Sunday, December 20, 2009

Comics Review: UNCLE $CROOGE #386 (December 2009, Boom! Kids)

It's becoming increasingly apparent that the "cycle of European treasure-tales" that Boom! has chosen to inaugurate its stewardship of UNCLE $CROOGE isn't going to make anyone forget "Scrooge's Quest," much less "The Gold Odyssey." On every count -- individual chapters, interstitial material -- Per-Erik Hedman's wannabe epic has been distressingly mediocre. Even the chapter titles display a lack of passion: in this issue, we get "Weapons of the Vikings" and the first eight pages of "The Gold Hunt." At this point, the artwork -- here, by Daniel Branca's accomplished former associate, Wanda Gattino -- is keeping this thing afloat, but more in the manner of Scrooge's improbably seaworthy Golden Nugget Boat than the proud Viking craft that the Ducks are riding on the above cover.

"Weapons of the Vikings" finds Scrooge, Donald, and HD&L -- with Magica De Spell, of course, continuing to dog their web-steps -- in Denmark, where, thanks to some paradoxically lucky ineptitude of Donald's, they get involved in a hunt for the magical weapons used in a legendary battle between Viking king Harald the Hero and his rival, Vidar the Evil. The Ducks use a local professor's notes to guide them, which raises the question of whether the boys misplaced the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook during one of their previous stops. Magica tries and fails to derrick the Ducks' plans on two occasions before we have the big showdown at the site of the ancient battle, "a cliff known as Viking Rock, where the seas of Denmark (sic), Sweden (sic), and Norway (well, "en" out of "tre" ain't bad) meet." Both Harald's magical shield and Vidar's sorcerous sword just happen to be on site. While we do find out why Vidar's sword was left there, it seems unlikely that Harald would have left such a valuable implement behind. There's a legitimately scary moment at the climax, but there's relatively little else to stir the blood, "Viking" or otherwise.

In the first panel of "The Gold Hunt," Scrooge acts on a whim similar to that seen at the beginning of "His Ancestor's Diamonds" in #385, abruptly deciding to stay in Scandinavia and accept an invitation to look for gold in northern Finland. While there apparently really is gold in Finland -- and Scrooge's desire to steal a march on Flintheart Glomgold, who's also gotten the go-ahead to delve, gives him a believable reason to oversee the activity personally -- this sudden change of venue points up Hedman's major storytelling flaw, a lack of sufficient "connective tissue" between the various parts of his narrative. As Scrooge, Donald, and HD&L head for the gold field in a reindeer-driven sled (after the Ducks' snowmobile has been sabotaged by a Glomgold operative), the pursuing Magica provides the issue's brightest moment when she disguises herself as a rabbit and manages to look both cute and evil at the same time. Both Magi-bunny and the Ducks are set upon by hungry wolves, however, and then the story breaks... "To Be Contined (sic)." Yes, it really says that. Bad enough that we have to get a second mid-chapter cutoff without this particular "wet fish" (a herring, most likely, given the venues) being swatted across our faces. Sorry to say it, but I've started counting the number of issues until we can rid ourselves of the "Hedman hammerlock" and move on to some higher-quality European $CROOGE stories.

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