Saturday, December 11, 2010

Comics Review: UNCLE $CROOGE #398 (December 2010, Boom! Kids)

Well, it took three issues, but the current "we're-pretending-it's-a-story-arc-to-justify-a-paperback-collection-but-it-really-ain't-so," "Messes Become Successes," finally lives down to its name (the first part of it, at least) with this issue's lead (and leaden) tale, "The Belt of Time." This Brazilian story was originally published in 1993 -- a bit late in the game to be entering this particular field of play -- and, despite the fact that only a what Scrooge would term a "wee handful" of DT epics were ever produced in Brazil, its sheer tiredness is more appropriate for the tail-end of the Egmont or Disney Studio DT output. Wearing Gyro Gearloose's time-traveling "century belt," Launchpad bips and bops out of several scenes as counterpoint to Scrooge and HD&L racing Flintheart Glomgold to the Andes to claim the rights to a "frozen super-ape" trapped in an ice cave. Anyone who has seen the Darkwing Duck episode "Extinct Possibility" and can guess the climactic twist is hereby excused. Actually, it's not the plot, blah as it is, that truly fails here (thanks to the ever-energetic contributions of David Gerstein and Jonathan Gray); rather, it's Haroldo Guimaraes' artwork, which would have been much better suited to one of the four-page "quickie" stories that ran in the old DUCKTALES activity magazine. Given the high quality of some of the recently-published, previously-unseen DT tales, I find it difficult to believe that "The Belt of Time" was the best of the leftover lot. This may be an indication that the upcoming 400th issue of $CROOGE, with its promised turn in a more "classical" direction, may be arriving none too soon.

Speaking of "classics," who's the talented fellow who provided the backup story for this issue? Carl Banks? No, he played football for the Giants. Karl Marx? Nope, the guest star is a capitalist who, while irritating at times, is not evil. Could it be... why, yes, indeed, it's The Old Duck Man himself, Carl Barks, bearing a "Christmas present" (so trumpeted by Boom! -- though they probably shouldn't have encouraged the simultaneous enjoyment of "a nice glass of eggnog," given the number of youngsters that may be reading this) in the form of the ten-pager "Christmas Cheers" (WDC&S #268, January 1963). Even a relatively minor Barks Christmas story is an occasion for rejoicing -- not to mention a nice foreshadowing of some of the "vintage treats" that Boom! has in store for us in 2011. This is one of those cleverly-woven Barks tales in which multiple individuals/entities want very different things -- Scrooge a gold mine, HD&L a "science set," Donald a dump truck (a real one, not a toy one -- don't be silly!), and the City of Duckburg a badly-overdue street-paving job -- and the plot-dominoes topple in such a way that everyone gets what they want, but not necessarily in the manner in which they want it. We also get what some (and I don't want to know who, thank you) might term "fan service" in the form of several panels' worth of the naked Nephews toweling off in a tub. Great fun, and a much-appreciated gift to the long-term fans.

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