As if to make up for Boom!'s recent switch to a "one-cover-per-issue" policy, DARKWING DUCK #3 was issued in no less than three variants, including the nifty "mock-Victorian" Amy Mebberson cover shown above. I don't mind the showboating in this case, because this installment of "The Duck Knight Returns" is by far the best to date. We get explanations for Launchpad and DW's "de-partnering" and Quackerjack's consistent "mad-on," a couple of cameos of sorts by other Disney Afternoon stalwarts (one of which is so unexpected as to rattle one's back teeth), and a memorable appearance by Negaduck (though not exactly the one I expected). Best of all, writer Ian Brill, whom I mildly took to task for some temporal inconsistencies in #2, is back in top form, finishing off the issue with a revelation of the mastermind behind Quackwerks that is simultaneously (1) completely logical, given the character's past practice, and (2) still a complete surprise. There are so many goodies packed herein that I'd hate to ruin your appetite if you haven't "indulged" yet, so I'll spill the beans only after inserting some...
Evidently, the Fearsome Five managed to stay afloat during the early days of Quackwerks, which is a tribute of sorts to Negs' "leadership skills." But once Negs reasoned out DW's secret identity and insisted that only HE was worthy of destroying Drake Mallard's life -- and then got himself caught by the Crimebots while in the act of trashing the Mallard household (why am I reminded of the fate of Gummi Glen in "King Igthorn"? At least Drake got a chance to rebuild Mallard Manor) -- the remaining "Fallible Four" must have reverted to default "knob" status and no longer posed a threat, at least not until the events of "Duck Knight." It certainly couldn't have helped that the offended Quackerjack went truly loco as a result, not least because Negs was responsible for destroying Mr. Banana Brain. (It's not a coincidence that James Silvani draws QJ with Megavolt-style mismatched eyes in several panels.) Drake, for his part, overreacted gruesomely as only he can, but this time in a wholly self-destructive manner, blaming (and thus alienating) Launchpad and taking himself out of the crimefighting game. It's frankly amazing that Gosalyn, who's not the type to verbally tiptoe around her Dad, waited a full year and a half to give Drake a verbal boot in the rear.
As for the Quackwerks kingpin (or Brahma Bull, to be more specific)... sure, I knew that Taurus Bulba/Steerminator was a manipulative crime boss, but I would never have given him credit for possessing the necessary techno-smarts to create this sort of a regime. Perhaps he analyzed the cyborg technology implanted in him by FOWL (or had it analyzed for him) and thereby battened on others' technological labor, just as he originally planned to do with the Waddlemeyer Ram Rod. The open questions now are:
(1) Where is Negaduck? Assuming he's still "in custody," that appears to set us up for -- horrors!... a Fearsome Five-DW "coopero-fest" to thwart TB?! Negs and DW, working together to stop a common threat?! We should be seeing airborne swine any moment now, I reckon.
(2) At what point will TB's antipathy towards DW rear its ugly horned head -- and will the kingpin's desire to "obliterate" his longtime foe somehow gum up the works of Quackwerks enough to lead to the regime's downfall?
(3) How did Launchpad and Gadget (!!!) get into the same "universe" for that priceless one-panel throwaway gag? Did Thaddeus Rockwell repair his helmet, or did Matt Plotecher write a sequel to "There and Back... Again?" and I wasn't made aware of it? I'm taking bets. (Gizmoduck's appearance in the paper was funny, too -- not least because Launchpad misconstrued the reason for his breakup with DW as a result -- but the Gadget appearance went to several higher levels of awesome.)
(4) What is in the lockbox that TB was trying to get Honker to open? And why did TB need Honker to do it? It's not as if Honker has the entire corpus of the English language memorized. (Well, I hear he's pretty close to polishing off the "Y"s and "Z"s.)
This entry's title line corrects something about the Boom! DARKWING DUCK: it's actually a part of the Boom! Studios line itself, rather than Boom! Kids, as I had incorrectly indicated in the first two DARKWING entries. At least Brill and Silvani have demonstrated that Boom! is perfectly capable of producing highly commendable original Disney comics, just as it has done with the Pixar characters and The Muppets. Now, if we could only have a little of this creativity bleed into the "classic" Disney line...