Dexter’s Laboratory is one of the many shows from Cartoon Network’s previous gilded age of the late 90s that I could watch endlessly. As such, IDW is putting another one of my sacred calves out into the world in a forum where it could be horrible. Samurai Jack largely dodged a bullet and was pretty good. Dexter’s Lab doesn’t dodge the bullet – it creates an invention to make the bullet not exist. What I’m saying here is that this comic is excellent.
The story in this issue is pretty standard: Dexter has invented a thing, he takes great pains to ensure Dee Dee doesn’t ruin the thing, Dee Dee does in fact ruin the thing, Dexter comes up with a new plan. It’s the same old song and dance, but it’s a song and dance that everybody fucking loves. It’s the Electric Slide or the YMCA, as opposed to the Wobble or the Bernie.
I’m unfamiliar with the creative team from a writing or art standpoint on this book, but they’re both quite obviously fond of the source material and not out to make any sweeping changes. At some level, that makes a lot of sense to me. Somebody at IDW has handed Fridolfs and Jampole (if those aren’t sound like cartoon pseudonyms, what could they be?) this beloved sandbox, and you can’t just immediately kill off Dee Dee (or can you?). I mean, it’s not like your first act on The Avengers would be to disassemble the Avengers, amirite? Oh wait...
I don’t know what it is about Genndy Tartakovsky’s house style, but it’s one that any capable artist can pick up and run with, and make it seem like they’ve been living in it forever. Bruce Timm is the same way. Their designs are specific but simple, and it makes them universal. Compare it to the Regular Show or Adventure Time comics, where the character designs are recognizable, but the artists are encouraged to stamp their own work on it. There’s a larger debate about which one is better for the industry of comics, but this isn’t the place.
This issue is a well done traipse down memory lane. In itself, it doesn’t change anything about Dexter, but brings a lot of fun stuff back (the monkey shows up, so I can’t wait until the inevitable “Dial M for Monkey” issue). The premise of it brings some possibilities for good drama, but it will definitely be a challenge for the team to keep it fresh. With a monthly book, it has to be fresher than a weekly series, because you only get 25% of the time to make the same emotional impact. I think this creative team can do it. I believe in it.
This is some of the most fun you’ll have in a comic book this month, possibly this year. Especially if you’re a child of the 90s like I am/was. Do yourself a favor and come back down to the lab.
Writer: Derek Fridolfs Artist: Ryan Jampole Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: 4/30/14