“Rex Radley: Boy Adventurer” #1 is a delightful series of cartoon-inspired one-shots in the life of Rex Radley: genius, troublemaker and sweetheart.
Story, Colors & Letters: Winston Gambro
Art: Leandro Panganiban (“Turtle Trouble”), Paul Williams (“The Diabolical Dangers of Dinosaur Island”), Christine Hipp (“Home Invasion”), Jey Pawlik (“Hot Potato Hand-Off”)
“Rex Radley: Boy Adventurer” #1 is a quartet of fun shorts featuring a kiddo whose brains, enthusiasm and penchant for getting into trouble are on display in equal measure. Rex is the child of two geniuses, now divorced, and splits his time between his amazing dad, who resides on Dinosaur Island with his cavewoman bodyguard, and mom, who lives in Japan and works on giant robots. Rex’s 11 going on 19, with all of the pep and pizzazz of boys his age, and hijinks ensue. Naturally.
It’s hard to put together a comic for kids that doesn’t talk down to them or put adults to sleep, and “Rex Radley” hits the right balance in its plotting. Whether it’s spring-boarding a Gamera clone into the sun or outwitting a maniacal Dinosaurian overlord, Rex isn’t fazed by much. Gambro gives Rex the perfect blend of invulnerability and curiosity, and while he might be a wunderkind he lacks the ego of his modern media child counterparts, and that translates into a fun tone that keeps us turning pages. Story-wise, there’s a fine blend of fun and ridiculousness for the kids (jet-propelled couch cushions, anyone?) and a lot of ‘80s cartoon throwbacks to cue adult nostalgia. Gambro keeps the energy high and the shorts short enough to be novel. A few of the shorts feel slightly rushed, but Gambro hits the story points that need to be hit and moves on without incurring any true disappointment.
Panganiban, Williams, Hipp and Pawlik are a capable batch of artists, and each tackles one short effectively. Panganiban does justice to the kaiju stylings of “Turtle Trouble” with some nice shading and realism injected amongst the cartooning. Some of the smaller panels blur out a bit in the final action scene, but the humor of it carries well and the turtle’s face is priceless. Williams evokes the Golden Age with a thicker line and clean facial details, and the true joy in “Dinosaur Island” is in the dinos, with their precision shading and tons of teeth. Hipp goes for a more contemporary cartooning style but keeps it within the bounds of the real in the domestic “Home Invasion,” and this short boasts the most consistent panel layouts and sequential action. Finally, Pawlik’s Tharga is appropriately disdainful and punchy in “Hot Potato Hand-Off,” and there’s one heck of a spaceship to contrast the orderly cityscape.
Gambro colors each short and does a good job of balancing some brighter hues, as for the dinos in “Dinosaur Island” and the UFO in “Hot Potato Hand-Off”, with the more subdued tones of the sewers, the grocery store and the living room in other shorts. The fox masks get some nice shading in “Home Invasion” and we go a little neon in “Dinosaur Island” at the end, to good effect. Lettering runs small, and with all the dialogue in the comic it can be a bit hard to read on some establishing pages as on the first page of “Dinosaur Island.” Still, Gambro picks a readable font and doesn’t go in on any particular balloon stroke or style that detracts from the straight-ahead nature of the text. Sound effects in “Dinosaur Island” and “Hot Potato Hand-Off” are appropriately punchy, as well.
Overall, “Rex Radley: Boy Adventurer” #1 is an example of what I’d like to see more in the industry: comics designed to delight kids who might not often see themselves in this medium with good stories, imaginative concepts and enough nostalgia and humor thrown in to make an adult reading experience fun.
The Verdict: 7.5/10 – Gambro and the creative team behind “Rex Radley: Boy Adventurer” #1 hit the right balance of humor and heart to make for an enjoyable reading experience.