The Adventures of Rocco Vargas: Triton

Writer / Artist
The Adventures of Rocco Vargas: Triton
Rocco Vargas Triton review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Catalan - 0-87416-025-1
  • Volume No.: 1
  • Release date: 1982
  • English language release date: 1986
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

Former adventurer and pilot Rocco Vargas has settled down to the easy life. Now calling himself Armando Mistral, he’s both a club owner and a successful novelist, and has no interest in resuming his old life, even when an old friend comes calling with a plan to end Earth’s drought. However, when that old friend later dies in suspicious circumstances his conscience is pricked. The plan had been to collect ice from Jupiter’s moon of Triton, so that’s where Rocco heads.

When first seen in English, Torres’ work appeared in the same mid-1980s issues of Heavy Metal as Joost Swaarte, and there’s a stylistic similarity between them. Both look to the past to create the future, both fill their panels with small details, and both employ versions of the Franco-Belgian clear line cartooning, in Torres’ case more exaggerated. They depart when it comes to colour, though. Swaarte is selective, and Torres almost radioactive with his shades. He creates an incredibly busy set of locations, and is very careful about the styling. The fashions are taken from 1940s Hollywood, but the technology is retro-future, all fins and rockets, while Torres litters the script with dates ensuring we know that in Rocco’s world it’s the present of the 1980s despite interstellar travel. Just as there was in 1940s Hollywood, there’s a clarity about the cast, who lack any shades of grey (not that it would be possible within Torres’ almost fluorescent colour scheme).

Triton may have the futuristic trappings, but it’s a carefully constructed detective mystery in the traditional fashion. If Earth is supplied with ice from Triton, then the entrepreneurs of Saturn stand to lose massive amounts of money, and they’ll resort to murder to prevent that. Torres keeps escalating the threats, starting with his gloriously designed villains and ending with a battle in space.

Because Torres was so careful with the look from the start, very little about Triton has dated. A modern take might have characters with more a single dimension, but they only need to work as archetypes, which they do. It remains visually stimulating, and there’s always something new to discover in the backgrounds.

This edition of Triton is long out of print, but was combined with The Whisperer Mystery and Saxon as Rocco Vargas from Dark Horse in 1997. That’s a better production overall, but has been recoloured to remove the vivid effects Torres preferred in earlier years.