Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Comics Review: WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES #699 (September 2009, Boom! Kids)

After visiting with Boom! Kids Editor Aaron Sparrow at the recently-wrapped Baltimore Comic-Con, I feel considerably more at ease about Boom!'s stewardship of the "classic" Disney comics license. There's every reason to believe that Boom! will take its stewardship seriously and do its best to make these books appealing to readers of all ages, experience levels, and tastes. There's definitely a "period of adjustment" ahead, though, a state of affairs that WDC&S #699, Boom!'s first stab at the most precious of all American Disney comics heirlooms, makes painfully clear in places.

Compared to MICKEY MOUSE AND FRIENDS' "Wizards of Mickey" storyline -- which is, after all, following on the heels of the McGreals' "Shambor" stories, and thus posits a role for Mickey and his pals that isn't completely unprecedented -- "Ultraheroes," the multi-part saga which will occupy WDC&S for most of the upcoming year, represents a radical departure. Apart from Super Goof, none of the "Disney heroes" introduced herein (amidst a flurry of explanatory boxed captions from Sparrow) are at all familiar to most American readers. Heck, Fethry Duck, Gladstone Gander, and Gus Goose are getting to don cape and cowl for the first time! "Duck Avenger," Donald's superhero guise in the Italian comics, got a brief look-in in the Gemstone pocket books, but that hardly counts, especially given the circulation figures for those titles. The good guys are brought together by a strangely well-spoken (as in: NO "p"ing at the start of his words!) Eega Beeva, who needs their assistance to prevent his "Ultramachine," a device he'd brought from the future, from falling into the proverbial "wrong hands." Said hands belong to The Sinister Seven, a gang of costumed villains commanded by Emil Eagle and including The Phantom Blot, John D. Rockerduck, Peg-Leg Pete (who actually has both legs and, thanks to a Dr. Octopus-style set of appendages, a number of spare arms), and, as I've mentioned previously, a couple of characters whom I don't know from Adam. Scrooge and the Beagle Boys get dragged into this nest of vipers (via a teleportation of the Money Bin) simply because Scrooge had found a piece of the "Ultramachine" on his property and was using it as a "cozy" for his Old #1 Dime. Magica would have been excited as all get out had she, as she SHOULD by all rights have been, been included in this calamitous coven of criminals. She might also have provided Emil with a more logical method of getting the dime than bringing Scrooge and his Bin right into the Sinister Seven's lair.

Needless to say, Part One of "Ultraheroes" (which, like the first part of "Wizards of Mickey," doesn't have an actual title) spends most of its time getting the plot up to speed. Rather awkwardly, it cuts off just as Eega is about to spill the beans (or a handful of them, at least) to a quorum of the "Calisota Superheroes" (Gladstone and Gus still being en route). We do learn that at least one character (Donald) has visited Eega's high-tech hideout before, presumably on some sort of mission. (We also learn that Don's "super" identity hasn't hiked his brain power, as he doesn't recognize Daisy in her guise as... um... "Super Daisy.") The artwork, by Ettore Gula, Roberta Migheli, and Stefano Turconi, is good, solid, modern Italian stuff. Saida Temafonte is back on dialogue duty, and he (she?) seems a bit more willing to go beyond the cut-and-dried than was the case in "Wizards of Mickey," dropping in a couple of good verbal gags and references to Calisota, Mouseton and, if you can believe it, St. Canard. Temafonte still has some work to do, though, as witness the Sinister Seven's reaction to Emil's obligatory announcement of the group's plan for global domination: four straight panels of "Ha! Ha! Ha!"s (including one in which the nogoodniks go "Ah! Ah! Ah!", which was probably left intact from the original Italian). A few touches of sloppiness, such as a couple of signs still bearing Italian messages, are worrisome, but I found this opening salvo more entertaining than the first chapter of "Wizards." I could ask for a little more of a Darkwing Duck or Freakazoid! approach to the occasional attempts at humor, however.

Though I won't be able to get to the comics store before week's end, I'll be reviewing UNCLE $CROOGE #384 in the next day or two, thanks to Boom!'s distribution of a special Comic-Con edition of the book, complete with a cover by Don Rosa.


Joe Torcivia said...

How pathetic must this group of Beagle Boys be to have not been invited to join Emil’s evil assemblage, when even PETE seems to be a charter member?!

And why would Rockerduck become an out-and-out villain? Lex Luthor notwithstanding, lots of unprincipled rich guys lie and cheat their way though life without becoming costumed super villains.

And wouldn’t Megavolt have fit in nicely with this group? As a power source, if nothing else.

And, hey… Four straight panels of maniacal laughter just means we have a very high-spirited group of villains! They’re mean… Mean… MEAN! …Know what I mean?

Have a niiice daaay!

Ryan Wynns said...


I don't much care for the "Mickey, Donald, et al as superheroes" gimmick, but I did enjoy seeing a duck/mouse crossover. Also, the coloring work (which almost made the art look like animation stills) augmented the narrative and brought it to life in a way that created a certain dramatic momentum that I've never quite found in a Disney comic. It was interesting. But overall, not a preferable direction for Boom! to take.

I'm troubled by how in Boom!'s selection of stories, and in what they've portrayed on their covers, they're playing up Mickey, Donald, and Goofy as "The Big Disney Three" and using Scrooge as a secondary character. It strikes me that Boom!'s trying to relate their titles to the characters' animation history and image as corporate mascots, downplaying the richer comics history. (Though, considering that this was an Italian story, I guess this "Mickey, Donald, and Goofy are the tops dogs" hierarchy does in fact exist in the comics overseas?)

I'm not sure what could've gone in the word balloons in those four panels besides maniacal laughter. It seemed clear to me that it was modeled after those "zoom out" gag endings in animation where the "camera" eventually pulls so far back that it's looking at the planet, and we learn that a character's defeated scream of anguish is so loud, it can be heard from outer space. It had to be the same sound (in this case, "Ha! Ha! Ha!") for the gag to work. It's just that this appropriation of the gag was ill-conceived.

I'd be interested to know what Aaron Sparrow had to say.