Title: Chip 'N Dale's Rescue Rangers: Of Mice & Mayhem
Parents have little to worry about here. While I wouldn't recomend this book for anyone under the age of eight due to the heavy themes of death and the frailty of life, nothing in it goes beyond that of a PG-rated movie. Fans of "Chip 'N Dale Rescue Rangers" are bound to love this book. It really does the characters justice.
I am not a very old person in real life, but I am old enough to remember "The Disney Afternoon" block. Chances are if you were born sometime after 1997 you have no idea what I'm talking about, so I'll try to bring you up to speed. Back in the early and mid ‘90s, Disney made the BEST cartoons for kids (and adults, now that I think about it)! If you were a kid in the ‘90s (and some of you readers are), then chances are you were one of those kids who would rush to the TV after school to catch "The Disney Afternoon" block after school. After a failed first attempt at children's programming called "The Wuzzles" (imagine a "Care Bears" rip-off that wasn't even as good as the "Care Bears") only lasted thirteen episodes, Disney went to some of their classic animation vaults to see what they could retool for TV. Originally "The Rescuers" were to be the star of their own TV show, but then "The Rescuers: Down Under" movie was greenlighted, and Disney settled on retooling their classic Chip and Dale characters for a new action show instead.
They gave the chipmunks clothes, added a couple of new characters in the form of Monterey Jack and Gadget, and they had a line of familiar bad guys to defeat (most noticeably Fat Cat). The result of all this was "Chip 'N Dale Rescue Rangers," a quirky show that acted as a very entertaining action show (despite the fact that the action may seem more tame than what many people would consider qualifies for "action" these days). At the time of its creation, Disney was very inexperienced when it came to creating children's shows (even more so than they are now), and only made a single sixty-five episode season (which they stretched out for a couple of years). This show, along with other such hits as "Ducktales," "Tale Spin," "Darkwing Duck," and "Bonkers" established "The Disney Afternoon" as one of the best animation blocks in animation history (yes, hard to believe, but Disney used to make the best children's shows of all time. My, how times have changed). Some of these shows are fondly remembered, one or two of them aren't remembered very fondly, and for some reason "Bonkers" doesn't seem to exist in anyone's mind anymore. But "Chip 'N Dale Rescue Rangers," that show still has a HUGE fan following years after having premiered! People write fan fictions of the show all the time, most of them trying to deal with the more serious themes that were sprinkled throughout the TV show here and there.
I am not one of those people, though I have watched the show in reruns throughout the years, and find myself wondering about directions the show could go if the animators were daring enough to follow the path they started. Things like the death of Gadget’s parents would be skimmed over in the show, but Disney just didn't seem to have the courage to go down such dark paths at the time (they do now, but the results aren't nearly as good since most of the characters in their new shows aren't worth caring about). Still, some part of me still wishes Disney would put this show back in production and do these themes justice. Which brings us to "Chip 'N Dale's Rescue Rangers: Of Mice & Mayhem," which is a fan-created graphic novel that attempts to bring the sort of sophistication and closure to the "Chip 'N Dale Rescue Rangers" show most of us have wished Disney would make all this time. Now believe me, I was NOT searching for this! I stumbled upon this comic COMPLETELY by accident! I was searching for something on Google, when they sent me a link to a message board that just barely mentioned the thing I was searching for (you know how that is), saw the link posted in a message, and clicked it out of pure curiosity. I'm glad I did, as this comic is WAY too good to be hidden away from the general public! The story of "Chip 'N Dale's Rescue Rangers: Of Mice & Mayhem" opens with the Rangers all flying home after a mission of some sort has just left our heroes in despair. As we wonder what it is that could have happened, Chip recounts events of happier times, as well as what led up to the tragedy.
