Friday, June 24, 2016

New-ish comic review: Uncle Scrooge #419 (IDW, June 2016)

IDW: If you keep having both the A and B cover reflect the contents inside, 
I'll keep buying both! (And glad to help sales that way!)

"Scrooge's Last Adventure" Part 3
written by Francesco Artibani
drawn by Alessandro Perina
lettered by Nicole and Travis Seitler
new U.S. dialogue by Jonathan H. Gray
(Italy, Topolino #2987, February 26th, 2013)

When the support of Scrooe's in Part 2 pushed him out of his post-defeat slump and he vowed to fight back against the cabal that has robbed him of his financial empire and dignity, he meant it. Part 3 finds him practically marching through the Gates of Hell Pluto and into the Realm of the Council of Dark Magic. While Donald is understandably scared and Magica is walking on eggshells around her former masters, Scrooge bullishly confronts the Council like their secretaries or bureacrats standing between him and a rival CEO he's determined to confront -- and the comedic contrast between Scrooge and the more on-edge Donald and Magica is one of Part 3's hightlights. Another is the battle of wits against the Council that Scrooge wins -- a fine entry in the "Hero moves onto the next phase of his Hero's Journey by overcoming an intellectual challenge from a physically large immortal Guardian of some sort" tradition hailing all the way back to Oedipus solving the Riddle of the Sphinx. Kudos to Gray for the intelligence and complexity of this exchange, and how charmingly in-character the asides between Scrooge, Donald, and Magica were.

And said next phase consists of -- a surprise new encounter and new outing with the Terries and Firmies(!!!) Scrooge and Donald in order order help the subterranean part-bowling ball ones solve a major environmental crisis that'd beset them, the culprit turning out to be none other than... Glomgold. This reveal nicely ties Terry-Fermy episode into the wider story arc as a whole. In my review of Parts 1 and 2, I compared "Last Adventure" to the ill-realized "Rightful Owners" DuckTales four-parter. That disaster had attempted to revisit a couple of classic Barks adventures, too... but Artibani's return to the land beneath the ground is succintly and fully-realized, and packed with the requisite "mass roll" action by Perina, its place in the larger story balanced and in the proper scope, a deflty-paced and rollicking run-up to final chapter. Scrooge even has his top hat returned to him! (...wait, are you sure Don Rosa never had that happen?!) ;) Gray does a perfect job with the Terries and Firmies' country music FM radio-"learnt" speech -- it felt as though I were reading the original!

"The Stick-Up"
written, drawn, and lettered by William Van Horn
(New to the U.S. First appearance anywhere in Norway's Donald Duck & Co. #2010-09, March 1st, 2010)

Another Rumps McFowl-oriented Van Horn short making it U.S. debut. Rumpus, inexplicably left in charge of Scrooge's office while he and his nephews are off on yet another adventure (funny setup, that, to have an entire one of those happening off-panel), nearly blows it by making some frivolous decisions to use McDuck funds toward an attempt to win a television promotional contest -- but inadvertently foils a near-successful Beagle break-in plot, while winning the contest... which ends up benefitting Scrooge, since he owns the company hosting the contest! Genuinely kooky, clever, quickly-paced, funny stuff, replete with some wacky, calamitous syrup-based purely Van Horn visuals!

-- Ryan

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

New comic review: Darkwing Duck #2 (Joe Books, May 2016)

"Orange Is the New Purple" Part 2 
written by Aaron Sparrow
drawn by James Silvani
(Well, technically, the way they're credited is jointly, as just the "storytellers".)

The majority of Part 2 of the new Darkwing Duck comic's first story arc is preoccupied with DW, flying by the seat of his (non-)pants, scrapping it up with one of his distinguished foes after another -- it appears that the idea is to have 'em just keep comin'. Elsewhere, in the cutaways to Negaduck watching DW from afar and Gosalyn trying to maker her way undetected to her dad, several additional villains show up, as the super-villain prison setting affords. (Hmm, maybe that was even the whole point...?) ;) 

