Rob Hanes Adventures #11
Written and Illustrated by Randy Reynaldo
Rob Hanes Adventures is an infrequent comic, but it’s one that I look forward to. Like Jeff Smith’s Bone, I cut Randy Reynaldo a lot of slack on his release schedule because I know he’s doing it a) as a labor of love, and b) all on his lonesome. And RHA’s “complete story every issue” policy means that I’m not having to remember plot threads from three or four months ago when I pick up a new one.
RHA is a great concept. Rob works for a global investigations outfit that sends him all over the world to get involved in all kinds of adventures. One issue may have him trying to solve a cozy mystery in the English countryside, while the next issue finds him deep in the jungle or stopping a mad scientist. Reynaldo has complete freedom to tell whatever kind of story tickles his fancy at the moment. That means that the series is always fresh; always surprising.
In the most recent issue (#11), Rob is fighting a pirate ring with ties to a fictionalized North Korea. Unfortunately, it’s not one of the stronger issues in the series. For one thing, while the pirate ring operates in part from a junk in Chinese waters, it’s really not a band of high seas raiders. This group is more interested in things like counterfeiting money and making a profit from other people’s copyrights.
There’s an exciting, initial battle as Rob and some Chinese agents board the junk, but after that we’re done with ships. The counterfeiters were creating US currency, so Rob wants to return the stolen plates to his government. Against the advice of his employers, Rob chooses to carry the plates on him while he’s still in China. I can’t exactly fault him for that, but I can blame him for going clubbing while carrying them. It’s not only dumb, it’s out of character. Rob’s usually a lot smarter than that, so it feels like Reynaldo is cheating in order to move the story. Of course, Rob is kidnapped by the pirates and the plates are recaptured.
The rest of the story takes place in the Recluse Kingdom where a thinly disguised Kim Jong-il caricature tries to force Rob to not only endorse the leader’s bootlegged Rob Hanes Adventures comic series, but also to star in a movie franchise based on his adventures. Actually, that’s kind of cool. I wish Reynaldo would’ve done more with that; showing Rob have to perform dangerous stunts and whatnot for the film. Instead we get Rob arguing propaganda and economic policy with a former American soldier who defected to North Korea during the Korean War.
Of course Rob’s going to try to escape and things get exciting again, but there’s too much lull in the middle as Reynaldo points out what a loon Kim Jong-il is. He does it effectively, but I just wonder how many readers old enough to get the joke still think it’s original enough to be funny.
I won’t spoil the ending except to say that it’s not very convincing. Rather than showing Rob use his resources to prevail, Reynaldo weakens other characters – including the villain – so that Rob can be the hero by default.
It’s a disappointing issue in an otherwise cool series, but it’s especially frustrating since it’ll be so long before the next one. I’m hopeful though that RHA #12 will be back to form. Reynaldo promises a deserted, South Pacific island and a girl to keep him company/help him survive.