ham11Here we’ll take a look at the first issue of Dynamite Entertainment’s 2008 reboot of Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters (published 22 years after the original) written by Keith Champagne (The Amazing Spider-Man FamilyCountdown: ArenaGreen Lantern CorpsRobin) and drawn/inked by Tom Nguyen (Blackest NightFinal CrisisGreen Lantern Corps, Ghost Busters: The Other Side).

The story begins with a prologue; we see a glop of space jello heading on a crash course towards Earth. Yes, space jello of the same variety that threatened our planet all the way back in 1986 when the original Hamster Foursome blew it up from the inside. Some space aliens happen upon it, but once they realize where it’s headed, could care less and move on with their flight throughout the universe. Cut to Earth and the Tibetan monastery we’re all familiar with, where the original Hamsters learned to hone their skills through peaceful meditation and diligent practice- except now it’s being invaded by a large group of Huns! Via a telepathic link spanning across oceans to reach a Chicago gym, the old Dalai Momma makes contact with her “second group of dearest students”- an all new generation of hamsters!

That’s right, filling the shoes of Clint, Jackie, Bruce, and Chuck, are Rock, Arnold, Jean Claude, Steven, and even a female ham-Lucy. All of whom are named and modeled after action film celebrities: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, and Lucy Lawless. So the Dalai Momma summons her new warriors for help, when suddenly the telepathic link between master and student is lost because she got punched IN THE FACE!

With some spiteful resistance from Rock (who hates being compared to ‘The Four’), the Hamsters hop into their stealth bomber (yeah, you read that right), and 9 hours later arrive on the scene. The monastery is quiet and the team moves in to investigate, when suddenly one of their own bites the bullet, or arrows in this case as he gets laced with the projectiles. The Huns mean business, and with a main character getting knocked off so early on in the story, the level of drama heightens significantly at this point. The book goes from just being a fun parody to being a fun parody that has some “oh (banned)!” moments.

ham12The Hams throw down with the Huns in a battle jam packed with action and well-placed one liners. When another Hamster gets killed the survivors find themselves surrounded and the true villain shows his face (a powerful military figure from the pages of history). Some more brawling ensues when suddenly this first issue literally ends on a cliffhanger as yet another one of our heroes falls victim to Murphy’s Law, tumbling over the roof of the monastery.

Holy crap! Only one issue into the reboot and I’m absolutely pumped to cover issue #2! Seriously, most revamped titles are weak at best when compared to the original material, but this one breaks that mold. Keith Champagne’s writing totally respects the style of Don Chin’s work all those years ago, preserving the wit and humor of the early Hamster books, and modernizing it for the new millennium. The same goes for Tom Nguyen with his pencils and ink job- he stylizes the Hamsters for a new generation of readers, giving the cast their own specific look by adding humorous nuances to their imitated persona’s. Moose Bauman’s colors, like in Green Lantern: Rebirth, shine brightly.

How about some quotes:

“The snow, the wind, the bracing cold… it’s the kind of day that makes a man shrivel where it counts.” – a monk

“Aaagh! Useless hamstrings.” – Arnold

“Lucy, just a guess but I’d say you were flipping around the room, screaming that way you do.” – Rock

“I hope someday to be known as a great actor and writer, not just a sex symbol.” – Steven