Monday, October 5, 2009

Comics Review: MICKEY MOUSE AND FRIENDS #296 (September 2009, Boom! Kids)

The good news about Boom!'s first "classic" Disney release is also the bad news: it's a thoroughly professional, completely workmanlike -- and relatively uninspired -- effort. That immediately gives Boom! a solid head start on Marvel-Disney's ghastly DISNEY AFTERNOON title. However, Boom! still has a ways to go to catch up to the first incarnation of Gladstone Comics or the early issues of the better Disney Comics titles. Peg MM&F #296 at the "Gladstone II" level, and you've about got it. (Actually, Boom! may be a notch above that. Since overt plumping for the remainder of the Boom! Kids line is limited to several discreet ads at the back of the book, signs are hopeful that the company won't go the Bruce Hamilton route and try to sell us unwanted collectibles, or something similar. Judging by Editor Aaron Sparrow's heartfelt column describing Boom!'s desire to get kids to read comics again, the motivations here appear to be thoroughly admirable.)

I wasn't pleased by Boom!'s decision to start its "classic" Disney releases by playing games with cover variants. I simply accepted the issue the store had held for me, and it appears that I got the fuzzy end of the lollipop. "Cover A" has a nice pose of Mickey, Donald, and Goofy in their "Wizards of Mickey" garb, standing in front of what appears to be a leftover set from Lord of the Rings. If you're a kid and grabbing this book "cold," you may be a little confused as to why MD&G are doing the Harry Potter "thang," so I would have liked a small explanatory cover blurb. "Cover A," however, is far less confusticating than "Cover B":

Mickey dominates this cover to such an unhealthy extent that it's rather difficult to figure out what the heck he is, in fact, supposed to be. We get less of a feel for the "...and Friends" portion of the title, as well.

Part one of "Wizards of Mickey" is trumpeted with a nice, full-page set of credits, but, strangely enough, without an official title. (Even more of a reason to put that blurb on the cover, I deem.) Writer Stefano Ambrosio and artists Lorenzo Pastrovicchio, Roberto Santillo, and Marco Giglione penned the original story for the Italian TOPOLINO, so we're immediately hip-deep in the three-tiers-per-page format and artwork heavily influenced by the semi-exaggerated style of Giorgio Cavazzano. The story art is fine; the English translation, by Saida Temafonte, not so much. Judging by the flat, spare dialogue (check the amount of white space in those dialogue balloons) and unimaginative character names (neophyte wizard Mickey's nemesis is... "Peg-Leg Pete the Great"? Not too much of a stretch, eh?), I suspect that Temafonte simply did a literal translation of the original Italian dialogue. If one were dealing only with generic characters, this would be fine, but the sole hint of characterization amongst the "Big Three" is Goofy's use of "Hyuk!". There are a couple of hints that Temafonte may be drawing upon fantasy literature -- the tale is set in the "Dolmen Empire" and Donald's pet dragon is named "Fafnir" -- but such spasms of creativity are set alongside such generic descriptors as "Hawk Pass" and "The Valley of Solitude". Only when Mickey, who's traveled to the capital of Great Haven to recover the rain-making Diamagic crystal that Pete took from him, is harassed by magic-mongering street vendors does the tale briefly sputter to life with a handful of funny verbal gags. Then it's back to table-setting as Mickey, Donald, and Goofy meet, exchange notes, and decide to band together to enter a sorcery tournament and win Diamagics. Temafonte closes with a "next exciting episode" promo that reads like something lifted from Underdog, and we're left to wait for the real action to begin in the next issue (whenever that is -- I'm assuming MM&F will be a monthly, but there's no indication of that fact in the indicia).

This first Boom! offering was mildly enjoyable, but it's not hard to pick out ways in which the experience could be improved. Above all, more effort needs to be put into the translation. Perhaps other hands will be translating the Ultraheroes epic in WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES and the Double Duck story in DONALD DUCK AND FRIENDS. If Temafonte's name appears there as well, however, I'll start to worry that Boom! is going for a cheap solution to the problem of turning translated dialogue into dialogue that is fun to read. A glance at the efforts of Joe Torcivia, David Gerstein, Jonathan Gray, and others who turned out first-rate Gemstone scripts might do Boom! some good. Boom! may want to go its own way with these "themed" titles, but there are other ways in which it can learn from the past.

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