Review: Rocko's Modern Afterlife #1 of 4: '90s Nostalgia in Fun Images, Disappointing Content

Updated: Apr 5, 2019

SPOILERS AHEAD: I was a child in the '90s, and was lucky enough to get cable television when Rocko's Modern Life came on Nickelodeon. Funnily enough, having watched the show in my twenties and early thirties, I realize now how way over my head it was. The snarky humor, gross out jokes, and innuendo were not really meant for children. But alas, many other children and I enjoyed the show for its three-year run. Seeing a comic on the stands that blended my nostalgia for the days of yore with zombies I decided to go out and get a copy, even calling Midtown Comics to hold one for me.

The book starts out innocently enough with Mr. Bighead walking down the street. The writing has updated cultural references so that he's on a cell phone, on a website that's similar to Buzzfeed, and of course not looking up. He bumps into Rocko, who is out for a walk with his trusty dog Spunky. Mr. Bighead chastises Rocko for NOT being on his cellphone, and in that moment he's bitten by what we can assume is a zombie. The story seems to be innocuous with some jabs at pop culture.

We flash forward two weeks and it appears it's a war zone outside which has left all survivors of this outbreak (cause unknown at this time) to stay indoors and fend for themselves. Rocko is in heaven as he is a wallaby of solitude. As a kid I remember Rocko always being shy and keeping to himself, and that is played up in this book as he meditates and plants quinoa with Spunky's... fertilizer. The issue is pretty action packed and we see some familiar faces, including Mrs. Hippo ("How darrrrre you") trying to get into Rocko's house. In this mess Rocko inadvertently ruins his quinoa (garden?) and has to reach out to his best friend Heffer for food. We find out Heffer is now an online personality who livestreams video games for a living, and can get his subscribers to send Rocko whatever food he wants. This chunk of the story pokes fun at YouTube personalities in the least subtle way possible. Heffer gets Rocko some food delivered but this causes a window break! He then, in his frustration, tells Heffer to get a life and check on his parents (which he hasn't done in two weeks) and goes to meditate (while there's a zombie break in?!). Heffer takes his advice and puts on an old video he'd streamed that teaches its viewers how to play a zombie game that, by sheer "coincidence" is juxtaposed to Rocko fighting a zombie horde break-in of his own (again, he was meditating after his window broke and zombies got in. Plothole?).

Rocko escapes and reconnects with Heffer via cellphone. The good news: Heffer checked on his parents. The bad news: he's been bitten. Rocko calls another friend, one who we remember well, Filbert. Apparently Filbert's been working on figuring out the virus and tells Rocko Heffer has 12 hours until he turns. That gives Rocko impetus to get in his car and bolt for Heffer to save his life.

Whew! Lots of action in this one. The animation is definitely reminiscent of the '90s Nickelodeon cartoon, with even sharper colors. The colors are a bit monochromatic but fit the mood of the story. All of the characters are drawn as we remember them, and for that the book gets some points. If you didn't watch Rocko, these characters would still pop out because they're all talking animals... including a Wallaby.

The premise of the book was good enough for me, a 32-year old married man, to want to pick it up. In practice it falls short of being entertaining. The pop culture jabs, the dialogue, and the way in which characters are introduced all feel forced. Being that it's a BOOM! Studios book, it may be catered to a younger crowd. However, since this show resonates so well with older readers, I think that's who its audience will be, and it's sad to say that they may be disappointed. It's only a four issue series so may be worth picking up to see where the story goes (does Heffer get saved? Will Filbert wash his hands? Will Rocko get caught in the now-zombified Mrs. Hippo's cleavage?)

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