Monday, September 21, 2015

New comic review: Donald Duck #370 (IDW, July 2015)

"The Siege of Nothing Atoll" (this titular pun I'm assuming is the work of Thad Komorowski, the story's English dialogue scribe [Edit: It's not Thad's! See his comment below.]), dating from 1976, is much earlier than most of the Cavazzano-drawn stories that we've seen lately, only a few years out from his original gig as Romano Scarpa's inker (which lasted from 1961-71, per Inducks).

Apparently, at this point, Cavazzano had not yet developed the more blocky, jagged style that he is known for: the line work here has a sketch-like but fluid quality and is richly inked, and I would go so far as to describe the poses as squash-and-stretch, as they're about as close to being animated as they can get without actually being animated... and by "poses," I'm not just talking the characters: what should be solid, unyielding objects and geological structures are personified and characterized with human behaviors. (Well, okay, the mad scientist had actually built his island, which I guess accounts for the volcano's belching and other utterances.)

After the story's mysterious, intriguing setup, which actually takes place on a dark and stormy night at an airfield, the atmospherics played up in Cavazzano's eerily-lit "sets", the plot is as simple as can be: Donald and Fethry track the source of Scrooge's missing planes to... not a sea monster eating Scrooge's ice cream, but a mad scientist's faux island base, where they find he's planning to take over the world... from which they stop him by blowing up the island. Really, that's it! The mad scientist, cackling and boasting with much bravado of his as-basic-as-they-come world takeover ambition and scheme, epitomizes and even overdoes the "mad" part of his job description -- more so than any other mad scientist I've seen in quite some time. The gleam in his eyes and the gape in his front teeth make him look more like an escaped mental patient than the usual backstory of a respected scientist who cracked -- it's not that hard to imagine that his long white lab coat is actually a straightjacket, of which he'd managed to untangle and modify the sleeves.

That's not to say that the story isn't a fun read, though -- it is, largely because, visually, it's a sheer, unabashed delight, thanks to Cavazzano's dynamic, sizzling art: there's numerous splash panels, all of which are so vast in scope and intricate in the action (barely) contained therein, they're a veritable sensory overload to behold. Visually, the cinematic tropes hit the rights notes for an espionage-tinged sci-fi adventure, from the urgently scrambling and bewildered air traffic control crew handling an atypical emergency to the villain's laboratory-cum-missile-silo lair, which has a Cold War Bond-ian feel to it. (In the former scene, I loved the dead-serious, intolerant-of-mistakes Scrooge snapping at the crew and acting like lives are at stake -- even though the pilots of the downed planes have all returned safely -- and then collapsing into jelly when he realizes that the unseen enemy has seized one of his planes yet again.) Surprisingly, Fethry doesn't get to annoy Donald very much in this story, but as with the T.N.T. stories, sending them on a duo mission has a charming "buddy flick"-esque road trip feel to it. The Looney Tunes-esque "blackout" gag sequence encompassing Donald's successive attempts to breach the villain's island were especially fitting, given that the story's dominated by squash-and-stretch-esque visuals. I could go for more like this!

 As I always try to note, with their backup features Gerstein and his editorial team make it a point to account for the "classic" era of American Disney comics. Here, they deliver with a rather good two-page Al Taliaferro gag from Walt Disney's Comics and Stories #102 (1949) in which Donald tries to cut corners in his garbage disposing, which he finds decidedly not to have been worth it when punishment is dished out upon him by a fed-up citizen. (Although, life ever treating him unfairly, Donald is being blamed for a bunch of stuff that others did before him, and to which the severity of the punishment is roughly proportionate, rather than to his meager, one-time [to date, admittedly] offense.)

I honestly didn't realize that Taliaferro had created gags like this one exclusively for WDC&S; I've always thought they were reformatted Sunday pages.

-- Ryan


  1. For the record, "The Siege of Nothing Atoll" was the story's title before I even touched it, so I can't take credit for that one.

  2. Thanks for the clarification, Thad! Since the original Italian title didn't seem to translate to the one IDW used (which makes sense, as it's English-dependent pun), the person who wrote the American script was my best guess. Do you happen to know who actually came up with the title?

    Great job on the story, by the way!

    -- Ryan

  3. Thanks. I think it was my sainted editor/boss/friend David Gerstein, whose guiding hand did more than help shape this fantastic comic book. I've translated many duck stories so far for IDW, but "Atoll" has been my favorite, hands down.

  4. I called it "The Siege of Nothing Atoll" when planning it for an unpublished Gemstone issue in 2009. I passed the title along to Thad because I liked it—and 'cause it kinda-sorta referenced a few movies and cartoon shorts we both like.