Tuesday, October 18, 2011

DuckTales #5

I am the terror that flaps in the night! I am the epic crossover that changes the storyline! I am Darkwing Chad!

Hey! Remember the Disney Afternoon? That programming block of animation in the late 80’s through the 90’s based on various Disney properties? Sure you do! That’s why Disney and independent comics company BOOM! Studios began their children’s imprint, BOOM Kids! (Now known as Kaboom!).

Kaboom! brought back classic long running series originally from Gladstone Publishing like Mickey Mouse and Friends, Uncle $crooge, and Walt Disney Comics and Stories. New generation Disney properties got new life through comics like Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., The Muppets, and a series continuing the adventures of The Incredibles helmed by top comics writer Mark Waid.

They even featured comics with a new spin on old favorites like the sword and sorcery title Wizards of Mickey and the super hero themed Disney Heroes. What arguably garnered the most attention was the revival of popular the Disney Afternoon series Darkwing Duck (Now with continuity!). Following the instantaneous success of Darkwing Duck several other Disney Afternoon properties soon followed like Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers and inevitably DuckTales. While the revival of Darkwing Duck was a rousing success and included elements from the entire animated series run and even it’s parent series DuckTales, the first four issues of DuckTales own run was even more ambitious, but far less successful. While artwork on Darkwing Duck by James Silvani has been nothing short of spectacular, for the first four issues, artistic duties were shared between Jose Massaroli and Magic Eye Studios and ranged from pretty good to “Drawn-on-the-back-of-a-Wendy’s-placemat-in-crayon” depending on the page.

Not being able to determine exactly who or what Magic Eye Studios is exactly, I can blame much of the art problems on he/she/it/them. In DuckTales #5 the artwork is split in half between both Silvani and Massaroli and is consistently fantastic throughout.

The scribe for this ambitious revival of DuckTales is the same man who wrote the storyline for the Nintendo Wii title Epic Mickey, Warren Spector. With Epic Mickey’s use of long forgotten Disney characters, most notably Mickey’s “older brother” Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, it’s obvious that Spector is a long time Disney fan and his run on DuckTales only serves to prove that.

For those of you who don’t know, the animated series DuckTales is actually based on the work of comics legend Carl Barks. Barks is the genius that created Scrooge McDuck, Duckburg and most of its denizens including most of Donald Duck’s extended family with the exceptions of his nephews and girlfriend, Daisy. Under his pen, which did both the writing and art for hundreds of stories in Donald Duck and Friends and Uncle $crooge comics, the treasure hunting adventures of the miserly mallard and family became world famous. After his retirement only the work of Don Rosa has been able to live up to the work of Barks in scope and entertainment with the gang from Duckburg. This may be where Spector made his biggest mistake.

When the title of DuckTales was announced, it was Warren Spector’s plan to combine the aspects of the works of Carl Barks and Don Rosa, DuckTales, and it’s spin-off Darkwing Duck into a single continuity universe. This is a lofty and worthwhile goal in my opinion, but one that would’ve worked a lot better if over sixty years of continuity wasn’t crammed into four issues. Spector literally attempted to revisit several storylines from Barks, Rosa, and DuckTales all in one story. The plot revolved around Scrooge McDuck racing around the world in an attempt to return all the treasured artifacts he discovered before his rival John D. Rockerduck could do the same all in the name of good press. (Note: John D. Rockerduck is Scrooge’s rival mainly in foreign comics and was combined with Scrooge’s ruthless evil mirror image Flintheart Glomgold to create the version better known from DuckTales).

While both the writing and art styles were an obvious homage to the work of Carl Barks, it just wasn’t pulled off very well having been put together rather haphazardly in just four issues while trying to include elements from dozens of previous stories and one-off villains Cinnamon Teal and Camille Chameleon from DuckTales and Darkwing Duck respectively. This would’ve been a much better series if it was stretched out longer to explain more (Like why was Launchpad there when he was supposed to be in St. Canard running the Quackworks company and running for mayor at the same time) and wasn’t just a means to build up to the crossover with Darkwing Duck in issue #5.


To give you some idea of the scope we’re dealing with, here is the full version of Cover A drawn by James Silvani.

While the artwork is on par with the detailed work seen so far in Darkwing Duck series, it’s a marked improvement over what has been seen in DuckTales up to this point. The level of detail given to both characters and backgrounds is dynamic and entertaining and so is the writing. Continuing directly from the on-going storyline of Darkwing Duck, with elements from the first four issues of DuckTales, the story features Scrooge McDuck arriving in St. Canard to retrieve something from the Quackworks headquarters where he left Launchpad McQuack in charge (Wait? What? Yeah, it’s all part of an earlier storyline from Darkwing Duck). Unfortunately, this works right into the plans of Magica DeSpell who has gathered together her own “League of Eve-il” with Cinnamon Teal, Camille Chameleon, and Ammonia Pine and taken over St. Canard with the help of one of the most powerful and evil villains Disney ever produced.

