Finding Nemo: Reef Rescue #1

Written by Marie Croall
Art by Erica Leigh Currey
32 pages, color
Published by Boom! Studios

Writing a comic book sequel to a hit movie has got to be a thankless task. It’s a project that by very definition will be compared to something that’s a different form of media, and as a result run the real potential of falling short in the reader’s mind. I guess that’s why I was so impressed, then, with Marie Croall’s script for Finding Nemo: Reef Rescue #1. Reading the comic, it’s hard to not feel like this is something that’s perfectly in tune with the Finding Nemo film.

It’s another typical day under the ocean for Marlin and Nemo; Nemo is going to class under the guidance of Mr. Ray, and Marlin is still the ever-worried father. When a class field trip to the edge of the reef reveals that something is killing the coral, the dim-witted Dory volunteers herself, Marlin, and Nemo to try and figure out what’s causing the blight. But have the three fish bitten off more than they can chew?

Croall really nails the Finding Nemo characters in her script. With each line, I could almost hear the different voice actors from the movie. Croall wisely keeps the characters very much the same; after all, Marlin is still going to be overly protective, Dory a little scatterbrained, and Nemo inquisitive. At the same time, though, Marlin is clearly trying to remain a little calmer than you might remember, so it’s not as if the characters operate in a vacuum. What I think I like the most about this first issue of Finding Nemo: Reef Rescue, though, is that it feels like the comic is continuing the movie’s look at the ocean as something both wondrous and threatened. In the movie, of course, it had more to do with fish being taken out of their ecosystem and into aquariums. Here, it’s the imminent destruction of the reef. But it’s still present, and it’s a story that doesn’t feel like a generic children’s comic with underwater elements grafted onto it.

I have to admit that I wasn’t quite as crazy about Erica Leigh Currey’s art for Finding Nemo: Reef Rescue. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t quite hit the strengths of the source material. While I wasn’t expecting it to look like Pixar’s gorgeous computer-generated creatures, I couldn’t help but feel that Currey and colorists Digikore really missed on the whole vibrant, colorful, teaming-with-life look of Finding Nemo. The comic seems to lack on having lots of fish and colors here, and that’s a real shame. The huge schools of fish and the amazing looks that they sport seem like something that should be a natural for a comic version of the movie. It feels like an easy catch that’s ignored entirely.

Other than that, though, the art has some strong points. I love that Currey can make a fish actually look worried; a fish’s face, after all, is hardly an expressive looking construction. Currey manages, here, and from a lost Dory to an exasperated Marlin, she gets the looks just quite right. The storytelling is solid and carefully constructed here; nice simple page layouts, although I appreciate that Currey will make an exception for moments like when Dory surprises Marlin, using a diagonally angled panel that almost explodes onto the page.

The complaint I have with the writing of Finding Nemo: Reef Rescue #1 is that the issue doesn’t seem to use the serial nature of this mini-series at all well. At the end of the first issue, the story doesn’t come to a cliffhanger, or even an appropriate chapter break. Instead, it just stops. It feels almost like this was originally written as a graphic novel and then chopped into four pieces. While it will no doubt work better in a collected form, as a single comic it slightly falls down in that regard. Still, it’s a pleasant and fun comic, and Croall makes the writing work so well here that it’s definitely a success. Kids who loved Finding Nemo will love Finding Nemo: Reef Rescue.

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