After a few weeks of reviewing super hero titles from the Big Two, I decided to mix things up a bit and take a look at a kids’ title from BOOM! Studios. I was a big fan of Donald Duck when I was young, so I decided to see how he was being treated today…
Donald Duck and Friends #354
Writers: Fausto Vitaliano and Marco Bosco
Art: Giorgio Cavazzano and Vitale Mangiatordi
Letters: Jose Macasocol Jr.
Translator: Saida Temofonte
Covers: Mike Decarlo
Editor: Christopher Meyer
Publisher: BOOM Kids!
This book features two stories: ‘Before the Premier Part 2’ by Vitaliano and Cavazzano, which takes up most of the issue, and ‘Souvenir de Paris Part 1′ by Bosco and Mangiatordi. In the former, Donald Duck – acting as the secret agent Double Duck – has been on a mission to protect opera conductor (and former head of Donald’s secret agency) Felino Felinys from being kidnapped by the villainous Organization. Donald has been undercover as a musician in Felinys’ orchestra, and the issue begins as he attempts to contact his agency, but is interrupted by guards. The orchestra starts playing and Donald deduces that the kidnap attempt is a front to distract from the Organization’s real intention: to hijack the ‘Blue Eagle’ satellite. Donald foils the Organization’s plans and escapes. He reconvenes with his boss – The Director – and it is revealed that the Organization in fact planned to use the Blue Eagle satellite to rig an election, putting a warmonger in power in the nation of Clippedonia and thus forcing them to buy weapons from the Organization. The second story focuses on Red Primerose [sic] – a former colleague of Double Duck who has now escaped from prison and defected to the Organization. The issue ends with the reveal that Primerose has infiltrated a government think tank.
It is, perhaps, best to start by saying that this book is a translation and I have no idea what it’s like in its original language. However, as far as I can tell, the translation is fine – there were no lines that seemed out of place or difficult to understand. In fact, there was so little hint that this was a translation that I didn’t even realise until I double-checked the credits. Some of the dialogue was a bit… simple, is how I would describe it, but that can be forgiven in a book aimed at children.
I had mixed reactions to the first story: the bulk of it – taking place as Donald foils the Organization’s plans at the opera – was enjoyable enough, but after that it there were three whole pages of Donald talking to the Director as events are wrapped up. This part really drags, and I felt the entire business about the Organization’s plans to rig an election was too much. For one, attempting to install a warmonger in power in a foreign country in order to sell more weapons is quite a complex motive for a kids’ book, and I feel that it over complicates the story. My other big complaint is that Donald is portrayed as bit too competent for my tastes. This is a very personal preference, but when I was young I watched the old Donald Duck cartoons from the 1940s and ’50s, where he was much more if a bumbling character. Obviously, he has moved on since then and, as always, your mileage may vary, but I would have preferred if Donald had got himself into slightly more trouble.
The second story was more impressive; I was especially surprised to see that the first two pages were purely art, with no dialogue and only sound effects. I didn’t expect to see this in a kids’ book, but it was an impressive sequence (despite the female Red Primerose duck wearing a skin (or is that feather?) tight body suit). We also get a couple of pages of Donald as his ‘regular’ self, interacting with Daisy Duck as she drags him around a store shopping for kitchen-ware; his ‘classic’ personality comes though a bit here, which is nice to see. The section at the Agency is by-the-numbers exposition, and this story more or less serves to set up what I can only assume will be the conclusion next issue. There are some awkward moments, though, as Donald and the Director restate some points that, in some cases, have been stated earlier in the book (the fact that only Donald and the Director know the identity of the Big Boss – the very head of the Agency), and in other cases are completely obvious (the fact that the Organization is the Agency’s number one enemy). I’m not sure how necessary it is to restate these ideas, even in a children’s book, when they have already been exposited not ten pages previous.
A Familiar Sight
Both sets of art in this issue are drawn in a very modern-Disney style – recognizable to anyone who’s watched a Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse cartoon made in the last ten years. Bright, colourful, and generally easy to follow, the art ticks all the necessary boxes (these aforementioned three are surely essential when a kid is to be reading), and is nice to look at as well. Donald’s facial expressions are particularly well-handled in the second story, and the art is quite simply pleasant throughout. The two-page dialogue-free sequence at the beginning of the second story is also genuinely impressive, and a pleasure to view whatever age you are.
With all the good things I have to say about the art inside the book, I’m sad to report that the covers are rather disappointing. They’re drawn well-enough, but they only feature generic scenes of Donald standing on a tiled floor with the Agency logo on them, or him flying off on a jetpack as his car and one that seems to have been pursuing him fall off a broken road over a cliff (does this mean that the people in the pursuing car are falling to their deaths? That’s a slightly morbid connotation for this comic). In short: random scenes on covers do not gain favour with me.
This book would probably have captured my attention when I was young – about six or seven years old – and is not even that bad a read as an adult, if you make allowances for the target audience. The art is definitely enjoyable and, if your kid watches a lot of Disney, it will likely create an instant sense of familiarity. If you have a young child who likes their Donald Duck, then I’d recommend picking this up for them; you might even want to give it a quick scan yourself, if you see it on the shelf and hold some nostalgic affection for the Duck. In the end, Donald Duck and Friends #354 earns a solid two and half stars out of five.