When is a happy ending not a happy ending? When, in order to fully accept the conclusion of Casty's marvelous "Mickey Mouse on Quandomai Island," you are forced to choke down one of the bleakest visions of the future that has ever been presented in a Disney product. Rune Meikle and Massimo Fecchi's Matrix-influenced "Time of Reckoning" (Gemstone DONALD DUCK ADVENTURES #1, July 2003) was easily digestible by comparison. In that case, at least, one could comfort oneself with the notion that the dystopian future Duckburg was (1) the result of specific actions that could be ameliorated by a more cautious Scrooge and (2) was so obviously a "media parody" that it could be taken with a grain of salt. Casty appears to give us no such loophole. The parched, litter-filled Disney Earth of "the Year 125QXX" -- into which Mickey and a soon-to-reveal-his-true-color-yellow-and-chicken-out Lord Hight of Konseet travel with a brace of captured bug-creatures -- is the result of "gross menz... poison[ing] and pillag[ing]" the planet and then going off-world to find another home. "You blame uzz, but we only collect your inheritance!" sneers one insectoid to Mickey, who has nothing to say in response. Pixar's Wall-E got its share of grief for its vision of the future, but at least the end of that movie held out the possibility of redemption for the remaining humanoids. What hope does Casty (aided by co-conspirators David Gerstein, Jonathan Gray, and Francesco Sperafino) provide us with here? Not bloody much -- and, for all the excitement of the rescue sequence in which Mickey, Prof. Baquater, and Pete (!) save their amber-encased pals and compatriots from the bug-men's palace and get back to Quandomai just in the nick of time before the panicked Duke Hight shuts down the Eon Vortex, I'll have to admit that the end of this otherwise first-rate story left something of a bitter aftertaste. Between the vision of "The Year 125QXX" and King Kontinento's "greenish" decision to completely scrap the "World to Come" project in Casty's first story, I'm beginning to wonder whether Casty can complete a tale without clambering onto some sort of environmentalist soapbox, however well-constructed. We'll soon find out, as WDC&S will apparently continue to be "Casty's Comics Corral" for a while yet. Pretty amazing, isn't it, that a creator we Americans hadn't even heard of a year ago has come to dominate the "flagship" U.S. Disney comics title as no creator ever has (apart from that one time in the 60s that Tony Strobl literally drew the whole book -- but that was probably more of a coincidence than anything else).
We do get some decent catharsis here. Duke Hight's "man" Maximus suddenly acquires the power of speech and chases his no-doubt-soon-to-be-ex-boss over the horizon at story's end. Minnie gives the all-bluster, no-balls Duke a verbal hiding and apologizes to Mickey for being taken in by the con artist. Pete actually shows some real compassion when he insists on helping Mickey save the day so that his paramour Trudy will be safe -- and Mickey shows no hard feelings by letting Pete share in the glory. Even Goofy gets in a priceless line while flattening a bug-creature: "Take a 'Goofy Look' at THIS, pal!" By contrast, the pallid ending of "Minnie Runs out of Time" -- all she has to do is go home and smash the coffee maker to restart time? That's IT?! -- only leaves one to wonder why Minnie wasted so much time goofing around. "Minnie Runs of Time" ended up being only marginally better than "Peg-Leg Pete and the Alien Band," and I'd suggest that Boom! seriously consider replacing these not-meant-to-be-serialized backups with "done-in-one" gag stories featuring Donald, Scrooge, and other non-Mouseton-based characters. It may have "all started with a Mouse," but WDC&S really should show some measure of diversity in its contents.