My first joint review of these titles in a while -- and, depending on shipping skeds, it may well be the last, as each is scheduled to "go on hiatus" following installment #8. I can now honestly say that I won't be at all sorry to see HERO SQUAD depart... and, while I have enjoyed WIZARDS OF MICKEY for the most part, seeing it go won't exactly crush my spirits. I think it is far more likely that we'll see WIZARDS again, seeing as how there's so much unpublished material available. Perhaps WIZARDS can be turned into a recurring subfeature in the newly revived MICKEY MOUSE AND FRIENDS? Hey, if Donald can enjoy stints as a superspy and (so I hear) as a kung fu expert in DONALD DUCK AND FRIENDS, why can't Mickey don different creative chapeaux in "his" title? (Of course, the way that Boom! has been burning up the Casty material, WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES can almost be counted as a MICKEY book now.)
The end of "The Battle for the Ultramachine" SHOULD, by all rights, have appeared in HERO SQUAD #8, but it looks as if we're going to get a trivial follow-up story, "Fight Before the Exams," to fill in the gap. (Whatever happened to the plan to reprint more hero origin stories?) It's finally occurred to me that the Ultramachine epic turned out to be very much like a classic JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA story penned by Gardner Fox, with discrete individual battles seguing into a grand free-for-all finale. The main difference here is that the actual en masse combat between the Ultraheroes and the Sinister 7 didn't last that long. More attention was paid to the two groups' combining of forces to stop the giant, out-of-control, Ultramachine-powered Eega Beeva. And therein lies the problem -- we didn't really know ANY of these characters well enough for the alliance to have any impact at all. A number of artist Stefan Turconi's panels featured squiggly little characters buzzing around Big Eega like hornets around a hornets' nest, doing... stuff. That pretty much summed up the impersonal, uninvolving nature of this battle. Mickey, after being subjected to menial duties and minor humiliations throughout most of the story, actually makes the most meaningful contribution to Eega's neutralization... which is promptly undercut when Eega crushes a loose Ultrapod (thereby making it impossible to reconstruct the Ultramachine) and blandly admits that he really should have thought of that beforehand! Pno kidding, Psherlock. This struck me as supremely cynical storytelling. At least the final few pages tried to tidy up some loose ends: the "civilian" Donald and Daisy making up (with a direct, beak-on-beak kiss? How often have we seen that in a Duck story?), Fethry getting a new igloo-selling idea, Cloverleaf (who's called "Clover" several times here for some unknown reason) finally getting someone to join his online fan club. The identity of Cloverleaf's cyber-buddy is probably the best gag in the entire story. Scrooge had better make darn sure that his Money Bin defenses (a giant mechanical hand and foot? Gizmoduck should feel insulted) are extra-secure in the near future, or "Old #1" will be tested to the utmost as a "lucky" charm.
The heroes and villains meander away from the Money Bin at the end of "Ultraheroes" exchanging reluctant compliments and vague threats of future battles (because, well, that's what is expected of them). So it's not all that surprising to see Pete immediately return in "Fight Before the Exams" as what would appear to be a "final exam" challenge for the still-training Ultraheroes. The promised "fight" looks to be between Duck Avenger and Cloverleaf, who close the issue with a bout of fairly irritating bickering. Whatever happens in HS #8, it will be a decided anticlimax... but then, the climax of the "Ultramachine Saga" already was.
The big question I have regarding WIZARDS OF MICKEY #7 actually relates to WIZARDS OF MICKEY #8. With the final part of "The Sorcerer of Donnybrook Castle" taking up space at the back of the issue, how will the first great battle between WOM and The Phantom Blot be brought to a really satisfying conclusion in such a small amount of space? Will continuity issues -- Donald's delayed-reaction magic, WOM's painfully-forged alliances with the Dragons and Team Diamond Moon, Goofy's endless search for a profession (it's photography, this time -- well, he did build the team's "Iron Dragon" flying machine in what seemed like a split second, so I suppose he could whip up a camera "in a jiff", a la Gadget) -- be wrapped up at the same time as The Blot, Pete, and The Beagle Brothers are dealt with? If they can pull this off, it'll be quite a feat. I suspect that the long-absent Nereus may wind up lending a hand somehow, since Mickey got a warning through his techno-charm to be wary of the bad guys' "rage spell" trap at Fang Castle. I did notice one continuity error when Donald mentioned that inviting "all the wizards" in the tournament to meet in the same location was not S.O.P. for this competition. What about The Blot's plan to steal "all" the staffs and Diamagics at Arborea in WOM #3, or even the party at 1000 Rooms Castle in #5? I may be searching for nits here, though. Assuming that you can accept the premise, the world of WIZARDS OF MICKEY has featured a decent amount of consistency (Team Yum-Yum Cook and Team Jinx are still around!) and, by and large, the stories have been enjoyable, if a little disjointed. Squeezing the rest of the package into 12 pages seems like a tall order, however. Let's see whether the magic holds to the end.