A vile den of drugs and villainy
If I had to run down a list of movies that have a special place in my heart, Touchstoneâ€™s Who Framed Roger Rabbit would certainly be on the list.Â I really fell in love with the idea of cartoon characters living side by side with humans, and when you throw in a big mystery and a song and dance number, how could you not like this movie?Â Image Comicsâ€™ Shadowline imprint just released Archibald Chases the Dragon, and it brings back almost all of the memories from that crazy rabbit film.
There are certainly some differences between this book and Roger Rabbit; there are no real world humans to interact with, and the title is all black and white, with a splash of red, and as far as a kid friendly title – this ainâ€™t.Â If the title is any clue, there is quite a bit of opium smokinâ€™ going on, violent murder, and foul language that is covered up by all those ampersands and exclamation points.
I havenâ€™t had the pleasure of reading the first Archibald book, but apparently in Archibald Saves Christmas, Archibaldâ€™s brother Andre is killed, and Archibald is set up as a patsy before solving the mystery in the end.Â Or did he?
So just who is Archibald?Â Heâ€™s the star of a series of features for Neptune Studios, and he just happens to be an Aardvark.Â Strange dealings are afoot as a mysterious stranger has made a deal with the devil to make the Archibald movies the biggest grossing features for the studios.Â Unfortunately, Archibald is still pretty broken up over the loss of his brother.
Readers get introduced to Archibald as heâ€™s in the process of getting plastered in a local bar.Â A â€œsuspiciousâ€ reporter for a gossip mag indicates that Andre may not have been killed by the director of the brotherâ€™s last film, but rather by someone in Little China by the name of the Compassionate Wind of Death.
This sends Archibald off to Little China, still in a drunken stupor to find the Red Lotus Lounge for answers.Â There he is introduced to opium, and in a drug induced haze, has a red dragon tattooed on his chest.Â Itâ€™s too bad the sexy female who put the mark on his chest is the one the aardvark hero is looking for.
The story gets weird after that, as the dragon comes to life, kills everyone in the den, with Archibald barely escaping with his life.Â Heâ€™s then rescued by a pick-pocket, and the two bring down the dragon in a way that would probably make Judge Doom proud.Â The unlikely duo also narrowly escape death by sword from the Compassionate Wind of Death, who tells them she wasnâ€™t hired to kill Archibald, just to give him a hard time.
The rampage in Little China does have one positive effect; the tabloids run the story thus making Archibaldâ€™s latest movie another huge hit.Â And that is the point where we find out what all the mess has been about, the shadowy figure is trying to out the head of Neptune Studios so he can take over, and the devil was behind all the high jinks.Â The surprise at who the shadowy figure is, completes the story and sets the reader up nicely for a future title.
I really hope book store owners realize Archibald Chases the Dragon is not a title for kids.Â With the death, dealings with the devil, and drugs scattered throughout the issue, this is not something the youngâ€™uns should be reading.Â For the adults, however, this is a very pulpy title, with a cartoon bent.Â In other words, I liked it a great deal.Â The pacing seemed a little rushed at times, but the story did make sense and was quite enjoyable.
The art was also really good.Â I like how Grant Bond uses the color red to indicate the presence of evil, and heâ€™s able to pull of a noir feel without going all Miller in his stylings.Â Even though it probably wasnâ€™t needed, printing the issue on glossy paper did bring out the sparse color and made every page pop.Â This, and the more than likely lower than normal interest in the title, are probably the reasons this issues had a $3.50 cover price.
I slowly digging around trying to find the first adventure of Archibald, and will more than likely jump on the next titles as well.Â Archibald Chases the Dragon is a really good noir thriller that is deserving of 4 out of 5 Stars.