Writer: Joe Caramanga
Artists: Paolo Campinoti, Andrea Greppi, Gianfranco Florio, Roberta Zanotta
Colorists: Dario Calabria, Giuseppe Fontana
Letters: Tom B. Long
I was recently debating with some friends about what the world’s most popular comic book is. We never came to an exact answer, but we understood that Donald Duck is somewhere up there. American audiences don’t exactly appreciate that. People would probably assume that the world’s top character is Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, or maybe something from manga. Those answers are probably close as well, but they’re unfortunately very Amero-centric and fail to appreciate the bizarre fact that Disney’s comics have a long-running hold on the comics market beyond North America.
But Americans will understand DuckTales without exactly understanding its historical significance. People in their forties today probably remember coming home from school as kids to watch the DuckTales cartoon with Uncle Scrooge’s pulp-dieselpunk adventures with his nephews. What most of those fans, bless their bagpipes, don’t realize is that the DuckTales cartoon was heavily influenced by decades of Disney comics. In many cases, DuckTales episodes were lifted directly from the old Carl Barks comic books. Uncle Walt and his staff may have created Donald and his nephews, but Scrooge himself is owed to a 1947 comic book. The money bin, the Beagle Boys, Duckburg, Magica DeSpell and more are all owed to the larger comic universe which Walt never touched, other than financially.
So yeah, naturally, with a new DuckTales cartoon on the horizon, it makes sense that IDW–who holds the Disney kids license–would be taking the initiative to produce some DuckTales comics. They’re kind of doing that anyway since they’ve been publishing the standard “Duckburg” comics for a few years now. This DuckTales comic doesn’t change a whole lot from that, aside from the art making a clear shift into the 2017 DuckTales style. This isn’t the classic clean Disney style we knew in the 1980s which was largely based on the style of Carl Barks and Don Rosa. The two stories in this “zero” issue overtly use the more angular, simplified style of the upcoming show.
As for the issue content itself? Well, it’s fine. It’s no high literature, but it’s not dreck, either. It’s your standard goofball tales about Donald getting into trouble and his nephews there to either observe it or exploit it. One story has Donald getting the troupe trapped on an island surrounded by electric sponges; the other has the nephews meeting the Disney version of Alfred Hitchcock and exploiting Donald for his cowadice. It’s your standard Duckburg humor, maybe not up to Barks’ groundbreaking standards, but who could be?
If this is meant to be in a separate continuity from the ongoing Uncle Scrooge comics, that’s not apparent (and who cares if it is?). However, it’s also not apparent what this book has to do with the upcoming show beyond introducing us to the current iteration of Donald and his nephews. A #0 issue is typically meant to be introductory, but there’s no lead-in to Scrooge and his mansion. Maybe there doesn’t need to be, but a hook into the upcoming show would have been appreciated.
Still, it’s Disney comics, and comic-loving children should be introduced to them with the understanding that they’re part of a historic milestone in four-color storytelling that few people appreciate. DuckTales isn’t just a nostalgia cartoon, but a much greater legacy of an artist who saw an entire world beyond Walt’s speech-impeded mallard. In which case: sure, go for it. If you’re introducing your kids to the new cartoon, best you introduce them to the source material as well.
Rating: Three mallards out of five.