MINOR SPOILERS BELOW
Rikki is a modern-day re-imagining of Kipling’s classic short story, Rikki Tikki Tavi (originally featured in the author’s 1894 version of The Jungle Book). Harper faithfully adapts the core of the beloved original story but also adds several elements (expanded character backgrounds, additional mongoose and other animal characters, modern-day threats such as deforestation, etc.) to further expand or explore the plot. A young male mongoose remains the lead character (named Tavi in this iteration), feeling very much like a frustrated and furry Luke Skywalker as he longs for a more exciting life, but Harper also cleverly adds a female mongoose companion, Padma, who is clever, capable, and saves Tavi’s butt more than once. When a series of events leads to Tavi being rescued by a human family while suffering amnesia, our hero is renamed “Rikki” and forms a friendship with the house cat known as Kahn and a captivity-craving bird named Darzee. With his new family and friends, Rikki will be forced to defend his home from a pair of deadly cobras and the soon-to-be-born brood, while also dealing with the emotional conflict of Padma and his former life reentering the picture.
Harper delivers a delightful twist on the tale of Rikki Tikki Tavi with his adventure and humor-filled script. The new characters added feel appropriate and important to the plot, not needlessly shoved in, and they provide Harper the chance to make nods to other Kipling/Jungle Book characters. Harper also has the bravery and respect to include a version of Kipling’s original story immediately following his new version. Not only does this demonstrate a true love for the source material and desire to share it with other generations, but it reveals an unusual and humble confidence in the strength of the author’s own work.
Foltz-Gray’s cartoony, animated, film-esque art style is absolutely perfect for Rikki, and the emotive and expressive faces and body language of the entire cast of characters only further enhance the inherent strengths in Harper’s script. It’s impossible for anyone familiar with the Chuck Jones cartoon adaptation of Rikki Tikki Tavi to not make comparisons with Foltz-Gray’s work, but the artist does an admiral job of creating unique and effective look for the book. Adding to the quality of the final product are the master lettering skills of Oceano Ransford and cover artist Christine Knopp. There’s no weak link in this creative team!
FINAL VERDICT: This is a must read for any Kipling or Rikki Tikki Tavi fans out there! Even if readers are unfamiliar with the story, this is a great introduction for both children and adults. The humor is hilarious, the adventure is action packed, and the characters are engaging and charismatic. This is the full package, my friends! (Don’t make me try to bribe you with a gazebo!)
You can find out more about Rikki by visiting the official Karate Petshop website. Rikki is also available on ComiXology.
Also, be sure to check out Fanboy Comics' interview with Rikki author Norm Harper at the following link:
Fanboy Comics Interviews Norm Harper, Author of ‘The Naughty List’
That’s all for now, my fellow comic book sniffers!
'Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer