The Powerpuff Girls: Super Smash-Up #1
Written and illustrated by Derek Charm
Published by IDW
In its original television incarnation, led by creator Craig McCracken, The Powerpuff Girls was a welcome antidote to princess culture, trafficking as it did in highly subversive imagery and ideas just beneath its candy-coloured surface. Little girls could relate to the super-powered trio and, ideally, even see them as alternative role models while older animation fans could appreciate the sometimes heightened violence, occasional adult-themed innuendo and the incomparably weird Him.
It’s unclear whether McCracken is directly involved with an upcoming series reboot, so there’s some question as to whether that same level of quality will be maintained. Thankfully, IDW has dedicated itself to telling new stories based on McCracken’s vision and their latest chapter, “Super Smash-Up,” is certainly a worthy successor.
Super Smash-Up picks up after the events of IDW’s Super Secret Crisis War miniseries, a massive crossover involving characters from four other Cartoon Network series. The story opens with a rampage by recurring villain Fuzzy Lumpkins at the Townsville Zoo. He’s easily subdued by the Mayor’s right hand, Miss Bellum, but the girls are left to deal with a number of escaped animals and reveal a rather cool new power in the process.
The story proper promises more cross-over action to come as the Professor gathers the girls up for a visit to Dexter’s Laboratory. One of the original series’ many charms was how it inverted the parent/child relationship, with the girls often proving to be more adult than their ostensible father. Writer/illustrator Derek Charm shows admirable fidelity to that by portraying the Professor as too excited at the prospect to acknowledge the girls’ heroism.
Typically, Dexter’s accident-prone sister Dee Dee winds up on the wrong end of some Chemical X and the stage is set for a crisis of interdimensional proportions.
Any comic book adaptation of this universe will suffer at least a little in comparison to the TV version (one particularly misses the occasional Ren and Stimpy-inspired bits of close-up visual grotesquerie) but, with Super Smash Up, Charm and IDW are carrying McCracken’s torch most ably.
As an added bonus, issue 1 includes a Courage the Cowardly Dog back-up story. This reviewer can’t speak with any authority about the TV series, but writer Jeremy Whitley and artist Jorge Monlongo tell a great story. Courage never speaks, but his face alone invites a great deal of pathos as he deals with his unsympathetic human companions and the idiotic, more muscle than brains super hero Carbon Polymer. Fun stuff.