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Speed Racer: Chronicles of the Racer #1

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Speed Racer: Chronicles of the Racer #1

Credits

  • Words: Arie Kaplan
  • Art: Robby Musso & German Torres
  • Inks: Robby Musso & German Torres
  • Colors: Jason Jensen
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Publisher: IDW Publishing
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Feb 6, 2008

Speed Racer has always been a demon on wheels but now he discovers a family legacy that goes beyond the track.

IDW is not a publisher very well known for doing all-ages comics and, despite the fact that this title has not been advertised as such, that is exactly what it is. Considering the background and popularity of the original anime and an upcoming big-budget movie, the characters seem like the perfect choice for launching an all-age title. It is a pity then that the execution leaves so much to be desired.

Race car drivers are finding themselves victims of a mysterious rash of ejection seat malfunctions. Speed is the latest victim and it is only the quick thinking of Racer X that saves him. With a strange clue to this mystery, Speed’s father feels it is finally time to reveal a family secret. It appears that racing is in the blood – as is facing off against various forces of evil. Studying the past, Speed learns he is the latest in a chosen line but if he isn’t careful he may just end up being the last.

I’m sure you have all heard the old saying "If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it." Well, despite the fact that there was nothing broken about the Speed Racer franchise, IDW has chosen to fix it. On the surface, the idea itself is sound. Each issue of this new series will tell a story out of the past – one of Speed’s ancestors with racing in the blood. In this first issue we are treated to the story of a Roman era charioteer going head to head with an invisible enemy. The biggest problem here is the change to the basic, intrinsic nature of the original story. IDW has shoehorned in a lot of blather about a chosen one in each generation being gifted with superhuman speed and agility. It is an unnecessary addition and feels like it takes something away from the original – which was always about Speed trying to better himself as a driver. Plus, it plays into a lot of old tropes and clichés that have permeated science fiction and fantasy from the tales of King Arthur to Star Wars and beyond.

Writer Arie Kaplan does a fairly good job with the story as a whole. He throws in a number of in-jokes for the adults to enjoy but, unfortunately, by and large, the rest of the story is geared for the youngest common denominator. He deliberately plays around with anachronistic elements and dialogue in the line of television series and movies like The Wild, Wild West and The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. Some of these work while others do not. Really, the same can be said of all of the dialogue here – it is very hit and miss. Some shows real wit and style but others simply fall flat.

The art by Robby Musso and German Torres tries for a marriage of manga and more traditional western style comic book art. It is an uneasy relationship and they might want to consider marriage counseling. There is just not enough manga influence to capture the charms of that style and there is not enough of a traditional comic book look to hit the high points of that style either. In any case, nowhere do the artists even attempt to create some echoes of the original anime series.

While Speed Racer: Chronicles of the Racer tries for an all-ages audience most adult and older teen readers are likely to find themselves disappointed. Likewise, long time fans of the anime may be disappointed in the addition of some pointless mystical mumbo-jumbo and the hint of superhuman abilities to the main character. For younger readers, particularly those never exposed to the cartoon, there will probably be a certain amount of enjoyment to be had with some action sequences and broad comedy.

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