Thursday, June 10, 2010

Comics Review: UNCLE $CROOGE #392 (Boom! Kids, June 2010)

OK, here's my informal, and admittedly subjective, list of criteria for a good DuckTales (as opposed to UNCLE $CROOGE) comic-book story:

1. The story should be well-drawn and well-written. (Simple, no?)
2. The made-for-TV characters should be given something meaningful and "in-character" to do.
3. The story should generally respect the established "universe" of the TV series.

Neither this issue's featured story, "Like a Hurricane, Part 1: The Everlasting Coal", nor its backup, the reprinted and (for some inexplicable reason) re-dialogued "The Littlest Gizmoduck" make the grade on all three counts. Much as I hate to admit it, given my high hopes for UNCLE $CROOGE's DT "phase," "The Littlest Gizmoduck" is the closer of the two to the "ideal." DISNEY ADVENTURES DT stories were wildly inconsistent at the best of times, but this unpretentious little filler is pretty good for what it is. "Everlasting Coal," on the other hand, while reasonably well-drawn by Xavier Vives Mateu and full of funny one-liners, gets some basic DT "factoids" wrong -- some petty, some troubling. Since Paul Halas and Tom Anderson's original dialogue for "Coal" appears to have been rewritten as well, any failings of the lead story may have to be attributed to whoever provided the new words. The writers are certainly enthusiastic about the Disney Afternoon series and don't hold their audience in contempt as the writers for the Marvel DISNEY AFTERNOON title frequently did, but they may need to do a bit more homework.

"The Everlasting Coal" takes Scrooge, HD&L, Launchpad, and Donald (who comes along on this adventure, but might just as well be Dimwitty or Hard Haid Moe in terms of anything "Donald-distinctive" he contributes to the proceedings) to a remote Tibetan (or something similar) outpost in search of the accentuated anthracite, a "renewable resource" with the potential to revolutionize the world of energy. The "Scottish" DT version of Flintheart Glomgold sabotages the Ducks' plane and seeks the "treasure" for himself. The main action of the plot isn't too shabby, helped along by some witty dialogue (though I wonder why the "robber barons" who rule the country where the coal is hidden suddenly go all Communist on us in mid-stream, repeatedly sneering at "capitalist" Scrooge -- perhaps the "Brinjalbhaji Mountains" are in China instead?). In the other pan-balance, however, are the following quirks, roughly in order of their canon-cracking importance:

1. Launchpad calls Mrs. Beakly "Ma'am."
2. Launchpad indirectly suggests that HD&L are Junior Woodchucks, but he himself is not. (This is the guy who held the record for most JW Merit Badges earned; see "Superdoo!".)
3. Donald complains, after yet another Launchpad crash, that "Launchpad's flying is why I joined the Navy!" (Don actually signed up before he even met LP; see "Treasure of the Golden Suns.")
4. Launchpad makes reference to always carrying a flashlight "in case [Darkwing Duck] loses the keys to The Ratcatcher." Unless LP has taken to moonlighting or has a very short commute, this is a big goof; LP signed up with DW after leaving Duckburg "for good." The reference can't have originated with Halas and Anderson, since the original story has a "D 89xxx" date code, meaning that it predated Darkwing Duck's debut. Does this mean that we can expect to see Scrooge and HD&L appear in the upcoming Boom! DARKWING mini-series?

Out of nowhere, Launchpad also comes up with a bizarre non sequitur: "Whoa, we're all wearing hats!" ?????? Yours too tight or something, LP?

Neither Boom! nor Inducks give a writer credit for "The Littlest Gizmoduck" (Boom! uses the generic "Disney Adventures Staff"), so I'll close that gap here and give appropriate credit to Karen Willson and Chris Weber, who also wrote the TV episode "Much Ado About Scrooge." This was the first comic-book appearance of Fenton Crackshell and Gizmoduck, and I think it's a reasonably good one. The rewriting is essentially pointless, basically copying the original in several places and otherwise bringing nothing new to the table. (If you want to see a bit of what the original story looked like, never fear; several panels from it are reproduced on the inside front cover!) In the one instance where a minor rewrite would have made sense, the writer(s) fall down on the job; Fenton (who isn't ID'd by name here, unlike the original story) still refers to Scrooge as "Mr. Scrooge," rather than "Mr. McDuck." HD&L also make a reference to The Quiverwing Quack, but that shout-out's OK by me; the boys could very well have read about Gosalyn's heroic exploits in the Duckburg newspaper. They know enough about Quiv to know that she's a girl, at least.

All in all, Boom!'s first Disney Afternoon-related effort is a bag so mixed that it would serve well as a template for a demonstration of random sampling. There are promising signs here, but also plenty of room for improvement.

4 comments:

Kneon Transitt said...

Oh dear. :-/

Well, the covers are pretty, anyway...

Chris Barat said...

Kneon,

From what I know of the situation, U$/DT will be picking up shortly. This was just a somewhat disappointing way to kick the run off. Boom! must have confidence in its decision-making, though, as they've extended the DT "phase" of U$ to at least issue #399 (per this past week's Editor column).

And it looks as if my half-humorous speculation as to Scrooge visiting Darkwing's turf might actually be on the agenda for the planned continuation of the DARKWING title. Again, read the Editor column for the big, fat hint.

Chris

Ryan Wynns said...

I'm with Kneon on the covers. Especially the Gizmoduck one ... it really screams "DuckTales" (as opposed to "Uncle Scrooge"...) at you ... it whollly and completely looks like the TV series! Never thought I'd see this, in 2010!

But ... just imagine if Boom! put those front cover production values into the rest of the book! No, in all fairness, "The Everlasting Coal" wasn't that bad. Stock components of a Ducktales adventure were in place, anyway, and Scrooge was driven by a McGuffin befitting of his character. The dialogue needs the most work. Launchpad in particular often didn't "sound" like Launchapad, but generic. (Way too "wordy" in places: "There's a primitive runway", "Here's the stronghold", etc.) (And there's all those errors that you listed...)

Was never crazy about "The Littlest Gizmoduck"; still, I question the rewrite. (If they're going to revisit that era ... wouldn't it be something to have Bob Langhans rwite new DuckTales stories?)

Get this: stopped by my comics shop Friday, excited for the first issue of Boom!'s Darkwing Duck. It was SOLD OUT. (And with the Boom! titles, they've usually had a few per issue. I don't think this was just 2 or 3 copies.) "We blew right through 'em", the proprietor told me. "Must be a lot of people who grew up with it excited to see it back," I speculated. "Oh, yes!" he affirmed with a knowing, amused, benevolent laugh in his voice. So, if my comics shop is any indication, Boom! is really onto something. Will Disney take note? (It's because of this amazing encounter/discovery that I don't mind, at least too much, that I haven't read the comic yet.)

Ryan

Chris Barat said...

Ryan,

As mentioned in my review of DW #1, Boom! has ALREADY decided to continue the DARKWING title after the current mini-series concludes, so I think it's safe to say that they know they've got a hot seller here.

Chris