about setting the tone, artist Devmalya Pramanik proves to be Paradiso’s greatest selling point. Pramanik’s work evokes modern masters like Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jerome Opena, pouring on tons of mood with scratchy rendering and evocative shadows. Pramanik makes this issue’s action beats explode, particularly when Jack and his convoy are attacked by a pair of killer cyborgs who can’t help but be reminiscent of James Bond’s Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. Watching the convoy get flipped with a single punch… it’s pretty dynamite stuff. Colorists Dearbhla Kelly and Alex Sollazzo also bring a similar kind of style that evokes Matt Hollingsworth’s work in Seven to Eternity, and their tag-team efforts are really just seamless.

But like I said before, Paradiso isn’t a book that’s for everyone - this is not the easiest high concept to jump aboard with, and while Jack quickly gets himself into trouble, when you lose that narrative bedrock you wind up leaving a lot to just personal taste. But even the flickers of mythology I see here feel promising - I want to know more about the Tinkermen, about the tatters of this once-great society, of the powers that Jack has (and may have again). Paradiso might not be a widespread tourist destination yet, but it’s certainly a book that’s piqued my interest.

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