While fans patiently await season 3 of “Rick and Morty,” the comic from Oni Press attempts to fill the void the break between seasons has left. Can it replicate the intelligence, wit, and dark comedy of the cartoon, or will it just be a poor substitute for the real thing?
Written by Kyle Starks
Illustrated by CJ Cannon
Morty is sick and tired of Rick always being a big selfish jerk, so he convinces Rick to go harvest some “space medicine” on an alien planet. They even bring Summer, even though she won’t stop crying about having her heart broken or whatever. But while on the planet, they get interrupted by robobros and some heavy-cologne-wearing dude named Peacock Jones, so Morty might have to resort to some truly unspeakable tactics in order to get the medicine and get home safely.
“Rick and Morty” is, in my opinion, one of the best shows on television. It perfectly blends science fiction, crass humor, and a fair bit of nihilism into a show that manages to be self-contained in each episode while still building a grand storyline and mythos.
So naturally, the comic has a lot to live up to. At the same time, it can’t mess with the status quo too much, since it’s set at some point in the first season, before Summer began traveling with Rick more and before Morty learned what “wubba-lubba-dub-dub” really means.
On a purely mechanical level, the comic works well, following the typical tropes of a “Rick and Morty” episode. We see the end result of another of Rick’s little trips (in this case, involving Morty traveling through a giant lizard’s birth canal), Morty complains at Rick until he agrees to do one thing on Morty’s terms, Morty gets more than he bargained for, Rick does something right, and no matter how much gets screwed up, he doesn’t seem to care.
In fact, some moments are so familiar they could almost have been taken from an episode with just a few details changed.
This is not necessarily a negative thing; it means the creative team knows what they’re working with, and have enough familiarity with the source material to draw on its tropes. At the same time, it also has to walk a careful line to make sure it doesn’t become repetitive, or a rehash of things we’ve already seen on TV. While the first part has trouble with that line, and falls a little on the “repetitive” end, the middle does make up for it a little.
Fortunately, the adventure itself is something we haven’t seen yet. In an attempt to make Rick do something altruistic for a change, Morty basically has to club flying space seals – a moment befitting the dark comedy of the show. Bringing Summer along also mixes things up a little bit; as the more veteran companion (and I use that term loosely), seeing Morty smugly and casually mention some of the painful things one might have to do while traveling with Rick is both amusing and sets him up for the space seal clubbing nicely. It’s another moment similar to one in the show, wherein Morty’s experience on Rick’s trips has made him more prepared for, say, an alien race war breaking out.
Also of note are the alien characters introduced in the comic. Peacock Jones is an interesting sort of scummy alien pickup artist (as in, he’s an alien who’s also a pickup artist, not a pickup artist specializing in aliens), but his “space capsule” and reference to traveling space with companions has at least a hint of “Doctor Who” in it. Considering the Doctor does tend to travel with a lot of young, attractive female companions, there may be a little more in the way of parody or critique in there, but nothing else would suggest a “Doctor Who” inspiration, least of all his appearance, with extra eyes and limbs in a pimp suit.
As for the Robobros, those are exactly as the name suggests – robotic bros. It’s fun to see Jones’ companion, Barbarica, tear into them and their cliche “bro” lines, but the most amusing part is Rick’s line about how the best way to beat them is to wait until “they put on weight and realize they wasted their lives,” a thought that must be comforting to anyone dealing with “bro culture.”Continued below
Still, there are two key ways that the comic manages to stick to the show without being derivative very well. The first is in the characterization – every line written can be read in the characters’ voices, and sounds like something they would say. Rick’s crude and uncaring demeanor only subtly giving way by his use of “wubba-lubba-dub-dub” is a great touch, and everything plays out exactly as it should for the characters.
The second is in the art. CJ Cannon does a fine job replicating the art style of the cartoon, down to the eye pupils that look like asterisks. Occasionally Rick looks a little off-model or flat around the face, but that’s a minor thing; for the most part, the art does a fine job replicating the look of the show.
That extends to more than just the characters. The alien world they visit definitely looks, well, alien, in the landscape, skies, and creatures inhabiting it. The comic-only characters have good designs, which don’t feel out of place in the “Rick and Morty” world. It all looks and feels like a part of the show, which is what the comic is certainly going for.
While the comic can’t really take too many risks, it is setting up to develop more in the way of Summer’s character and Rick’s relation with his granddaughter; she became a more prominent character in season 2, so it’s a welcome development that will help bridge the gap. However, aside from a few moments that show that Rick does care for her, most of it will have to wait for issue #18.
Final Verdict: 5.5 – It fits in nicely with the “Rick and Morty” universe, matching up with the show nicely in character, art, and theme. While mostly “by the numbers,” it does have a little in the way of character development and uniqueness, but otherwise, it’s just okay, and doesn’t quite capture the magic of the show as much as I’d have hoped.