Saturday, July 17, 2010

Comics Review: UNCLE $CROOGE #393 (July 2010, Boom! Kids)

Well... we've made some progress over the first DuckTales-themed issue of $CROOGE, at least, though I might have to dig out a micrometer to measure the actual amount of improvement. I'm happy to report that neither the lead story, the French-produced "The Pyramid of Prak-Ti-Kal," nor the recycled DISNEY ADVENTURES backup, Doug Murray and the Jaime Diaz Studio's "A Switch in Time," are disfigured by any of the obvious mischaracterizations that crippled #392's lead, "The Everlasting Coal." There's a bit of sloppiness on display in "Prak-ti-Kal" when two Beagle Boys (one of whom is Burger) plan to follow Scrooge, Launchpad, and HD&L into the desert in search of the mastheaded mastaba, but two entirely different Beagles (Bouncer and... I think it's Baggy, judging by the shirt cuffs, but it's kind of tough to be sure) actually wind up doing the dirty work. I put this down to artist Jose Maria Carreras not being entirely comfortable with the distinctive looks of the DT Beagles -- a strike against the tale, to be sure, but not a mortal mistake. A few debatable notions can be found in "Switch," as well, but they're not that egregious. No, the real problem here is that the stories simply aren't very original or very interesting. Whoever is writing the dialogue (and he/she/they really earned his/her/their pay this time -- "Switch" is far more heavily rewritten than was "The Littlest Gizmoduck" in #392) is making a yeomanlike effort to keep things light, funny, and in the general spirit of the series, but there's only so much that can be done with such predictable source material.

Is there a coincidence in the remarkable... similarity of the manner in which Pharaoh Prak-Ti-Kal's buried pyramid is found to the discovery of the cenotaph holding Collie Baba's treasure in the opening scenes of DuckTales: The Movie? Unfortunately, the rest of "The Pyramid of Prak-Ti-Kal" isn't much more original, tossing in an extra dose of extreme silliness (a prank-loving pharaoh who possessed the technology to mass-produce rubber spiders??) for bad measure. The ending has also been seen before in venues ranging from the DT episode "The Curse of Castle McDuck" to the Tale Spin classic "In Search of Ancient Blunders." The story is readable, but you can't put it much higher than that. "Switch," meanwhile, gives us the old job-trading ploy, with Scrooge responding to the threat of imminent departure by disgruntled employees Launchpad and Gizmoduck by suggesting that the two fill each others' shoes for awhile. (Actually, with Gizmoduck, the proper term would be "wheel," but that's not really relevant here, since, when Launchpad dons the Gizmo costume, he always stands on his own two feet. It's funny and all, but isn't quite accurate.) With Fenton Crackshell's troubles limited to a couple of shots of the panicky accountant trying to fathom a plane's control panel, the ensuing action is pretty much the "Gizmopad" vs. Beagle Boys Show, with Gizmoduck predictably taking over near the end to save the hapless LP's bacon. The rewrite makes several noticeable improvements on Murray's original and both pays tribute to Fenton's former job and slips a fast one past the "Guardians of Good" when Crackshell sighs, "I'll never be a pilot -- I just don't have the beans for it!" The familiar plot, somewhat tired sight gags, and peculiarly bland characterization of the bombastic Gizmoduck, however, result in an average story, at best. And I'd really like to know how Fenton managed to give LP all the necessary information about the Gizmosuit without compromising his secret identity. The TV series made considerable hay out of the secret-ID notion in one of its better second-season eps; alas, no comic-book story ever tried to duplicate the feat, and this would have been a good opportunity to do so.

The switch to DuckTales material does not seem to have goosed $CROOGE's sales to any considerable extent. For sure, if the quality level does not pick up soon, there is likely to be no improvement in the foreseeable future. And then what will Boom! do with $CROOGE? In the meantime, I will continue to hope for better things to come.

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