Friday, December 4, 2009

Comics Review: UNCLE $CROOGE #385 (November 2009, Boom! Kids)

Boom!'s UNCLE $CROOGE isn't a comic-book title, it's a Mobius strip -- and, like a real Mobius strip, the material in it has looked distressingly one-dimensional. At least this time, the book is organized with a bit more care. "Salt and Gold," so clumsily interrupted in U$ #384, wraps up in the first 10 pages, and then the Ducks are off on another treasure-seeking trek, in the environs of Rotterdam this time. "His Ancestor's Diamonds," however, appears complete in this issue, so Scrooge, Donald, and HD&L will be "starting afresh" in #386. Too bad that the trio of linked stories haven't felt fresher. Even a once-in-a-blue-moon teamup of sorts between Magica De Spell and the Beagle Boys in "Diamonds" is handled unimaginatively.

"Salt and Gold," take 2, gets off to a painful start as Magica discovers in her purloined book that, even if she does manage to snare the Old #1 Dime, "the Moon must be in a certain orbit" in order for her to successfully "fuse" the coin at Mt. Vesuvius. Such a disclaimer will surely be a big surprise to the longtime Scrooge-reader (not to mention the astronomy-conscious; how many "orbits" does the moon have, anyway?). The tale regains its bearings at the historic salt mine of Wieliczka, Poland, where Gyro (who, along with HD&L, has been cleared of the book-theft without any trouble -- so much for the cliffhanger, eh?) has deduced that Copernicus' assistant Krystztof's secret alchemist's lab must be located. Magica does the cheesy-disguise routine and fools the Ducks into accompanying her into a dangerous part of the complex, but her effort to grab Old #1 fails, and she causes an accidental cave-in by hurling a bottle of acid into a stone pillar (huh?). The story sort of peters out from there as Gyro, newly-recorded gold-making notes in hand, is sent back to Duckburg. Does Scrooge accompany him? Nope: as hinted by an advertising sign featuring a Dutch windmill, he takes Donald and the boys to Rotterdam to kick-start "His Ancestor's Diamonds"! (I almost expected a DuckTales commercial bumper to be inserted here, so much does this chain of tales resemble one of the TV series' serials.)

Having abruptly "changed his mind" about rendering salt into gold, Scrooge brings Donald and HD&L on a quest to recover a chest of diamonds lost by a Dutch merchant ancestor of Scrooge's. (It couldn't actually have been that much of a 180-degree turn, as Scrooge apparently had had the necessary equipment shipped to him from Duckburg -- which explains why the Beagle Boys decided to stow away.) The search isn't much of one -- Scrooge even evinces boredom by calling it "the easiest treasure hunt I've ever done" -- and is basically an excuse for a fuming Magica to catch up with the Ducks' salvage boat. The chest, however, proves to be full of junk. Several flung "poof" (sic) bombs and a deus ex machina revelation by a bit character later, the Ducks are back in Rotterdam to search the remains of an old dike that may now house the real treasure. Magica "uses" the Beagles to get her back to shore, has them framed for theft, and prepares to use a "special brew" to knock the Ducks silly. This gambit goes about as well as one might expect, and, as our heroes trundle out of town with the diamonds, a wall-poster suggests that they're heading to Scandinavia next. Stop the treadmill, Unca Scrooge, I want to get off!

Carlos Mota's artwork is excellent and his rendering of Magica exceptionally attractive, but the real problem with this/these story/stories is the lackluster writing (Erik Hedman on script, Stefania Bronzoni on translation duty). Had these point-to-point scenarios been infused with even a small portion of the humor and color to be found in such multi-part gems as "Treasure of the Golden Suns", "The Gold Odyssey," and THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SCROOGE McDUCK, Boom! might have had something here to bear fair comparison to the best Scrooge-related material put out by Gladstone and Gemstone. It's unfortunate that the company chose to use this material during the line's "shakedown cruise" phase. As things stand right now, $CROOGE continues to lag behind Boom!'s other "classic Disney" efforts -- no matter how frantically the globe-hopping Ducks try to catch up.

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