Deadshirt is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers, and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on Big Two cape titles, creator-owned books, webcomics and more.
Robby Karol is reading…
Written by Joe Caramagna
Art by Luca Usai (“The Chilling Secret of the Lighthouse”)
And Gianfranco Florio (“The Great Experiment of the Washing Machine”)
Colored by Giuseppe Fontana and Dario Calabria
Lettered by Tom B. Long
“I wanna know where they hide the aliens! Or where they genetically engineer the dinosaurs!”
“Who cares about that stuff? I wanna find the product that’d yield the most units sold in the first fiscal quarter!”
Creating a comic about Donald Duck and his nephews in this day and age has to be as daunting as taking over Detective Comics. Not only are the creators following in the footsteps of a master like Carl Barks, but the Ducks themselves are icons in Europe, with the same media recognition as Batman or Spider-Man. And, of course, for kids of my generation, there’s the nostalgic appeal of the DuckTales cartoon, with its iconic theme. (Woo-ooo!)
So if I’m a bit disappointed in the first issue of the new DuckTales comic from IDW, it might be due to high expectations. DuckTales presents two short all-ages tales about Donald and his nephews’ adventures. In the first story, Donald takes over as caretaker of a landlocked lighthouse built by a deluded pirate, and Huey, Dewey and Louie set out to look for pirate treasure. In the second tale, Donald is employed as a test subject at a tech company run by grumpy old scientists and the nephews cause havoc.
There’s nothing wrong with using a formula, as both Barks and Don Rosa could create comic gems out of short stories. To the creative teams’ credit (Caramagna writes all the stories, with Luca Usai drawing the first and Gianfranco Florio drawing the second), they pack in a decent amount of action between the beginning and the end. The second story is probably the best, as the concept of a think tank trying to solve old fogey problems like making dungarees comfortable or dislodging stuck vending machine sodas provides lots of clever gags.
Caramagna does a fine job of capturing the nephews’ voices and personalities. However, the resolution of the first story feels sudden and the second jettisons a supporting character within a few pages without any comic payoff. Usai and Florio’s storytelling is a little ropey, requiring arrows between panels on some pages to show how the story should be read. They are better with body language. And the lettering at the start of the first story is scratchy and hard to read (at least in the digital format).
But the comic is a decent start. As the creative teams work together more, I can see them turning this into a fun all-ages monthly read. Given how rare those kind of comics are in the U.S. market, that’s something to applaud.
David Uzumeri is reading…
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Esad Ribic, Steve McNiven and The Entire Goddamn Bullpen
Colored by Matthew Wilson
Lettered by Cory Petit
“They’re having a lumberjack match on the moon, Paul!”
About a year and change ago, DC put out the DC Universe Rebirth oneshot by Geoff Johns and a bevy of his longtime collaborators, righting the ship of the DC Universe in an extra-sized $2.99 issue that acted essentially as an apology and acknowledgement of the wrong turns the fictional universe had taken over the past five years, and a tacit promise to maintain the elements that work and roll back the elements that were fixing what wasn’t broken. It was hokey and silly and very Geoff Johns, which—coming from Johns—came across as incredibly sincere and heartfelt, and like a re-establishment of the continuity covenant between corporate IP overlord and nerd who both knows Tim Drake’s backstory and is upset about how it was changed by the New 52.
It was fucking weird and maybe not like Great, but it was audacious and fun and made everyone talk, and steered at least a year’s worth of storylines. It was an effective loss leader that brought a ton of new and lapsed readers into the fold and set off a bunch of effective mysteries that propelled the next year-plus and stories. Legacy wants to be that, it really definitely fucking does, right down to the ponderous narration with the shocking narrator reveal. Absolutely none of this is a slight against the creative team—everyone draws their ass off for the most part, which I’ll get to later, and Jason Aaron acquits himself admirably doing an oversized one-shot that sets up a universe-wide mystery while also teasing the status quos of the new flagship titles.
The problem is that “oversized one-shot that sets up a universe-wide mystery while also teasing the status quos of the new flagship titles” is now a goddamn genre of its own after the past decade. And charging $5.99—twice that of Rebirth—for a lower page count is one hell of a hubristic move if you’re trying to lure people to your line after you’ve been hemorrhaging sales. And while this is a whole lot of discussion about economics and industry rather than artistry, when a comic book is designed as a setup for a bunch of stories by a bunch of other people to line up with a corporate plan, it’s hard to judge it any other way. It serves its purpose; it advertises the interesting narratives; it looks great and is written with a high level of craftsmanship. But it has no soul.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to read Marvel Legacy and see anything other than an advertisement that has the temerity of demanding six dollars for its consumption. Aaron takes the opportunity to set up some cool mysteries for Mighty Thor, his one remaining announced Marvel title, while Esad Ribic continues to be one of the most metal artists in comics and Steve McNiven, uh, looks like a shadow of his Civil War self without the clean inking of Dexter Vines and smooth rendering of Morry Hollowell. A number of single- or double-page sequences are taken by regular guest artists of various major Marvel ongoings to tease their new status quos, such as Chris Samnee on Captain America or Russell Dauterman on Thor, but they serve as nothing more than interludes to pad out the narrative’s main conflict, forced breadth in place of depth.
It’s a rough book to condemn, because everyone involved, honestly, brought their A-game. But its conception, as a marketing tool that itself demands a high price, a ponderous corporate mirror to the competition, is inherently flawed, and the result comes off as cynical where it wants to be sincere, defensive where it wants to be celebratory. It’s well-written, it’s beautifully drawn, but it feels utilitarian rather than heartfelt. As much as it promises a course correction to a wonderful narrative, it’s difficult to take it seriously when it feels so fundamentally unsure of itself.
Wakanda colonizing space is fucking dope as shit, though.
Thanks for reading about what we’re reading! We’ll be back next week with a slew of suggestions from across the comics spectrum. In the meantime, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter or on our Facebook Page!