Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Comics Review: WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES #700 (October 2009, Boom! Kids)

What a nice gift Boom! has anted up just in time for the holiday season: an oversize (40-page) issue of WDC&S at the "standard" price of $2.99. In the absence of an actual front-cover salute to the title's 700th issue -- indeed, the self-congratulatory patter is pretty much limited to Editor Aaron Sparrow's brief letter-page blurb -- this extra material could be considered a silent tribute to the loyal American Disney comics fans who've helped this title reach the ultra-rare seven-centuries mark. The beneficiary of the extra space is none other than William Van Horn, whose clever "gimmick" story "Close-Ups" is featured in the back of the book. I've made a few critical comments over the years about this aging master's increasing tendency to repeat himself, but here he shows a healthy sense of humor regarding the travails of drawing Ducks and the inevitable "corner-cutting" that sometimes comes into play. Who knows when we'll see Van Horn's Duck work in a Boom! comic again, so this special issue was the perfect place for "Close-Ups" to appear.

To get to Van Horn's slyly self-referential bauble, "old school Disneyana fans" must slog through part two of "Ultraheroes," in which three writers, four artists, and one hard-pressed translator pool their wares to produce... well, something of a mess, to be perfectly frank. Pitching the reader right back into the story without a word of explanatory narration, the chapter features a generous portion of the same sort of exposition-heavy, mock-earnest dialogue that festooned part one. We learn that "The Sinister 7" have stolen the "Ultradetector," a thingy that helps one locate the disassembled parts of the deadly "Ultramachine," which Eega Beeva has strewn all over the Calisota landscape. Actually, all one really needs to put the "Ultramachine" back together is a tourist's guidebook to Duckburg, since the second location of an "Ultrapod" (after Scrooge's Money Bin) turns out to be a busy soccer stadium. Evidently, "men of the future" are experts at overlooking the obvious.

After the Ultraheroes get their "official" name and go through some desultory training, we finally get some real action as Super Goof -- now wearing the blue-white-and-gold Ultrahero uniform, as opposed to his red long johns -- squares off against The Inquinator, a cross of sorts between the POGO villain Sarcophagus MacAbre and the Darkwing Duck baddie Ample Grime (surely you remember Ammonia Pine's sister?), over the rights to "Ultrapod-2." Inquinator's shtick is the ability to "control" waste (and, somewhat confusingly, to cause a soccer crowd's refreshments to come to life -- perhaps because he has mastery over junk food, as well as junk?). The heroes' and villains' emotional investment in the goings-on can be gauged by the fact that Mickey Mouse and Peg-Leg Pete are dispatched during the midst of the tiff to pick up some pizzas. Saida Temafonte does get another gold star (following the use of St. Canard in part one) when Scrooge mocks the disrespected -- and, like him, imprisoned -- Beagle Boys using the phrase, "Bless me bagpipes!", and I do appreciate the increased attempts at a light-hearted, mocking approach, but the plotting could certainly be a bit tighter (though, to be fair, that problem likely stems from the Italian original).

Aaron Sparrow announces in his editor's column that the next two issues of WDC&S will "wrap up [the] first Ultraheroes arc," following which the ULTRAHEROES spin-off will debut and WDC&S will focus on Mickey for a bit. The latter is probably a wise move, given that MICKEY MOUSE AND FRIENDS will soon be shunted aside in favor of WIZARDS OF MICKEY. The announcement, however, does leave me wondering how the battle for the remaining four pieces of the "Ultramachine" AND the inevitable showdown between both casts of characters -- the existence of which is clearly telegraphed in one of the several cover variants for #700 -- will be wrapped up in the space of just two additional regulation-sized (I guess) issues.

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