The succession of specially selected and spotlit showdowns that DW is subject to, averaging two pages per villain, is so busy, dense, varied, and fast-paced that it not only doesn't feel too long, but feels shorter than it is, page count-wise. Honestly, on paper (, wait, it is...well, you know what I...never mind...), if I read an outline of this installment, I'd think, "So the story is put on hold for a long string of gratuitous villain cameos, and when we finally get to the next story beat, it's cliffhanger time?" But in execution, the comic eschews any such attempt at quantifying it structurally and functionally. Each of the scenarios that DW is thrown into -- and most importantly, the solution that he finds for each -- is fully and thoroughly developed, and genuinely original, distinguished, and clever. Along the way, every single pun, gag, and moment of comedic levity reinforcing DW as flawed hero (...yeah, he'd resent that) hits the mark. '70's Gold Key or Charlton this ain't. Sparrow and Silvani know what they're doing, so if it's it's gonna be something as structurally cut-and-dry and repetitive as "DW gets in the ring with one familiar villain after another", it's 'cause they realize the potential that such an outing has to rock, and they're gonna go all in and all out to ensure that it does.

...and not to mention that the "villains' revolving door" sequence is comparable to the immortal Looney Tunes "blackout gag" structure, which DW's TV show emulated and paid homage to on countless occasions. So Sparrow and Silvani's riffing is wildly appropriate.

Thus, when two or three (or four) major plot developments pretty much simultaneously "go down" on the last couple pages, they don't feel belated but "organic", even after such rampant frivolousness. For one thing, we were having fun the whole time anyway.  The build-up to Cat-Tankerous' return was concisely and lucidly broken down into very short bits interspersed throughout the story starting with the field trip/prison opening ceremony scene (and conveyed a considerable amount of understated pathos, actually), so we're good there. The reveal Suff-rage's Mistressterious is, on the other hand, totally out of the blue (unless there were hints I'm too dense to have picked up on) but intriguing, given how in "Campaign Carnage", her identity was tauntingly hinted at with the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the skull and the significance this would have to Darkwing Duck "'shippers", if there are in fact any fans who that designation would apply to. (Wait a minute, since I even get how this particular relationship of DW's can be taken as a big deal, I think I might be a 'shipper... NNNOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!) But then there's the fact that it appears that she's running her own hijacking of the prison independent and under the radar of Negaduck's -- definitely a wrench thrown into the works that adds a whole new angle to the story that heretofore we hadn't realized even existed, raising all kinds of questions. But in the Darkwing Duck pantheon, Negaduck trumps all, and thus the villainess with the confounding headgear making her big entrance is only part of the run-up to the more calculated blow that follows and that really leaves us dazed and staggered...

The figurative bomb that Negaduck drops on us and DW at the very last moment, that he's holding Gosalyn hostage, is no mere falling back on the damsel-in-distress trope. The fear and hurt in Darkwing's reaction is palpable, and right on target, hearkening all the way back to the bond paternal bond formed in "Darkly Dawns the Duck". That in one sense Negaduck actually is Drake (think in terms of the theory that ostensibly parallel universes are actually the same universe, sharing the same physical space but existing on different frequencies, of sorst), given the malevolence that rules every fiber of his being, and given his abusive history with his universe's Gosalyn, then for him to have her at his mercy -- as Negs is all too keenly aware -- hits Drake where he's absolutelymost vulnerable, and is the cruelest, most tragic -- but astoundingly apt -- irony. Sparrow and Silvani get these characters, and they drive home how visceral and potentially emotionally nuclear it is to have their deep-seated (and trans-dimensionally destined) rivalry -- and Gosalyn's inextricable part in it -- come to a head like this.

[And though she wasn't actually mentioned, Part 2's final scene certainly evoked the Negaverse Gosalyn... at least to me, if just because seeing "regular" Gosalyn in Negaduck's clutches reminded me of her parallel timeline counterpart.) And so, on a related note, I think I'll finally throw out to Aaron and James a question that's long eaten at me: How come Negaduck never thought to check out who lives in the "Prime" universe who might live at the address that belonged to him in the Negaverse?]

The gel-haired, vapidity-exuding two TV news anchors with names that have a ring similar to that of "derp derp" are fast on their way to becoming a staple of the comic. They work well as a framing device, given the "public" nature of DW's career of confronting and foiling "public menaces", and are a vehicle for some nice world-building, fleshing out and reinforcing St. Canard almost as a character unto itself.

Launchpad really shone in his one-page appearance (on the first page, in fact), eagerly, earnestly, and heedlessly doing what he can in hopes of coming to the aid of his "buddy". Oddly, faux-Launchpad in his later appearance was similarly likable... and DW accounting for how he souced out the imposter made for a particularly priceless particular line. (Not a typo -- I mean a particular line that's particularly priceless.) ;)

-- Ryan