Writer-artist Chris Callahan returns to the world of Flats and CGs in the latest issue of RoboChuck. While the title character and the lost little girl who has become his companion investigate the kidnapping of the girl’s mother, Don Masshurter, head honcho of the Piczar Corporation, continues his appropriately villainous schemes, and former Flat star and anti-CG rebel Inksplat Magee (also RoboChuck’s adoptive father) oversees the building of a computer that might serve as an unexpected weapon against the CGs themselves.
The issue kicks off with a creation myth of sorts: In the beginning was the dot, a dot that ultimately became a line, wrapping inward on itself to flesh out the full detail of a magnificent two-dimensional cartoon world; what seems like an aside gains new significance later. As our eponymous hero continues his quest to reunite little Shirley with her abducted mother (who is also, as it turns out, a former soap magnate), things, of course, get more complicated.
While RoboChuck himself hastens toward a reunion with Inksplat, Shirley becomes separated from him and, in true littlest-girl-meets-scariest-monster fashion, winds up at the mercy of shadow-dwelling bogeymen. Do they know where Shirley’s mother is, and why she was taken? That’s a good question, but not one we get an immediate answer to, and in order to get the answers Shirley desires, it just might be necessary for RoboChuck to take a plunge into Lineworld (my term, not Callahan’s) and rescue Shirley from the strange and threatening realm she has fallen into.
What Callahan has managed to pull off with this series is something not often seen: an allegory that never feels heavy-handed and never beats you over the head with commentary on modern-day cartoons. The tone of RoboChuck is tongue-in-cheek from beginning to end, and reads more like a love letter to all forms of animation than as a cranky, “back in the good ol’ days” kind of attack on those darn newfangled computer-generated shows.
Not only is RoboChuck a well-told and engaging story, but Callahan manages to craft characters with an immediacy and a realism often overlooked in less serious comics. As in the best cartoons, every character has his or her own personality, and a voice so distinct you can practically hear it: our laid-back title character is a reluctant, and somewhat out-of-his-depth hero, the villains feel like villains, and cute little Shirley is the quintessential cartoon kid-in-distress.
The writing is as good as ever, and Callahan’s art has only improved since the first two issues. While it might not be what you typically expect from an independent comic, RoboChuck is a great example of kid-friendly comics that can be entertaining for audiences of all ages, and by the time you’ve read through the first half of this miniseries, you might even be clamoring for an animated adaptation to bring the story into a medium that might be even more in need of its lighthearted but irreverent originality.