Darkwing Duck is the best comic you aren’t reading
He is the terror that flaps in the night! He is the traffic light that never turns green even though there’s no other cars for miles! He is Darkwing Duck! And he is, apparently, the best licensed comic that is having trouble finding an audience.
In the 1990’s, there was a lot of dreck in cartoons; nostalgia-tinted glasses can make us forget how bad a lot of our precious memories really were. The Disney Afternoon, though, contained the kind of shows that hold up even today. That’s why Disney is looking to mine the period for a modern audience. So far that effort has included a remake of Capcom’s excellent NES Ducktales game, an upcoming collection of six of Capcom’s Disney NES titles, a Ducktales reboot set to launch this year, and a Rescue Rangers movie currently in the works. There have also been comics of many properties, but Darkwing has by far been the standout. Now, I am learning that the series, which started in 2010, went on hiatus, and came back in January of 2016, is endangered. Having just read the collected edition of the first four issues of the returned book, I can safely say this is an injustice the like of which would whip the Duck Knight himself into action.
Simply put, the Boom Studios Darkwing comic, written by Aaron Sparrow with no lack of love for linguistic loquaciousness and illustrated with the boundless energy of the show by James Silvani, is among the best uses of a license ever, not just in comics but in all media. It started seven years ago with Drake Mallard having divested himself of the daring demands of his double life as Darkwing and dissolving the dynamics of the duo between himself and Launchpad, resigning himself to a restless reverie of daily red ink as another corporate drone. Sparrow and Silvani delivered the kind of return fans of most franchises can only dream about. It was funny. It was exciting. It was colorful. Perhaps most surprisingly of all, it gave the show, which was well-known for not having any kind of serious structure, actual continuity while never losing the madcap pace that made it so much fun.
That story was intended as a mini-series, but it spun off into an ongoing one, which saw Darkwing dealing with classic villains and new threats, and in which the stories hung together surprisingly well, considering the cartoon character had about four different origins and constantly contradicted himself. There was even a crossover with Ducktales that…didn’t quite work out, despite their best efforts.
After this inauspicious “end” to the series, Sparrow, Silvani and crew battled hard to save Darkwing, and he eventually landed at Joe Books. When I picked up the first volume, “Orange is the New Purple”, I was worried. I was actually very interested in where the previous series had left things, and I thought for sure that after such a long gap Sparrow would just be made to start over.
Fortunately, I found the new book picks up where the old one left off (which I daren’t spoil), while still being accessible to newcomers. Darkwing and Gosalyn attend the opening of a new Arkham-style prison, and of course things go horribly wrong as some of his old enemies take the place over, lock them both inside and release the inmates. What follows is as funny as it can be without losing the plot, and as serious as it can be without losing the humor. This time around, it is a little harder to swallow the idea that Darkwing is in any real danger, as his “toonish” malleability is in full effect: from cars landing on him to being smushed by giant mallets, nothing sticks. It gives Silvani a chance to go whole hog, though, and his artwork resembles the cartoon even more closely than it did before. It’s also great to see almost all of Darkwing’s wacky Rogues Gallery in one place, including the new baddies introduced in the previous “Election” story. Every one is used creatively as Darkwing and Gosalyn play them off each other to affect their escape, and you can almost see the art moving in full animation in your mind.
Darkwing is, after Ducktales, perhaps the most in-demand show for a reboot from the Disney Afternoon. For now, the comic is as good as we’re getting, and I would argue it is actually a better fit for D.W. With series creator Tad Stones’s approval, Sparrow, Silvani and their team of clearly devoted fans have given us a deeply dedicated distillation of dreamy Darkwing delightfulness. As Liquidator would say, though, if you want to keep the webbed wonder around, act now! This book is a limited time offer!