"We rollin' now!", as Bubba Duck might put it. U$ #397 keeps the recent "beat" of high-quality DuckTales-themed material going strong, grabbing us right from the get-go with Diego Jourdan's marvelous cover, a heartfelt homage to Carl Barks' cover to WALT DISNEY'S COMICS AND STORIES #108 (September 1949). Granted, I'm an easy "sell" for any product that takes the links between DT and the world of Barks seriously, but this goes above and beyond the call of artistic duty. This is one instance in which I devoutly hope Launchpad does NOT add to his crash total. (BTW, exactly where are LP's feet located? It was a tight enough squeeze when it was just Donald and HD&L, but now...)
Joe Torcivia does the dialogue honors for the lead story, Paul Halas, Dave Angus, and Jose Millet's "The Last Auction Hero." I can certainly vouch for the fact that Joe knows how characters in a DT story "should" sound as much as anyone does, and he hits the mark squarely here. Among other things, this is by far the best and most in-character use of the DT Beagle Boys that I've ever seen... and I write as one who's witnessed such wince-inducing horrors as Burger Beagle being presented as the brains of the outfit, so I doubly appreciate the accomplishment. Joe's very funny introduction to Part Two of the split story (if Harvey had ever re-introduced a continuing tale with "Okay, here's the deal!", I probably would've keeled over in a dead faint) is also a highlight, as is the rare (for a DuckTales story, at any rate) characterization of Glomgold as a mere "rival" of Scrooge's, rather than as a deadly, ruthless villain. (At the same time, Joe gives a shout-out to such TV episodes as "My Mother the Psychic" by having Flinty refer to having employed the B-Boys in the past.) There is a flaw in the plot, however, that not even Joe can do much with. At the outset, Scrooge is conflicted about trying to win the much-prized Wrathakhan Emerald in a "mere" auction setting: "I found every emerald I now own! Will a purchased gem really feel... the same?" Fair enough, and certainly in character for someone who prides himself on having acquired his fortune through old-fashioned hard work. After losing (!) the bidding to Glomgold, however, Scrooge trumps Flinty by finding a much bigger gem... by sheer, dumb luck, as the result of an avalanche triggered by the battling Launchpad and Big Time Beagle. How much pride could Scrooge honestly pry out of that non-feat and still remain true to himself? Yet, the multiquadzillionaire seems to have no problem whatsoever with how things turned out. This seems strange to me.
David Gerstein and Jonathan Gray return to handle the anchor-leg story, "Big Blimp in Little Trouble." I'm not sure who originally penned this Millet-drawn opus; the comic's credits claim it was Halas and Tom Anderson, while InDucks gives the honors to Gorm Transgaard. Whoever it was, he/they produced it during the very late stages of Egmont's production of DuckTales tales, and the story reflects a certain weariness. No DuckTales fan can read a story in which Scrooge tries to rekindle Duckburgians' interest in airship travel and not think of the TV ep "The Uncrashable Hindentanic." But there's no inadvertent disaster movie a-brewing here, nor is the McDuck Air Tours blimp filled with a gallery of memorably kooky characters. No, the folks traveling here are nice, mannerly "generic" dogfaces who sing parodies of Disney feature-film songs and the like. When Gyro Gearloose's gargantuan gasbag springs a leak, we are fed the lesson that "little things mean a lot" in a most heavy-handed manner. Still, thanks in large part to the efforts of David and Jonathan, this is a masterpiece compared to the DuckTales Studio stories that were run in the early issues of the Gladstone DUCKTALES title... and you can't go wrong with the occasional subtle reference to The Simpsons (see if you can find it!).
Dividing the two parts of "The Last Auction Hero" is the biggest (pleasant) surprise of the issue: a reprint of a two-page LAUNCHPAD AND GYRO gag written and drawn by William Van Horn. "A Dolt from the Blue" (original appearance in WDC&S #618, November 1997) was one of a series of amusing L&G gags that Bill penned as a follow-up to his quirky but highly successful collaboration with John Lustig in the later issues of Gladstone's DUCKTALES. There have been very few "running gags" of this sort in Disney comics -- the famous series in which Scrooge bilks the diner owner out of free coffee is probably the best known -- and, when you think about it for a bit, pitting Gyro's inventive know-how against LP's amazing ability to crash anything seems like a perfect backdrop to a gag series. I count the reprinting of "Dolt" as yet another promising sign that Boom! is quite serious in its apparent intention to give more of a "Gladstonian"/"Gemstonian" flavor to its "classic" Disney books.