Review | IDW gets its ducks in a row with 'Uncle Scrooge' #1

The famously miserly Scrooge McDuck always refused to buy his own newspaper, preferring instead to find one discarded on a park bench. It's therefore awfully difficult to imagine the World's Richest Duck parting with $3.99 for a comic book. Why, that's almost 40 whole dimes!

Naturally, Uncle Scrooge isn't the target audience for the debut series from IDW Publishing's new line of Disney comics, but he is the star. Absent from new-comics racks since BOOM! Studios lost the license four years ago, floppy comics starring the original Disney cartoon characters are now making their return. This month brings us Uncle Scrooge #1 (which is also being parenthetically numbered as #405, keeping the original numbering), and each of the next three months will add another title: First Donald Duck, then Mickey Mouse and ultimately Walt Disney's Comics and Stories.

It's appropriate that they start with Scrooge, as he's the rare Disney character who got his start in the comics and later transitioned to animated stardom, rather than vice versa. And, of course, Scrooge has been a fixture of American comics, the longtime subject of his creator, master cartoonist and storyteller Carl Barks.

Fantagraphics has been doing an incredible job of keeping the character's best comics in print with its Carl Barks Library and Don Rosa Library, but it's nice to see Scrooge appearing in a monthly format again, too. You know, something you can roll up, or fold into your back pocket, or read at the beach or in the backseat of a long car ride or in a bath tub. A format more appropriate for the grubby little hands of kids, basically, rather than those gorgeous hardcover collections.

So what's in this first issue? Well, thankfully, a lot. There are 44 pages worth of comics, making this a pretty solid value. There are three stories in this issue, all reprints from Italian creators, newly translated by Jonathan H. Gray and David Gerstein and appearing in the United States for the first time.

Two are full-length, 20-ish page stories, with a one-page gag strip sandwiched between them. Like the gag strips in the Disney comics of the '40s and '50s, it's mostly just a space-filler, and, like most of the old Scrooge gag strips, it revolves around the character's extreme frugality.

As for the adventure-length stories, the first is titled "Gigabeagle: King of the Robot Robbers" and is the work of writer Rodolfo Cimino and artists Romano Scarpa and Giorgio Cavazzano (the latter also drew the cover). It features Scrooge fretting that the  Beagle Boys haven't tried robbing his money bin in so long that he's convinced they're up to something -- and, indeed, they are: Three of the Boys have spent their time in prison learning robotics, and have created a giant-robot Beagle Boy with AI that replicates their own greed. That the money bin survives at all is due mostly to Scrooge's own good fortune and the fact that the robo-Beagle Boy thinks a little too much like a bad guy for its own good.

The second is "Tinker, Tailor, Scrooge and Sly," and comes courtesy of Scarpa, who writes and pencils, along with co-writer Luca Boschi and inker Sandro Del Conte. Scrooge is pestered by a thief with an unusual target: his old, oft-stitched and patched frock coat, rather than his money. With the help of a few minor characters — Brigitta MacBridge and Jubal Pomp — he's able to get to the bottom of why someone would want his coat so badly, and finds a treasure in the process.

Neither is exactly Barks- or Rosa-level masterpieces, but that's a damn high standard . Uncle Scrooge #1 does offer readers new Disney duck comics, however, and for fans it should prove fun to see how different artists interpret these characters ... and how different Scarpa's pencils look when inked by two inkers.

I was curious about some of the translation choices, as it seems like there was awkward stretching in getting some of the gags over, but overall this was a satisfying package. And, perhaps more importantly, one that presages good things to come from the new IDW line of Disney comics.

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