Darkwing Duck Annual #1

Darkwing Duck Annual 1

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This site, and this author in particular, has not been shy in expressing its love for Boom! Studios’ Darkwing Duck comic. Each issue exhibits numerous strengths in story and art that make the series a solid read for both those embracing nostalgia and those who like funny, smart superhero comics. But this annual, though it has all those same strengths, is really something special.

The Darkwing Duck Annual #1 contains two comic stories (one a full 24 pages, the other eight), as well as a 4-page essay on the character’s history by original cartoon creator Tad Stones. Since that’s the shortest segment, we’ll talk about it first. Though at the end of the book, the Stones essay may provide the biggest treat here for longtime Darkwing fans. It’s a fascinating look at the genesis of the original cartoon, and expounds on its many Silver Age influences. Though vigilant viewers could’ve guessed at the mark Carmine Infantino and Julius Schwartz made on the show, it’s nice to hear its creator elucidate that a little bit. It’s also cool to see how the show’s family dynamic fell into place, and to learn of the alternate program we might’ve gotten if Stone’s Disney employers had possessed a little less foresight. For series regulars, I’d call the essay essential reading.

Moving forward in the book, its 8-page back-up story also comes courtesy of Stones, and features art by series regular James Silvani. It’s a sharply-written time-travel tale involving Gosalyn’s pet turtle that can “crawl between seconds and into the chronoplasm of time.” While the plot is suitably goofy, it’s also impressively dense and packed with clever twists. It reminded me a lot of Grant Morrison’s recent Batman #700, actually, which I think is a good association to evoke. It’s clear that Stones hasn’t lost his grasp on the characters’ personality or the comedy they can elicit; one would hope more Darkwing work lays in his future. As always, artist Silvani is a star; he fits the previously established Darkwing style perfectly and packs his panels full of energy and life. Additionally, it’s absolutely essential to stare at the backgrounds of any of his work; he adds countless jokes and other Disney references to every page, which is one of my favorite ways that this book rewards long-time fans without alienating newcomers.

And then there’s the lead story. Regular series writer Ian Brill delivers a one-shot tale which focuses on Quackerjack, Darkwing’s jesterish menace (he’s kind of like Darkwing’s Joker, to whom this annual’s wonderful cover pays tribute). Artist Sabrina Alberghetti does a great job of covering for Silvani, whose skills were required elsewhere. Quackerjack’s master scheme — to turn all the players of a World of Warcraft-type game into toys he can sell — provides a fine Darkwing plot which might’ve been born right out of the cartoon. What’s really impressive here, not to mention totally surprising, is the pathos that Quackerjack’s story summons. Brill paints the picture of a truly troubled, bright guy (or duck) who might’ve done great things were it not for constant self-sabotage. That’s pretty complex psychology for a kids’ comic, but Brill works it into the narrative in such a way that it feels earned, not forced. It also sets up the issue’s stunning final page. Brill pulls off something really novel and breathtaking here; I almost didn’t believe what I’d read at first. I won’t say what happens, because spoiling it takes away the impact, but, man. That’s heavy.

Overall, Darkwing Duck Annual #1 is another solid entry into a fine series. It’s as fun and funny as any of this book’s previous installments, but with an emotional punch that’s totally unexpected and quite touching. Not everyone will enjoy a comic book about Darkwing Duck, I realize, but if you’re intrigued by the idea and have been thinking about checking it out, buy this annual. You won’t regret it.

tags: darkwing duck, ian brill, james silvani, sabrina alberghetti, tad stevens

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