A while back a pretty depressing thought popped into my head: I’m probably part of the last generation that will grow up with Loony Tunes cartoons. Don’t get me wrong, kids definitely still know who Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck are but it seems like they know them more as corporate mascots than the stars of the borderline psychotic cartoons many of us grew up with. And although there are tons of great cartoons on TV, sometimes they just pale in comparison to seeing a coyote try to drop an anvil on a roadrunner's head. So when I started reading Rascal Raccoon's Raging Revenge I was fully expecting to get a story similar to those old cartoons I grew up with. What I got wasn’t just a good send up of classic cartoons, but also a surprisingly poignant and a perfect example of an all-ages comic.
Written by Brendan Hay, Rascal Raccoon is a cartoon archetype we’ve seen before. He's sort of a combination between the obsessive ACME-loving Wile Coyote and the explosively angry Daffy Duck. He spends his days dreaming up murderous plans to finally destroy his arch-nemesis, Jumpin' Jackalope, and then having those plans backfire on him just so he can go back to the drawing board and start the cycle over again the next day. But then something weird happens: Rascal actually succeeds in killing Jumpin'. And although Rascal is overjoyed by this fact, it also presents a new problem he had never considered. What does he do now? He goes into the real world to hunt down the animator who created him that’s what.
The way that question is presented and answered through this book is what makes me feel this is a perfect all-ages comic. It has the crazy cartoon action that will keep kids (and adults) giggling the whole way through but it also presents some pretty big themes that older readers will be able to understand, without diminishing a child's reading of the book. Surprisingly, behind all the slapstick, at its core Rascal Raccoon's Raging Revenge is about a man rallying against his god for every hardship in his life. I know it sounds like a stretch for a story which has a prominent plot point of a soul being vacuumed and then blown back into a body as a form of resuscitation, but hear me out. We’re told that Rascal, and the whole world of Toonie Terrace for that matter, was created and is controlled by an all-powerful being known as the Pen Man. So the idea that Rascal has a new target for his rage and ultimately finding out that target doesn’t exist in the way he originally thought shows a pretty profound character arc for a cartoon raccoon. Throughout the book he comes to terms with his life and how he can’t really blame an invisible man in the sky for his own missed opportunities.
Oh also it’s really funny, which I suppose the people who don’t over-analyze everything they read (unlike me) will enjoy.
As for Justin Wagner’s art: He can draw the hell out of a lady jackalope in hot pants. Seriously though, Wagner’s art really works for this subject matter. This book calls for a lot of over-the-top cartoon craziness while also putting most of the story in a real world setting. Wagner does a really good job of showing what would happen when cartoon violence actually happened in the real world. The thing that impressed me most was the characters expressions and how wild and rubbery they were for the toons but when actual humans are introduced they expressions are more restrained, giving you subtle yet important reminders that all of these characters are of two distinct worlds.
All in all, this book would make a great addition to anyone’s shelf, especially if you want something with a cross-generational appeal.
TL;DR Rascal Raccoon's Raging Revenge finds the perfect middle ground for an all-ages comic. It has lots of cartoon violence and fun visuals while also delving into some deeper adult themes.
Rascal Raccoon's Raging Revenge was written by Brendan Hay with art by Justin Wagner. It was published by Oni Press. Ask for it in your local comic book shop or support Spandexless by buying it from our Amazon web store.
A review PDF of Rascal Raccoon's Raging Revenge was obtained by Spandexless through NetGalley.