We see how the Rescue Rangers decide to slow down their base of operations. We see the characters fulfill their dreams. Chip and Dale reunite their old band, Monterey Jack buys a local song and dance club, and Gadget gets her Ph.D in engineering and science. We see Chip and Gadget struggle with their feelings toward one another, and we see the possibility of a long and happy life waiting for these characters. Then we see the tragedy that has transpired, and we return to the present time as our hearts break. Despite the fact that the story goes in many different directions (directions you most likely won't be expecting it to take, I'm sure), I'm hesitant to reveal any more of the story, or I might accidentally rob you of some of the experience of reading the story yourself. It may sound like the coward’s way out in a review, being as vague as you can about the story description, but this is just too good a story to give most of it away. Chris Fischer (who admits to being crazy for making this in the first place) has created a story that is worthy of a novel. Themes of love, loss, happiness, friendship, and trust are all handled very delicately, as if the meanings of these themes will break if they are mishandled. They would, but thankfully the author handles these themes with kid gloves. If you've ever seen the TV show this is based off of, you may be worried about whether or not this will even be close to the same show you remember watching as a kid.
I won't lie to you; "Chip 'N Dale's Rescue Rangers: Of Mice & Mayhem" is a LOT more mature than the TV show ever was! With that said, though, the spirit of the show and the souls of the characters remain intact. This comic may be treading new waters, but everything is exactly as we remember it, and the feeling of familiarity is there all the way through. The darker themes this story takes end up feeling like a natural evolution of the story rather then a reinventing of the classic TV show (in other words, "Loonatics" this is not). Aside from the brilliant writing, the author has also drawn the entire book himself, and what a fantastic job he has done with the artwork. Fischer takes a Spielberg approach to the artwork by having the vast majority of the book in black & white, but allows for color to be seen in the most pivotal moments of the book. The results are simply stunning. Fischer is a very talented artist. He’s so talented that his drawings look like someone from Disney themselves drew them. The careful placing of the colors only heightens the artistic triumph of the whole thing. Now let’s get to the discussion of who this is made for. I'm going to venture to guess that at least 80% of you reading this have never seen "Chip 'N Dale Rescue Rangers" before. There is no shame in this. The show first premiered back in 1989, it lasted for only one season, was pulled from syndication in 1994, I believe, and reruns are VERY hard to come by!
Quite frankly, the fact that the show still HAS an audience is quite an accomplishment in itself! The show is around fourteen to fifteen years old. Most of the people who first saw the show are in their mid-twenties, and this comic is meant to be a conclusion of sorts, which means if you've never seen the show you're almost automatically screwed with this book, as you will be completely lost in trying to figure out who's who. With that said, the people who are going to get the most out of this book are the people who are still fans of the TV show after all these years. In fact, if you have been a fan of the show all these years, this may be a bittersweet read for you, seeing as how this comic provides a sense of closure that the TV show did not provide. I actually found myself tearing up when this was over, as I felt as if I was saying goodbye to an old friend I'd known for many years. So if you've read this review and decided you want to read the comic for yourself, you may now be wondering where you can buy it. Well, here's the bad news: you can't buy it. This was a fan-created piece of work, and I highly doubt Disney themselves would release something like this in the first place (there's nothing wrong with the comic, it's just not something they would release). The good news about this is that you can read it online for free, at the website listed above.
There is a warning on the second page that this comic is intended for older readers, but not only does this comic not go beyond any PG-rated boundaries, but I have to question how many five-year-olds are going to be searching for a fan-created graphic novel that's based on a show that ended WAY before their time! Nevertheless, the comic is available for reading, and it is a highly recommended piece of work. And in case you have never seen "Chip 'N Dale Rescue Rangers" but now have an interest in the show, you will be able to buy/rent the first season of the show this fall (2005) on DVD. The link to buy the set is down below. "Chip 'N Dale's Rescue Rangers: Of Mice & Mayhem" may just be a fan project, but it is one heck of an emotional roller coaster ride, and one that is worth checking out. The best part of all this is that it’s free. Which is also kind of a shame, as this book is too good to be available for free. This guy really needs a PayPal button.