Call it "The Audacity of Rope" -- an attempt to tie up an intriguing, but easily overlooked, "loose end" from the Carl Barks era and to firmly fasten the oft-patronized "world of DuckTales" to a tent pole in the dead center of the Barksian galaxy. Dialoguist David Gerstein's decision to turn "The Curse of Flabberge" into the story of the end of the dictatorship of Brutopia -- which the original French story clearly was not -- is one of the cleverest ideas I've ever seen in a Duck comic. Sometimes the seams of the "retrofitting" show, but, as a DuckTales partisan literally from day one, I can't help but be grateful to David for counting DT worthy of mounting this historically significant Duck-happening. I'd still have to count Bob Langhans' "The Gold Odyssey" as the best made-for-comics DuckTales Duck tale, but "Flabberge" is definitely on the (all too) short list of standouts. (It is also the best story that the extremely disappointing Boom! UNCLE $CROOGE has presented to date, but that hurdle admittedly wasn't particularly difficult to clear.)
The "Flabberge Egg McGuffin" turns out to be a mere casing for the story's real prize: the Brutland "Peace Pippin," the ownership of which legitimizes one's right to rule what is now the dystopian -- at least in theory -- land of Brutopia. I say "in theory" because the fearsome Brutopia of Barksian lore -- the country that gifted us with the ruthless Nikita Khrushchev look-alike of "A Cold Bargain" and the "Quintagon"-infiltrating agents of "Have Gun, Will Dance" -- seems to be something of a hollow shell itself. Dictator "Papa Bruto" is plenty nasty, but henchmen are decidedly lacking -- a couple of clone bulldogs who speak pidgin Slavic, a grumpy customs agent, and a handful of police who look like French gendarmes. Moreover, Western media reps are present and free to roam about the main square of Brutengrad at the climax of the story. Thembria was Oceania compared to this. Of course, the problem here is that the original story was about a more or less generic dictatorship, and it's hard to conceal the difference. But by turning the deposed good guys (to be precise, Tsarevna Felina, the heiress to the throne of Alexpanther III) into the Brutopian equivalent of the Romanov family -- even unto the use of Faberge-egg simulacra -- Gerstein manages to give the tale's backstory an historical heft that at least partially overcomes the slight letdown of the Brutopian "reality."
Save for a couple of truly atrocious puns from Launchpad during the opening chase sequence in the sewers of Paris, Gerstein's dialogue maintains the high standards of Part One. Oddly enough, Scrooge doesn't really have a lot to do; the Nephews' frequent references to the Junior Woodchucks' Guidebook, plus a tremendous slice of luck (to wit: the Ducks getting tossed into a dungeon that contains a major clue), actually contribute more to the ultimate solution of the mystery of the Flabberge Egg's whereabouts. But in this case, it's the setting and theme that really take center stage. With UNCLE $CROOGE due to stick to DuckTales stories for at least a few more issues, it'll be difficult to live up to the standards of this effort, but I look forward to the attempt.