Sunday, April 10, 2011

Comics Review: UNCLE $CROOGE #402 (April 2011, kaboom!)

Yes, you read that correctly -- the lower-case "k" and all. kaboom! has gone the dynamite, and the old Boom! Kids label has been officially replaced with what is no doubt intended to be a groovier, ginchier form of product branding. I don't know; when I hear the word "Kaboom," I immediately think of a WIC-approved cereal. At least the awkward mixture of Boom! Kids and Boom! Studios titles that grew out of the expansion of the Boom! Disney comics line has been discontinued, and all titles are now literally on the "same page."

Brand-new branding its stylish Marco Rota cover may bear, but this first kaboom! ish is strictly old-school UNCLE $CROOGE fare. Indeed, if you had to pick a quintessential Carl Barks "ducks traveling the world in search of lost treasures" story, "The Fabulous Philosopher's Stone" (U$ #10, June 1955) would surely be on the short list. Don Rosa's caboosing one of his best Barks "sequels," "A Letter from Home" (aka "The Old Castle's OTHER Secret"), onto "Stone"'s backside only adds bonus points to what is one of Carl's best-beloved efforts. As the Ducks scramble all over the Middle East and the Mediterranean trying to track down the whereabouts of "the stone that turns all metals gold" -- trailed at every turn by the diminutive, dogged Monsieur Mattressface of the "International Money Council" -- Barks gently educates the readers without clobbering them over the head with too much book-larnin'. The "Duck Man" does slip once by positing the existence of a Roman "Emperor" long after the fall of the Western Empire -- it would have made sense had the 12th-century scholar who had possession of the stone brought it to Byzantium. This is only a minor fault, however. The Ducks' braving of the legendary Labyrinth is one of the classic Barksian set-pieces, and Scrooge -- of course -- is forced to give up his great prize in the end, in this case because it might literally destroy him by turning him to gold. The best aspect of the story, it seems to me, is the manner in which HD&L track down Scrooge after Monsieur Mattressface has informed them of the danger of using the stone too much. The boys realize that Scrooge wouldn't buy metal to turn to gold, he would go where metal is free for the taking, and they head their uncle off at the junkyard. Little character-based touches like these are what make the best Barks stories special... and this is most certainly one of the best.

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