Or – “Here He Comes, Here… Naah, Even I Can’t Do That With A Straight Face…”


Oh, no!  Speed Racer has returned to comics, whatever shall we do, HA HA!  I think the only option is to talk reallyreally fast HA HA!  If only we weren’t being poorly dubbed into English, HA HA!  Chin Wa!  Chin Wa!  He will not let me get rice cakes… for FATHER!!!  A ha ha haaaa!

SR1.jpgPreviously, on Speed Racer:  As I age, I find that most of the things I loved when I was a kid are now cool again, especially if it was a comic book or a cartoon.  I fully expect to see Jayce and The Wheeled Warriors or MASK return to the spotlight soon (lord help us all.)  Still, with the upcoming Speed Racer movie, this series was an inevitability.  If you don’t know the drill, here’s your breakdown:  Speed Racer is a young race driver.  His father, Pops Racer is a mechanic and former wrestler who runs the family race team.  Sparky (who may or may not be Speed’s brother) is a greasemonkey, while little brother Spritle has a literal monkey in the form of his identically clad pet Chim-Chim.  Speed’s lady friend Trixie hangs around in a helicopter most of the time, while his mother shows up every once in a while worrying about her lost older son.  Speed’s greatest rival is a masked racer called simply Racer X, who as we all probably know, is secretly Speed’s elder brother Rex Racer!  For naming his children Rex, Speed, Spritle and possibly Sparky, Pops Racer is currently doing time in prison for child abuse.  (No, not really.)

This issue starts off in 3100 B.C. in the kingdom of Nubia.  Wait, what?  Upon rechecking, I find that this is the truth, as we see to youths running across the sand in a desperate footrace.  “It’s always the same story, generation to generation.  The racer races, and his brother tries to outrace him.  The irony is, they don’t KNOW they’re brothers.”  This really rubs me the wrong way, for some reason.  I know that it’s the new “in-thing” to give every character a legacy, to try and add an epic feel to their adventures by making it a sprawling time-tossed archetypical blah blah blah fishcakes.  We cut immediately to a track somewhere in the world, as Speed Racer crosses the finish line well ahead of all the others competitors, but only seconds ahead of Racer X.  The announcer scream “Here he comes!  Here comes Speed Racer!  He’s a demon on wheels!!!”  Oy gevalt…  The line between cool and ridiculously cheesy is a thin one, indeed.

Suddenly, Speed’s tire bursts, and he is ejected from the Mach 5, and thrown toward the unyeilding track below.  Racer X quickly tosses a cushion under his brother (really) and crashes into the Mach 5 with his Shooting Star.  Luckily, all the other cars evaporate completely causing no trouble…  The greatest issue I have with the art so far is that the quickly vaporized cars are all drawn as actual Formula 1 vehicles, and the Shooting Star and Mach 5 are drawn like the Shooting Star and Mach 5.  No way in Hosaku are those vehicles Formula 1 legal vehicles.  Anyway, Speed finds a card calling him out, and later that day, he tries to get Pops to explain it all.  The old man takes him down a hidden corridor to his Racer Cave.  No, I’m serious!  He does!  And in this hidden cave are relics like Pops’ wrestling belt and Speed original Elvis meets Kid Colt cartoon costume.  Pops explains the legacy of the Racer, and gives him the family tome, the Chronicles of The Racer, and a mysterious half-amulet.

Speed reads it all in one sitting, gathering all the information in record time, and Pops remarks “You won’t remember all of it instantaneously.  But bits and pieces will come to you as you need them.”  Well, that was some awkward exposition, wasn’t it?  We cut to Speed having dinner with Trixie, and a mysterious empty chariot marked “Mercury Pictures” pulls up outside.  Trixie says it best, as Speed insists he has to go find out what’s up.  “I’ve helped you fight every insane, turbo-injected menace you’ve ever grappled with, but all of a sudden you’re “The Racer” and you’ve gotta go all Lone Wolf on me.”  Preach on, sister.  Speed follows the empty vehicle, and suddenly, he recalls a bit of the holy book of velocity, remembering a Roman centurion named Swiftus Romulus, the fastest man in Rome.  Swiftus, it seems, was forced to race the chariot of Mercury, but ended up confronting a sorcerer who is possibly also a Roman gawd…  I think.  It’s not really all that clear, to be honest.  Swiftus races the albino magician, but only escapes certain death because of the interference of a masked man with an X on his chest.  The magician then falls to his death, leaving half an amulet behind…  Aha!!  Meanwhile, in the future, Speed enters Mercury Picture studios, not noticing a mysterious albino hiding in the shadows.

Okay, I gotta be honest.  I loves me some Speed Racer, but this issue is a mess.  ARie Kaplan’s script vaccilates between tongue-in-cheek humor like “Swiftus Romulus” and the hidden Racer cave and weird bits of business with the legacy of “The Racer.”  It’s a bit disconcerting and more than a bit offputting.  The art (by Robby Musso and German Torres) is workmanlike enough, capturing the goofy anime stylings of the cartoon, and keeping all the characters distinct and recognizable, but also elongating facial expressions unpleasantly.  The updated character designs work for me, but most of the rest of the issue doesn’t seem to know where it’s going, stretching towards both drama and silliness, and not quite making it to either extreme.  Still, there’s obviously a lot of love for the characters here, and I can’t quite fault the creators for trying to recapture and share their appreciation for an old fave-rave (see my Hero Histories for the reason why.)  For all the potential, this issue falls a bit short, and Speed Racer: Chronicles of The Racer #1 earns 1.5 out of 5 stars…


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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