Get ready to be introduced to the greatest Disney villain you’ve never heard of; THE PHANTOM BLOT!

The Phantom Blot is a villain mainly menacing Disney’s own Mickey Mouse in his own comic adventures stemming back over seventy years ago. Where Mickey’s animated archenemy, Pete, is a thuggish bully the Phantom Blot is a ruthless criminal genius who has committed nearly every crime in the book and managed to escape capture time and time again. Now he’s teamed up with Magica DeSpell, united the enemies of Scrooge McDuck and Darkwing, and taken over St. Canard with an evil black slime that changes regular citizens to super villains, super villains into monsters, and the very city into a twisted nightmare.

During all this chaos, we discover that Fenton Crackshell (AKA DuckTales techo-hero Gizmoduck) has been missing for almost a year on a secret mission only to show up at Drake (Darkwing) Mallard’s doorstep moments before Scrooge McDuck, both looking for Launchpad. This, in part, explains how the Gizmosuit was left unprotected and ended up in Darkwing’s possession during and earlier storyline. The reunion is short-lived, however, as the Phantom Blot’s slime transforms the Drake Mallard’s home and sucks Fenton down into the floor with a cryptic warning of, “Don’t touch it!” Later we find out why as Megavolt and several of the Beagle Boys storm Darkwing Duck’s secret hideout on the Audubon Bay Bridge and use the slime to transform into powerful, monstrous versions of themselves.

There is one thing that bothers me with the writing. Up until now Ian Brill’s run on Darkwing Duck has been fantastic; completely faithful to the series and adding a new depth by adding continuity without taking away from any of the entertainment. However, now that Brill is collaborating with Warren Spector on this crossover, as epic as it is, it still has that feel from the rest of DuckTales of feeling a little cramped and rushed. An improvement overall, but the entertainment and jokes were largely forgotten in favor of moving the plot along and getting as much into it as possible. There is one other thing I need to harp about. When Fenton Crackshell appears at Drake Mallard’s house looking for Launchpad, Drake acts like they never met, although he met when Fenton came looking to visit his old friend in an actual episode of Darkwing Duck. Of course, one could argue that he completely forgot about Fenton due to the fact he also met (and was greatly annoyed by) Gizmoduck in the same episode. They were also rather blasé about reveling Darkwing and Gizmoduck’s secret identities, but in Darkwing’s case it made for one of the issues more entertaining moments.

Will Darkwing be able to over come the combined might of these newly powered villains? How will they rescue Fenton Crackshell and save both St. Canard and Duckburg? What is Scrooge McDuck’s secret plan and what are his true goals? Donald is featured on several of the covers, what role will Disney’s top duck play in all this? I am seriously eager to find out.

Sadly, after this story completes its four-issue run in Darkwing Duck #18, Kaboom! and Disney will part ways. One has to wonder why after such success for both companies. However, as the editor in charge of the Kaboom! and Disney collaboration, Aaron Sparrow, stated on his Twitter account, "Fans shouldn't panic today, because I just had a meeting with some folks about the future of Disney Afternoon comics. #sworntosecrecy”.

The easy thing to guess would be that Marvel Comics will continue the line now that the Walt Disney Company is its parent affiliate. Marvel has printed Disney properties in the past, like Gargoyles, Aladdin, and The Disney Afternoon, but only time will tell if they are going to pick up where Kaboom! left off. I, for one, hope they do keeping most of the creative teams in tact. They have done some fantastic work so far and I believe they can do even greater things in the future. If you like Disney, I highly recommend checking out some of the trade paperback collections relased by BOOM! Studios and Kaboom!. Of course, Darkwing Duck is essential, but instead of DuckTales, you’re better off finding some of Carl Barks’ original works or Don Rosa’s The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck (Copies of both are fairly easy to find).

Until next time, don’t take life too seriously; you’ll never get out of it alive.

Oh, and before I forget:

o/` Life is like a hurricane,

Here in Duckburg.

Race cars, lasers, aeroplanes;

It’s a duck-blur. o/`

o/` Might solve a mystery,

Or re-write history.

DuckTales! Woo Hoo! o/`

By The Chad with 1 comment


Man, The Life of Times of Scrooge McDuck is amazing! One of those comics that people never seem to realize you're serious in your praise for until they give it look. Don Rosa is crazy talented.


I've heard he doesn't get much in the way of royalties for most of his work in the US. :( Really sucks. Guess that's the way it goes for a lot of the great older talents.

I'm really curious to see how Marvel handles the Disney properties now that they're making use of them. Darkwing Duck is particular has been great, and I hope they don't mess with what's been working so well. Would love to see more people give these comics a chance!

This was a great read, thanks for writing it. <3

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