Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Comics Review: DARKWING DUCK #1 (Boom! Kids, June 2010)

When last we saw Darkwing Duck in a regulation-sized comic book, some 15 years ago, he and the other stars of The Disney Afternoon were undergoing a monthly dose of painful humiliation, under the awful aegis of Marvel-Disney's slovenly DAFT (and boy, did that acronym ever fit) title. DW's erratic, though occasionally entertaining, career in DISNEY ADVENTURES DIGEST petered out at about the same time, so it's been quite a while since "The Terror Who Flaps in the Night" has graced print with his presence. Boom!'s decision to bring DW back for a mini-series "spin" was welcome news, especially so in light of the fact that the company's honchos were "children of the Disney Afternoon era" and therefore ought to appreciate what made these made-for-TV characters so everlastingly popular. Appreciation doesn't always go hand in hand with execution, however, so I still had my doubts... until DARKWING #1 reached me. With apologies to Sally Field, I'm glad to report: They "get it"! They really, really "get it"!

I knew that writer Ian Brill and artist James Silvani were on the right track from the very first page of "The Duck Knight Returns," where we see the unfolding of a Megavolt-"enlightened" plot to black-out and hold for ransom all the Starducks coffee shops in St. Canard. This affects virtually all of St. Canard, since there's literally a Starducks on every corner! Evidently, Brill clearly recognized that things can and do happen in DW's city that would never happen in such comparatively sedate locations as Duckburg and Mouseton. The St. Canard of "Duck Knight" isn't quite the supervillain-saturated sinkhole of DW's salad days, however. For reasons not yet known, a corporation called Quackwerks now runs the St. C police department -- using automated "crimebots" that are, shall we say, a tad overzealous in their duties -- and appears to employ almost everyone in town (those who aren't hanging around Starducks, that is). A bored, frustrated Drake Mallard is now working as a "data accounts networking officer" (a positions the duties of which even he can't explain) for the mega-corp -- and Elmo Sputterspark, aka Megavolt, is the grouchy guy in the next cubicle. Gosalyn has been packed off to a tony private school for the "spirited child" and, no surprise, is causing havoc there (as well as in Drake's tuition-tapped wallet). Launchpad, meanwhile, is busily polishing the Thunderquack. Well, at least there are some fixed points in this world. But with Honker Muddlefoot getting carted off by the "crimebots" for illegally downloading music and Elmo getting kidnapped by three old colleagues from "The Fearsome Five," the ground will no doubt be shifting soon...

There are very few false notes in this first effort, either in a scripting or an artistic sense. Everyone looks, acts, and sounds as they should, and the attention to series detail is striking; a memory of a past time-travel case, for example, finds DW and Launchpad at the wheel of the same polka-powered, awning-draped "golf-cart time machine" first seen in "Paraducks." One bit of business still needs to be explained: why would Drake willingly cease his career as DW, even if Quackwerks did "officially" take over the police and supposedly "wipe out" all supervillains? Even if Drake didn't feel the need to go the "Mr. Incredible" route and fight whatever crime he could find on the sly, doesn't SHUSH still need DW's help in its battles with FOWL? I hope this mystery gets cleared up quickly. It's just not like the egotistical DW to so meekly submit to the corporate life in this craven manner. At least now we know the source of Drake's income, which was a famous "in-joke" in the episode "Twitching Channels."

The buzz for this title has been considerable, and Boom! evidently intends to "anser" the call for additional DARKWING adventures with alacrity. In his Editor's Note at issue's end, Aaron Sparrow announces that DARKWING is slated to become a continuing title once "Duck Knight" is finished, with the creative team of Brill and Silvani still at the helm. He also mentions that UNCLE $CROOGE's "DuckTales phase" will last through issue #399, at least. Good news, provided that Boom! improves on the somewhat disappointing first effort.

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