The first issue of DW ANNUAL wastes little time in making an impression with a superb lead story, Ian Brill and Sabrina Alberghetti's "Toy With Me," which examines Quackerjack's motivations and psyche to a hitherto unprecedented extent -- all the while sticking faithfully to the continuity established in "The Duck Knight Returns." I know that annuals are popular places for trying "something completely different," but, given that Darkwing's "universe" is pretty "bizarro" to begin with, I appreciated the effort made here to deepen the established characterization of the terrible toy-titan.
Readers of "Duck Knight" will recall that Quackerjack finished the story in a bad mood (and that's putting it kindly), but the paranoid control freak on display here has entered a danger zone that even Negaduck rarely set webs into. We learn from Quacky's ex-girlfriend (?!) that his promising gig with Quackwerks blew up over his overpowering desire to control his surroundings, which made it hard to him to play nice with others. It's no surprise that Quacky should gravitate towards manipulatives (read: toys that he can unquestionably control) and create a world as he thinks it should be, rather than deal with the world as it is. Here, though, Quacky ups the ante by developing a gizmo that turns humans themselves into toys. By taking over World of Whifflecraft HQ, he intends to extend his sway -- and get revenge on those pesky video-game competitors besides -- by "trinketizing" brain-dead interactive gamers in scores of St. Canardian basements. This is all quite believable given where Quacky's head is right now, but I have to wonder: if Quacky wants to control his environment to such an extent, then why did he so readily join The Fearsome Five and take orders from Negaduck for so long? The question is probably moot at this point; it's hard to imagine Quacky operating as anything but a lone wolf for quite a while after this. Of course, given the final panel, he may not be operating much of anything for a while. (Was THAT a creepy conclusion.) DW does have a "Battle of the Banana Brains" showdown with Quacky, but the hero's presence is almost a sidebar to a story that focuses relentlessly on the villain. That's a good use of the annual format, I'd say... take advantage of the extra space and create good jumping-off points for future stories. Nice artwork by Alberghetti, too.
In the issue's final eight pages, we "web-kick it old school" with Darkwing's creator himself, Tad Stones, writing "The Untimely Terror of the Time Turtle." In case Tad ever has to quit his day job, I think he has a future in comics. "Turtle" reads like a condensed version of a TV episode, with DW vs. Villain (the time-traveling Chronoduck) as the main feature and Drake fighting with Gosalyn over a potential pet as the relationship-driven subplot. (But what's up with that hallucinatory opening, with Gosalyn wearing the jungle-priestess getup, the snake crushing DW, and the DW logo being crossed out? Was this supposed to be a glimpse into Gos' disturbing fantasy world? Or instead of having "spirit," perhaps Gos has been imbibing "spirits.") James Silvani does the artistic honors and packs the cages at the pet shop full of Disney critters past (and no, he does not go the easy route and stick the Rescue Rangers in there; good for him). A four-page Stones essay on "The Origin(s) of Darkwing Duck" wraps up an entertaining, and even somewhat thought-provoking, ish.