Written by: Ryan Ferrier
Art by: Ian McGinty
Published by: Boom Studios
Rocko’s Modern Life follows Nickelodeon’s conga line of 90’s nostalgia paved by the last couple of years of reminding people where Rugrats and Ren and Stimpy came from, but does this issue stand on its own? The short answer maybe “no,” but I think there’s more to it than a simply boring comic book.
Rocko as a character sort of exists as a very plain, boring person. He has simple wants and never wants to step on anyone’s toes. He’s intentionally unobtrusive in a claustrophobic and hectic world that sometimes demands aggression and assertiveness to get by. The struggles of being a nice guy in a tough town are what make Rocko feel especially relatable to audiences ranging from young to experienced. I will point out, this issue nails that characterization very well.
What it lacks is anything of interest going on around Rocko.
The artwork and framing are very animated and frantic, but I think it’s too much. Each page kind of demands a couple of rereads to make sure the flow of the conversation is lining up correctly. Readers are supposed to feel like there is a mess when Rocko’s new roommate moves in and dumps his garbage everywhere, but each panel is so filled with bold colors and random lines that there isn’t much contrast and it doesn’t feel much worse before or after the annoying sloth drops by. I can’t even say much more beyond the plot because that’s more or less all that happens. Much like the first episode of the cartoon, Rocko finds himself between jobs and struggles to make do in entry level positions that are less than glamorous, but it all falls flat. The world is there, the characters I recognize are there, but somewhere they forgot to put in that little bit of heart that made the cartoon show work as well as it did. I hate phrasing it this way, but ultimately it’s all just boring.
A silver lining to this issue is the short bonus comic at the end that was done by one of my favorites, KC Green. His line work and cartooning expertise are a perfect fit for the style of Rocko’s Modern Life, but even the writing here is less than entertaining. Mr. Bighead has a tooth problem and visits our favorite dentist Dr. Hutchison, for some child-friendly body horror. It’s strange because I’ve read all of Gunshow and love Green’s work, but seeing an E-rated version of Gunshow is kind of the last thing I asked for.
Overall, this is another comic book that really seems like it would be up my alley but I cannot enjoy. The target audience may partially be nostalgic 90’s kids, but if I assume they also want to entertain current-day kids they could have done something more to introduce Rocko and his world instead of dropping us into the middle of such a messy and congested ride.