How strange... "Messes Become Successes," the follow-up to "Like a Hurricane" (Boom!'s catch-all title for the first four DuckTales-themed issues of UNCLE $CROOGE -- the better to package the unrelated stories in a trade paperback) was supposed to begin here, but you wouldn't know it from looking at the title page, which simply lists the titles of the two featured stories. It couldn't be that Boom! realized in the nick of time that not enough people would catch the reference to the rarely-heard second verse of the DT theme song! Could it? Or perhaps Launchpad obliterated the relevant copy when he crashed into the wall in James Silvani's amusing cover. (Was it really only nine years ago that TaleSpin was pulled off the air in the immediate aftermath of 9/11? And now we see this scene on a Disney comics cover, and no one probably batted an eye.)
Picking up where the ambitious, and generally successful, "The Eye of Flabberge" left off, #396 gives us a decent-to-good pair of Launchpad-focused stories, both of which were produced for Egmont in the early 1990s. Happily, given how late in the Egmont/DT production game they were created, "Lovelorn Launchpad" and "Double Indemnity" show plenty of enthusiasm, due in part to artist Millet's expressive artwork. It also doesn't hurt to have old reliables David Gerstein and Jonathan Gray back on dialogue duty -- though, if they were in fact responsible for "Lovelorn Launchpad" as well as "Double Indemnity," then they have a major temporal gaffe to answer for. Scrooge loaning the crash-prone Launchpad surplus warplanes for a "tax write-off" is a clever idea... but surplus Boer War planes (sic) that look like they were rejects from Rosie the Riveter's production line?! I could sooner believe that Snoopy's doghouse actually IS a Sopwith Camel.
"Lovelorn Launchpad" finds LP head over brown-booted webbed heels in love with comely pilot Bedelia Airheart... so much so that he tracks her to the forbidding Hamalaya Mountains, where she's disappeared while trying to set a speed record. It should be noted that LP's attitude towards women was anything but a settled issue in the TV series: he chortled "Usually it's the girls chasin' me!" in "The Lost Crown of Genghis Khan," fell hard for the exotic seer Sen-Sen in "The Duck Who Would Be King," and desperately welcomed possession of the Gizmosuit in "A Case of Mistaken Secret Identity" because "At last I'm gettin' the girls!"... and all of them, somehow, seemed in character. Here, too, the inept earnestness of LP's efforts to "save" the inconvenienced, but otherwise unimperiled, Bedelia (who ends up saving LP instead) flows naturally from the pilot's eternal willingness to laugh at danger and his equally persistent fallibility. I could have done without the walk-on by a particularly silly version of (I guess) the Abominable Snow...uh...woman -- suffice it to say that the Barksian version of the character seen in "Lost Crown" has little to worry about, even when it comes to impressing males -- but this is a cute story that succeeds in its modest goals.
"Double Indemnity," originally written by Bob "The Gold Odyssey" Langhans, is a little more ambitious than "Lovelorn Launchpad," if only because Magica De Spell is involved, but its logical holes make it hard to take too seriously. Magica's creation of a Launchpad clone who will waylay Scrooge during a trip to Faroffistan and steal the Old #1 Dime would have made for a great TV episode, but the mechanics of said cloning are Rube Goldberg-esque in their lack of plausibility. Why would placing a lock of LP's hair in the clone's pocket "activate" the simulated simpleton? Wouldn't the genetic info in the hair have to literally be part of the clone? Among other things, this gives Scrooge, HD&L, and Launchpad a convenient way of stopping the simulacrum without rendering it a pulpy mess, and the dubious deus ex machina is duly delivered by LP (who'd earlier been transformed by Magica into a simply hilarious "McQuack-friendly version" of a pigeon, complete with red topknot and brown booties). Gerstein and Gray do a wonderful job of characterizing the fake LP, making him gum up his catchphrases and such. Evidently, the "Nega-LP" (actually, given his inadvertent gaffes, he's more of a Launchpad McNothing, a la the Fred and Barney clones created by The Great Gazoo) should have slowed down when he speed-read the wall chart with Launchpad's characteristics on it. The story's ending is a jumble of chaotic action that simply cried out for a televisualization of same, but I'm not complaining; too many DT comic-book stories have simply gone through the motions without trying to capture the sheer energy that made the show so enjoyable. This issue is much more like what I had hoped UNCLE $CROOGE would be when it switched to DT mode. At least we're somewhere close to that point now.
Boom! Kids has released a "teaser" promising something called "Boom! Kids 2.0" for 2011. It's hard to know exactly what that means in terms of new material; RESCUE RANGERS debuts at the end of the year, but that isn't even a Boom! Kids comic, technically speaking (nor is DARKWING DUCK). Things are definitely looking up for the "old sourdoughs," however, at least in the short run. According to August Paul Yang, who attended a Boom! panel at the recent New York Comic Con and wrote up a report on the Disney Comics Mailing List, Boom! Kids will be feting the 70th anniversary of WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES with some special issues featuring (to borrow a phrase from the post-"Implosion" version of Disney Comics) "The American Masters." This seems a lot more promising at first blush than the inappropriate, coitus interruptus-inflected manner in which MICKEY MOUSE AND FRIENDS #300 handled the "300 Mickeys" story. Now, only let Boom! bring back some version of the hardback "Classics" collections to mate with Fantagraphics' launching of the Floyd Gottfredson library, and I'll accept the "upgrade" most cheerfully.