Spoiler Alert! Haven’t read the Annual yet? You might want to hold off on reading this in-depth review.
Written by Angeline S.
The Darkwing Duck Annual is finally here, which means we get an extra-long comic from the folks at Boom! Studios and you get an extra-long review from me.
Toy With Me
Written by Ian Brill
Drawn by Sabrina Alberghetti
I think “Toy With Me” will probably become one of the more controversial stories among fans, because Ian Brill has made some risky decisions for the characters, particularly Quackerjack. This is the first comic that has taken the series one step further by investigating the psychology behind one of Darkwing’s deadlier enemies.
Let’s take a look at a summary of some major plot points, which you may absolutely love, or come to completely despise.
Quackerjack Has… A Girlfriend?!
That’s right. Ian Brill has boldly gone where no Darkwing writer has gone before by giving the crazed toymaker a female companion. Er, sort of. It’s complicated. But hey, what relationship with a deadly supervillain isn’t fraught with a little heartbreak?
Say hello to Claire, a rather attractive young duck who has no problem with offering up cake to any caped weirdo that shows up on her front doorstep. How exactly did this polite woman end up with a lunatic like Quackerjack? It seems these two lovebirds met when “Jacky” and every other villain on the block was forced into blue-collar jobs during the Quackwerks takeover. After Quackerjack reunited the Fearsome Four, he distanced himself from Claire, which suggests a quick and painless end to their romance. But as you’ll see by the end of the story, his pseudo-girlfriend may return in future issues.
Ian Brill may be walking on egg shells with some fans after this reveal. Giving a well-established character a romantic interest has a tendency to upset fans that have become attached to the characters they knew and loved as children. It should come as no surprise to anyone who has participated in a fandom that unexpected canon relationships can cause a lot of heartbreak– even where buck-toothed ducks are concerned.
Not to mention that Quackerjack’s (ahem) preferences, are still widely debated among fans.
Beneath The Jingly Hat
Ian Brill went to great lengths to describe the thoughts and motivations behind Quackerjack. In a rather wordy flashback, recalled by Claire, we learn about Quackerjack’s experience working as a “normal” citizen in the Quackwerks toy company.
Mr. Brill’s interpretation reminds me of the Batman comic “Going Sane” where the Joker believes he has finally killed Batman. Realizing he has no reason to be a villain anymore, he transforms himself into a normal person and finds himself a nice girlfriend. But upon discovering that Batman is still alive, he reverts into a psychopath and abandons his love. The concepts for the Joker and Ian Brill’s Quackerjack are similar: Both need an enemy in order to thrive. The Joker has Batman, and Quackerjack has Darkwing. In this case however, it isn’t Darkwing that brings Quackerjack back into the world of crime, but his own inability to trust others brought forth by intense paranoia.
I have mixed feelings about Ian Brill’s choice to take Quackerjack a level deeper. On the one hand, it gives us fresh insight into an old character. On the other hand, it doesn’t allow the fans to draw their own conclusions. Instead of having Claire explain Quackerjack’s mindset in a long narrative, we should have seen his mindset. After all, the purpose of a comic book is to tell the story through the pictures, with occasional dialogue to add some flavour to the story. Ian Brill’s method was very specific and detailed, leaving little room for alternate theories. I also found the massive amounts of text in the flashback scenes took away from the visuals.
Battle Of The Bananas
I definitely didn’t see this one coming. Admittedly, when I first saw this scene I thought it was a little ridiculous. But that’s what Darkwing Duck is about: Ridiculous cartoon gags that defy all logic. I get the impression Ian Brill was making a statement about Quackerjack’s personality in the cartoon versus the comic. We see the “old” Mr. Banana-Brain and the “new” version engaging in a tug-of- war with Quackerjack. This scene is reminiscent of online debates about whether Quackerjack is better portrayed as playful and jovial like in the cartoon, or more mature and sinister as Tad Stones originally intended. It’s certainly some food for thought… literally.
Holy Depressing Ending, Batman!
Seriously. The ending to this comic is pretty damn sad. I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read the Annual, but I could practically hear the sad violin music playing in the background. I think I gorged myself on like, three hamburgers after reading this comic and then wept tears of cholesterol (well, not really).
The upside is that the finale is not the be all to end all. An opportunity has been left open for a possible sequel, which would prove to be interesting.
Sabrina Alberghetti did an outstanding job. Her style is distinctly different from James Silvani, but it still succeeds at conveying the wide array of facial emotions and hilarious gags that are important to a series like Darkwing Duck. I loved the character models, especially the random background characters that were all very distinct in appearance. I was especially fond of how Gosalyn turned out in her style, even though she played a very minor role in this story. I hope we see more bonus comics from Miss Alberghetti in the future!
Ian Brill’s “Toy With Me” has some extremely intriguing concepts and insights, and the story itself is well planned, but it doesn’t quite fit with the Darkwing Duck universe. The cartoon has always been about light-hearted comedy, with a bit of action and suspense thrown in for good measure. The comic should stay true to this formula, and leave the fierce dramatics to the fanfiction writers. Darkwing Duck is meant to be a comic for people of all-ages, and although I love me a double-entendre or two, I don’t care much for sad, unresolved endings. I prefer storylines where stuff happens, things get crazy, Darkwing saves the day, and everything goes back to normal. There’s no “return to normalcy” in this comic.
That being said, I think the basic plot is well thought-out, and would work well in an original story or the DC/Marvel universe. I also enjoyed many of the visual gags (especially the produce scene) and the concept of World of Whifflecraft, which I believe has potential for future stories. I would have preferred if this story concentrated more on Quackerjack’s plan to destroy The Whiffle Boy Franchise instead of his complex psychopathology.
If you’re someone who really enjoys a darker tale, and a lot of character development, this story may be right up your alley.
The Untimely Terror of the Time Turtle
Written by: Tad Stones
Drawn by James Silvani
You just know with a title like that, this story is going to prove interesting. Not to mention that it was penned by none other than the creator of Darkwing Duck—we fans all have a small shrine of Tad, made out of gum, hidden in the back of our closets.
This very brief tale is told from the perspective of Gosalyn, and introduces the first new villain to the series since its creation 20 years ago: Chronoduck. If you think the name is interesting, just wait until you see what he looks like.
I will admit, the first time I read this story I was a little confused. There is a lot of jumping back and forth between time frames, but once you’ve read it over it makes a lot more sense.
My favourite part was, without a doubt, the pet store scene. James Silvani didn’t hold back with the Disney cameos, and that combined with Tad Stones’ hilarious gags had me grinning like an idiot. This story was extremely funny, action-filled, and even had a touch of drama. It was definitely a good idea to place this comic after “Toy With Me” because it’s a real mood-lifter.
My only qualm with this story was the length. Because it was less than half the size of a regular issue, we don’t get much of an opportunity to meet Chronoduck. It was over before it started, and it left me wanting more. I would love to see BOOM! collaborate with Tad more often, because his ideas are full of potential for lengthier stories.
You might love the Annual to bits. You might hate it. It’s all a matter of how important the character elements are to you, and whether you’re someone who likes a darker story versus something more fun and carefree. The Annual offers both options, and the visuals are more than enough reason to purchase this comic.