Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Comics Review: UNCLE $CROOGE #381 ("September" 2008, Gemstone Publishing)

Happy 80th, Mickey!




Alas, poor Donald -- even when he succeeds by failing, he winds up... well, failing. Such is the intriguing premise of this issue's main story, the ingenious Italian effort "Breakfast of Champions" by Bruno Concina, David Gerstein, and artist Lara Molinari. Desperate to counteract John D. Rockerduck's aggressive marketing of his marmalade Vita-Jam, Scrooge strikes out in his efforts to purchase celebrity talent to hawk McDuck Marmalade, mostly because he's unwilling to pay the going price. Scrooge settles for the inevitable LCD (that's "least common denominator" for the layperson) in the ever-indebted Donald, who proves to be a surprise success by -- surprise -- totally fouling up a variety of attention-grabbing "extreme" stunts. Finally admitting, "I should really let you stay you!", Scrooge lets his bumbling nephew have his own fallible head. "Failure is victory! Black is white!" smiles Donald as his popularity soars... but then comes the inevitable crash. Don't worry, I won't spoil the surprise for you, but Donald is tangentially responsible for his own demise, though it comes as the result of another character's actions. Molinari's lively artwork channels that of Giorgio Cavazzano without being overly derivative, and Gerstein packs in references to Barack Obama, Al Pacino, Vic and Sade, and The Simpsons' Comic Book Guy in the course of his merry labors.

"Half-Baked Bakers," a brief four-page story by Frank Jonker, Mau Heymans, and John Clark, returns us to something resembling familiar ground as Scrooge challenges Donald and Gladstone to show their business mettle by operating competing pastry shops. Don's performance, of course, founders on the reefs of Gladstone's luck, and Gladstone winds up outperforming Tim Hortons -- to his ultimate dismay. With the 1952 Carl Barks classic "Spending Money," we're back to the theme of an improbable Donald crash-and-burn. Scrooge is rapidly running out of room to store his money, so the troubled tycoon engages Donald to spend some of it for a wage of 30 cents a week. Unfortunately, the ensuing uber-splurge winds up enriching, you guessed it, a bunch of businesses controlled by Scrooge. Donald really deserved a "thank you" for a good try, as opposed to the caning he's about to receive at story's end. If this is unfair, then Don's fate in Jens Hansegard, John Clark, and Tino Santanach's "Cleaned and Intervened" is enough to make you cry. A doctor orders Scrooge, who's "never taken a day off" (I suppose all those treasure hunts counted as business trips, then?), to spend a day at a health spa or be forcibly hospitalized, and casually fingers Donald as the "aggressive young man" to take over for the duration. Scrooge, who's nothing if not obsessively hands-on, disguises himself as a cleaning woman, sneaks away and spies on his nephew, and sabotages what looks like an attempt to con Donald into a bad investment. Don turns out to be right about the proposition after all, leaving Scrooge a babbling wreck. No, I don't feel sorry for Scrooge here -- I feel sorry for Donald, who misses out on a chance to make far more money for Scrooge than he would have at any old pastry shop.

The book closes with "Homeward Hound," an "origin story" for Bolivar, Donald and HD&L's lumbering St. Bernard. We learn that "Bolly" hails from the Heather Hill Kennel (do I detect a spoof of Snoopy's Daisy Hill Puppy Farm?) and comes from a whole family of famous rescue dogs (with names of famous South American heroes, natch). Don and HD&L return to the scene of the whelping in the course of trying to locate Bolly after the depressed dog has run away. Until the very end of the story, it appears that Bolly got shortchanged in terms of inheriting noble qualities (unless a bottomless appetite counts as one), but we finally learn that he has one very large asset that even his brothers do not possess. (The ultimate reason why Bolly displays such a trait is one of the funniest things in the story.) Fine dialogue by David Gerstein and lively artwork by Maria Nunez (normally a Beagle Boys specialist) nicely complement Kari Korhonen's solid, and generally believable, story.

1 comment:

ramapith said...

"...Bolly got shortchanged in terms of inheriting noble qualities (unless a bottomless appetite counts as one)..."

But a bottomless appetite *is* a noble quality!... Really truly! >Burp!< (Pardon me!)