MM #308 serves as a very nice tribute to modern MICKEY master Noel Van Horn... and, given the present circs, how many more of those can we expect to see? The uncertainty as to how much more of Noel's work Americans will be allowed to enjoy is especially poignant in light of the nature of this issue's lead story, 2010's "Metamorphosis." Here, we seem to be joining a storyline in progress -- since when has Doc Static harbored a "quirky ambition to mimic life with machines", anyway? -- and, more importantly, a storyline that will more than likely give rise to future adventures that we may or may not get to see. In what is otherwise a fascinating artistic and thematic narrative, this is a real bummer for American readers, a sort of panelological version of the notorious "Bridge to Nowhere." Doc S's attempt to "tamper in the God of the Machine's domain" goes about as well as could be expected, but the real intrigue lies in how Mickey gets roped into the ensuing crisis -- not to mention how Noel chooses to "end" it, with the sentient "bad tech" actually winning, or, at the very least, not losing. I'll forego any additional discussion of the plot, but, in order to count the number of times you've seen such an ambivalent wrap-up in a Disney comics story, you'd only need the fingers on Mordecai Brown's right hand.
Adding to the sense of frustration I got upon reading this story is Noel's evident ambition to up his artistic ante. Noel's original style was at least somewhat reminiscent of his Dad's (as can be seen in this ish's backup tale, in fact), but "Metamorphosis" is chock-full of Jack Kirby-esque starry skies, snakily protruding electrical probes, hordes of sentient little robots, and a memorable shot of a goggle-eyed Mickey falling victim to mind control. Perhaps Noel had been leading up to this kitchen-sink approach in other stories, but "Metamorphosis" looks very unlike any other story of his that I've seen. For us not to get a chance to see where Noel takes this artistic approach in the future seems unfair, but such may be our fate. I certainly hope not.
"Rocky Road to Ruin" (2006), written by Donald Markstein, looks and reads almost like a William Van Horn MICKEY story, if you can wrap your mind around such a notion. The designs of the supporting players are decidedly cartoony in the best "Silly Billy" tradition, and such incidental details as the noxious nature of the ice-cream flavors that a racketeer forces ice-cream-store-minding Mickey to accept are also very much in the BVH (a la) mode. The tale's set-up is certainly intriguing, with a "humble citizen" of Mouseton essentially taking advantage of Mickey's reputation for crook-busting. Horace Horsecollar provides background kvetching regarding Mickey's lack of "business sense" which gets pretty irritating after a while but is definitely in character for Mouseton's resident McGee. Kudos to Markstein, as well, for giving us the first example of a racketeer motivated by low self-esteem.