“Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories” #699 continues the original series numbering scheme, thank goodness, though it does feel like a brand new series. Whether that’s due to the time lapse between issues or the huge stylistic shift or the change in publishers, it doesn’t matter. WDC&S is back, even if the “& Stories” part has been dropped from the cover logo again.
Boom! is going with Italian stories as their basis for their new line of Disney titles, providing a different look than what American readers are used to seeing. In this story, the Beagle Boys attempt yet another break in to Scrooge’s money vault, in a funny sequence that once more proves Scrooge’s smarts and forethought while casting the Beagles in a very silly light. Then, out of nowhere, they’re all teleported elsewhere and introduced to a mad genius and his team of supervillains. That’s right — Uncle Scrooge is up against the Disney version of Marvel’s Sinister Six, complete with the multi-armed Peg Leg Pete standing in for Doc Oc.
The second half of the issue returns us back to Mouseton, where Mickey Mouse and Eega Beeva get dragged into the search for Scrooge and “friends,” along with an all star cast of Disney comic book characters cast into a superhero light, including Donald and Daisy Duck, Super Goof, Fethry (!), Gladstone Gander, and Gus Goose.
There’s an old debate on the proper use of these characters. One school of thought is that they are characters unto themselves and should be treated as such. Another has it that these are “actors,” ready to fill any role as needed by the Walt Disney Corporation. If you want to do a television series about Mickey Mouse being an actor playing “Mickey Mouse” getting into adventures, then go right ahead. If you want Donald Duck to be a superhero, go for it. This comic fits into the latter notion, where all of these characters are forced into spandex suits and pushed into a strange “comic book” universe. It’s all a bit strange for me, but I grew up in the other school of thought.
You can’t blame Boom! for trying something different, given the “success” of Disney comics over the last twenty years. Why not go for Ducks as superheroes in a Direct Market that panders to superhero readers? I can’t blame them.
The only thing I worry about is the way the story cuts off. I don’t know how long the original Italian edition of this story went on for, but I hope it doesn’t stretch out for too long in this American edition, lest it loses potential occasional readers. The original story obviously wasn’t formatted to end the way this issue ends it. I hope that’s not a problem every month.
The art, though, is beautiful. It’s not in the Carl Barks mold by a long shot. This is very modern stuff, done in a crazy angular cartoony way. It looks to be shot straight from the pencils, preserving the energy of the original art. Characters are acting and moving in this comic, not just standing there having discussions. When it does come close to a talking heads scene, dramatic angles are used to mix things up, and gestures help tell the story and show the emotion.
The color work does not, thankfully, attempt to fit in with modern day super hero comics. Just the opposite: it’s bright and cheery and shows off the art. Pages never look too dark, never look cramped, and are always easy on the eyes. Even in the times when the black lines are knocked out, it doesn’t look like a stunt to get your attention. It fits in.
While I have my reservations with the storyline chosen to headline the return of “Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories,” I can’t argue with the visuals in it. They’re gorgeous. This is not your father’s Duck comic, to be sure, but I think it would appeal strongly to a young comic reader today, particularly one who’s sampled manga. The storytelling style here reminds me a lot of that — quicker pacing, bigger panels, snappy dialogue to get the plot across.