Rochelle: The Teen Cockroach #0
Written by: John Crowther
Pencils and Inks by: Dell Barras
Published by: AC Comics
Reviewed by: Paul Stephen Edwards
This 25 page debut comic appears as a flip book to Femforce #170, and it accomplishes a neat trick. It feels like a time-capsule from the mid 1980s. I can easily imagine myself reading this comic while eating a bowl of cereal while waiting for the next Saturday morning cartoon.
The book begins with a three-page “hero stops a robbery in process” bit that establishes the hero’s strength, agility, and powers. At the end of the sequence, we see that the hero is a girl, Rochelle. We get a narrated origin story over the next five pages. Rochelle was born with powers because of a contaminated in-vitro fertilization. As such, she has human and cockroach DNA.
The story that follows that set-up is entitled “Get Ready for a Mind Crash,” and features Fletcher Jakes, the evil CEO of Byrne Time Industries and Mind Crash, the story’s supervillain. There are John Byrne references throughout the book, both overt and in style choices. Byrne Time’s evil scheme revolves around the distribution of a Candy Crush-ish game.
As anyone who’s ever played one of these games can attest, it’s simply the cover for a fiendish scheme of world domination. In this case, the company isn’t just satisfied with a legion of mindless slaves staring at their screens. Children are physically taken through the game by Mind Crash and held for ransom. I’m not sure whether this approach is more profitable than in-app purchases, but it’s their plan and they’re sticking to it.
Rochelle witnesses one of her friends being kidnapped through her computer monitor and follows. She engages in battle with Mind Crash and is defeated. Mind Crash then indulges in the time-honored tradition of monologuing which gives Rochelle time to unleash a new superpower and save the day.
This is a very traditional book in tone and execution. Crowther isn’t out to break new ground in plot or storytelling. He’s just out to tell Rochelle’s story. He clearly has a great affection for her and the pressures that she endures. One of the story’s best moments involves her winning a track meet, but none of her siblings or friends notice because they’re too involved in playing Mind Crash.
In fact, a nostalgic tone permeates the book. The villain’s monologue is a callback to a simpler time when people weren’t immersed in social media and smart devices.
Death’s Head artist Dell Barras draws in a cartoony, high contrast style. His layouts are simple and effective: 3 to 5 panels per page with mostly diagonal gutters and the occasional spash. His art matches the tone of the story perfectly. The villains have perpetually clenched fists and scowls, while the good characters are smiling and have looser stances.
Overall, Rochelle: The Teen Cockroach is a well executed homage to the Saturday cartoons of our youth. Except for a few stray “damn”s and “hell”s, you could imagine this fitting in nicely with an episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends or Gargoyles.
I don’t think that the book has completely established its own unique voice yet. That’s mostly because at 24 pages of story, it contains a prologue, an origin, and a first adventure. That’s a lot to accomplish, and there’s very little time to slow down and let the characters breathe and establish themselves. Still, there’s plenty of room to grow.