Monday, January 25, 2010

Comics Review: UNCLE $CROOGE #387 (January 2010, Boom! Kids)

And the bottom finally drops out. I've been somewhat hard on Boom! for the decision to lead off its stewardship of UNCLE $CROOGE with what I've previously referred to as a "distressingly mediocre" cycle of European-based Ducks-vs.-Magica Egmont stories. Would that this issue had reached the level of distressed mediocrity! The conclusion of "The Gold Hunt" and the serial's final chapter, "The Fateful Hour," aren't just poor, they're almost transcendentally awful in places. The last page, in particular, is one of the most absurd windups to a Duck story that I've ever read. Writer Per Hedman deserves much of the blame for concocting the scenario, but Boom!'s pedestrian dialogue didn't even try to put the best face on what had become a pretty bad situation. Who would ever have thought that $CROOGE, of all the Boom! titles, would be in such a shambolic condition at this point?

We know we're in trouble right away when the opening recap of #387 mentions that Magica had disguised herself as a rabbit to track the gold-mine-hunting Ducks, yet all we see is Magica transforming herself back into her normal form at the top of page 2. A more judicious "cut" between issues #386 and #387 would have fixed this problem and given newcomers a chance to see Magica in her (admittedly cute) bunny disguise. The sojourn ends up pretty much as you'd expect -- Scrooge outwits Glomgold and gets the rights to the Finnish gold field -- but not before Magica, now disguised as a bear, mauls Scrooge a bit. The point of this isn't explained until the start of "The Fateful Hour," when the gang realizes that Magica took advantage of the situation to steal the Old #1 Dime. The problem is that this revelation is provided in a caption. Where's the "omigosh scene" in which Scrooge realizes that Old #1 is missing? Having Scrooge run off a plane, fretting that "my birthday will be ruined!," doesn't pack as much of a punch, does it? Hedman has had some trouble connecting the parts of his narrative from the beginning, but this transition is particularly weak. (To make matters worse, we get the aggravating "To Be Contined" (sic) message once again, at the end of "The Gold Rush.")

"The Fateful Hour" strains valiantly, but not too successfully, to build suspense as Magica, back in Rome, entrusts the dime to Ratface the raven, only to have a couple of generic dogface baddies nab the crooked corvus in hopes of making a fortune from this "talking crow." With parrots and similar birds having long since cornered the gabby-game market, I fail to see why this would be such a big deal, but whatever. The Ducks, Magica, the two bird-nappers, and a cohort of gladiator actors that Magica has "mind-zapped" for the nonce scamper around the ruins of the Roman Forum and then get mixed up with... wait for it... a band of soccer fans. The Riverside Rovers never looked so appealing. Magica escapes from the scrum with Old #1 and, tracked by the Ducks, gets to Mount Vesuvius with designs on dime deliquescence. Here's where things get really painful. By shouting (!), Scrooge causes Ratface to brain Magica with Magica's melting pot, and the sorceress drops both the dime (down the slopes of Vesuvius) and her magic bag (into Vesuvius). The volcano erupts, and Scrooge and the boys, having recovered the dime, cheer victory as they walk away (!), not twenty paces from Magica's sorcery shop, where the sorceress is pitching a fit (!!). Why doesn't Magica pull herself together and try to stop Scrooge and recover the dime, even if she can't melt it right away? And... uh, guys? There's an erupting volcano nearby, and no one appears to notice or care?! Admittedly, I have high standards when it comes to $CROOGE stories, but I just can't accept this on ANY reasonable level.

Boom!'s lineup will soon be changing as Wizards of Mickey and Ultraheroes spin off into their own titles. To replace the Wizards story, WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES will feature a new continuing story starring Mickey. I certainly hope that its quality tops that of the Hedman opus, or all the good work that Boom! has done to make the "New Direction" titles interesting and enjoyable will have been negated by its poor handling of the "classic" titles. My advice to those responsible for $CROOGE? Take some advice from The Princess and the Frog's Mama Odie and "dig a little deeper" into the massive Egmont archives. You're bound to find something better than what you gifted us with in this opening effort.

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