Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Darkwing Duck: Crisis on Infinite Darkwings

            One of my favorite comics as a kid was Sonic the Hedgehog.  There was an issue before the series got all serious where there were a ton of Sonics from alternate dimensions.  I loved this issue.  It was just fun to see all the alternate Sonics, especially the huge crowd shot of them.  Crisis on Infinite Darkwings applies the concept to one of my favorite Disney cartoons.  Of course I have high expectations before I even start reading this.
            The story takes place shortly after the previous story arc, The Duck Knight Returns.  It’s not essential to read it before this one, but it probably helps.  Darkwing is just starting to get his reputation back in the public eye.  Unfortunately, some crazy alternate Darkwings are starting to terrorize the city.  Negaduck and Magica De Spell have been collecting Darkwings from every alternate dimension they can think of, and they release every one of them.  Hilarity, chaos, and many, many references ensue.
            The book’s strongest point is really James Silvani’s art.  For one, it perfectly captures the look and feel of the cartoon.  It’s big, active, and, most importantly of all, none of the characters ever look off-model, something that happens to licensed comics way too often.  He also crams as many gags and references he can into each page.  One panel has Darkwing flying over a crowd of people, and they’re all duck versions of the Disney princesses.  Of course, with all the alternate universe Darkwings, he really gets every chance to shine.  There’s huge crowd shots of them, and they’re often unique from panel to panel.  It would’ve been easy to just make a crowd of the same Darkwings for every shot, or draw some of them as undetailed background characters.  He didn’t take this shortcut.
            Of course, this also has a slight problem on the book.  There’s a ton of references to various franchises in these Darkwings, like Doctor Who, Transformers, Roger Rabbit, etc.  Unfortunately, this starts to get into too many references, not enough actual gags.  You can go through a crowd shot and nod at every reference you identify, but there’s just not enough humor going on with them.  It’s one of those cases where I love how far Silvani went, but at the same time, I almost want him to be pulled back a little bit.
            Fortunately, even when it’s not being funny enough, Ian Brill’s script is perfect superhero action.  The plot is good, the use of characters is good, and it has just enough callbacks to the original show.  It brings back a one-shot villain and a one-shot gadget, but it does it in a way that you know enough about the villain and the gadget is used in the right way.  And the use of cutaway gags is done well.  Single-panel cutaways that do their gag and get out fit the tone perfectly.
            Overall, Crisis on Infinite Darkwings isn’t quite as good as The Duck Knight Returns.  It’s still a worthy addition to Kaboom’s Disney cartoon line, and a good read for anybody who loves Darkwing Duck, or just wants a sillier take on superhero comics.

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