Writer/Artists: Romano Scarpa, Tony Strobi
Last week, I lamented the fact that the traditional Archie title is shifting from its classic “house” style to a more realistic style for the sake of staying relevant. Modern American comics struggle between staying true to their roots and becoming stagnant, or revamping but at least briefly getting back into the limelight so as to continue to publish for yet another month. Archie took the latter route, and while its final issue was in a very celebratory format of what made it what it was, it’s embracing change.
And then there’s Uncle Scrooge, a book which remains exactly what it’s always been. The “Duckburg” universe created by Carl Barks has always been the consistent and recurring stories of megalo-billionaire Scrooge McDuck, his nephews (including staple Donald Duck), and their adventures thwarting enemies like the Beagle Boys and Magica DeSpell. If you watched Duck Tales back in the 1980s, you have a basic idea of what to expect here–though Duckburg’s history has hundreds of stories beyond what the show captured.
Now at IDW (the book’s 8th publisher since 1952), Uncle Scrooge‘s charm comes from its sameness, the same way every Scooby Doo episode follows a formula of a monster who is inevitably exposed as the owner of an amusement park. Uncle Scrooge is always about Scrooge finding himself in some financial nonsense that is, in the end, turns to his advantage. No publisher has yet to pull an “In this issue, Scrooge dies!” moment, and we’re fortunate that they seem to be aware that doing so would turn the book into something it’s not supposed to be. This is a “safe” book which appeals to children and the young at heart, free of the violence, drama, and continuity-headaches which can make adult comics so inaccessible.
Readers should be aware that this is a reprint book (author Romano Scarpa died in 2005, unless he’s posthumously still producing comics), though it help if IDW told us when and where this story first appeared. I’m unclear whether IDW is going to be publishing any new Duckburg material, or if it’s all reprints going forward. Having said that, these stories are good. Readers should enjoy this title regardless of whether it’s appeared elsewhere, because the nature of the Duckburg stories is to be timeless.
Uncle Scrooge #3 (which IDW has dual numbered #407 to reflect the title’s publishing history) concerns a very typical Duckburgian plot in which one of Scrooge’s bank managers makes an offer to the public: if you can keep or earn on $100, the bank will double it. Scrooge is horrified that he might lose his money and sets out to sabotage the contestants. Worse, the contestants are (in a coincidence of which only comics are capable) Donald Duck, one of the Beagle Boys, and Jubal Pomp (a rival of Scrooge’s who frequently fails at imitating Scrooge’s moneymaking success). Donald’s impulsiveness costs him his money immediately, but the Beagles have better ideas about how to use turn $100 into access to Scrooge’s millions. There’s no surprises in where this story goes, but the charm is finding out how Scrooge will overcome this month’s struggle and whether Donald’s antics will help or hinder that effort. If this particular issue has one flaw, I’d say that it reaches its resolution a little too quickly without that perfect “a-ha!” moment which turns the tide for the characters.
I ran this preview by my 9 year-old daughter, who agreed that the story’s ending was too abrupt, making it hard for her to understand who “won” in the contest over Scrooge’s money. That aside, she loved the book. Even with the arguably flawed ending, this is only one issue out of hundreds of classic Duckburg stories to which IDW and their young fans now have access. Given the importance of Uncle Scrooge to comics and Disney history, now is the perfect time to get your young reader on board.
Rating: Four out of five quacks
Reviewer: Adam Frey