Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Ruff and Reddy Show #3 Review and Spoilers

Paws and Claws

Written by: Howard Chaykin
Art by: Mac Rey
Letters by: Ken Bruzenak
Price: $3.99
Release Date: December 27, 2017

Chaykin and Rey's The Ruff and Reddy Show is one of the strangest comics I've ever been asked (oh, okay – volunteered) to review, but I think this might be the issue when I finally get some kind of handle on it. The last two issues have seen our titular pairing, after a long period of separation and obscurity, reunite in a bid to relaunch their careers. That it's taken this long to reach that point is largely down to Chaykin's decision to turn his 'story' (if that's the right word for a narrative this threadbare) into a vehicle for a satirical look at the entertainment business, whose scattergun approach has yielded entirely predictably mixed results. The end of this issue marks the midway point of this story, though, and it looks like it might actually be moving a bit more purposefully. And thank goodness for that…

The issue kicks off with a few pages' worth of panels that each represent the participants in a chat show or panel show discussing the re-emergence of Ruff and Reddy on the showbiz scene. This is the kind of fragmentary, disconnected approach that hampered the first couple of issues, but here it seems to work much better, giving the reader an insight into the kinds of activities their agent Pamela has lined up for them. It's snappy, and, if some of the satirical references don't quite hit the mark, at least they don't outstay their welcome.  This section finishes with a darkly funny scene at a retirement home for showbiz professionals, which features an appalling pun and some excellent Mac Rey artwork.  Perhaps it's just because I'm basking in the post-Boxing Day glow, but I genuinely found the characters engaging at this point.

As the story unfolds, the characterization of the two main characters becomes sharper. Ruff is vindictive, sharp-tongued and possessed of a wicked sense of humour; Reddy is more laid back and gentle, although he possesses an affinity for the bottle which proves to be his Achilles Heel, although, in a typically Chaykin-esque twist, it also proves to provide the opportunity to dump Pamela and work with an older, more experienced agent whose connections are, it is assumed, better and more lucrative.  That Pamela's hard work has seen an improvement in the kind of offers the pair are getting towards the end of the issue is apparently lost on Ruff and Reddy, and the final page hints at problems to come.

The sub-title of this series is 'A Cautionary Tale' and, while it's tempting to read that as a surprisingly honest warning to the reader not to pick up comic books based on obscure Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters, the meaning of that sub-title is becoming clearer. Ruff and Reddy are deeply flawed and they are not afraid of using and hurting people to further their careers. What they seem to be unwilling to do, though, is to face up to the potential consequences of their ruthlessness and this issue is the first one in which there's a clear sense of a reckoning on its way.

This is not to say that the issue is without its problems. While the story has become more purposeful, the pace is still somewhat leisurely and, Mac Rey's gloriously expressive art notwithstanding, this issue was still a bit of a chore to read. The slightly disjointed narrative, although not as jarring as in previous issues, is not always as easy to follow as it could be. That said, there's more for the reader to get his/her teeth into here than in previous issues. A brief cameo from Abel is a nice touch and some of the gags work very well, too.

Bits and Pieces:

While an improvement on previous installments, this issue feels like the story is only now getting going and there's simply not enough of it to make this a memorable or overwhelmingly enjoyable comic. Mac Rey's cartoon cel-inspired artwork continues to captivate and impress, and Chaykin's script delivers some laughs, but this is still a series that seems curiously reluctant to tell a proper story. There are encouraging signs, though, and I hope for better things next time round.


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