The Comic Book Club: Uncle Scrooge, Takio and Axe Cop

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EVAN: Graeme, this reminded me of Silver Age stuff, too. The weird pseudo-science that kinda sorta sounds plausible, wacky character beats and outsize contraptions and props all make this story seem like something from the Eisenhower administration.

DOUGLAS: That makes sense–according to the Uncle Scrooge timeline that Don Rosa compiled (from the Carl Barks canon), all of Scrooge’s adventures with Donald and the kids happen around that time, i.e. during the years that Barks was writing and drawing Uncle Scrooge stories.

EVAN: One thing I loved about this was how each character seemed to have something to do. Donald is a nervous nellie for most of the story, but at the end he’s the one that winds up creating an escape for them. The nephews and Gyro handle exposition, Scrooge is used for motivation and color, and cameos from other characters show consequence. The whole thing feels super-efficient, and yet that efficiency is invisible because you’re having so much fun reading the thing.

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I also found a bit of a dark edge to this, too. Part of it is what Douglas said about the obsessive subtext to Scrooge’s behavior, but Rosa’s artwork also gives us some dimly-lit and even grim panels, along with ornery character expressions. And the scale of the story kept waxing and waning in a good way, like a roller-coaster ride. First it was about a dangerous invention, then about imperiling the planet, then about saving the town, then about turning a profit. It just chugged along. A really, really fun read.

GRAEME: I’m going to be the person who doesn’t like Takio while you two love it, aren’t I? I can just tell. But it just seemed very underwhelming, unoriginal and in-jokey to me. The leads are named after writer Brian Michael Bendis’ daughter, artist Mike Oeming’s girlfriend and Matt Fraction’s wife? Was it just me that that leapt out at? And tonally, it’s all over the place. (It also weirdly reminded me of Superman: Earth One, in that it felt more like “And now that we’ve got the origin out of the way, wait for what comes next” than a complete chunk of story in its own right. Again, that’s just me, isn’t it?) I’m not sure what I’d expected when I picked this up, but it wasn’t this.

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It’s not just that Bendis’ script seemed really familiar, what with its shadowy conspiracies and reluctant teen heroes, not to mention The Bendis Dialogue (on the one hand, it was nice that he’s not writing down to an all-ages audience, on the other, OH MY GOD it would be nice if every character in everything he wrote didn’t sound like every other character in everything he wrote, wouldn’t it?) and the utterly unsurprising twist that Taki’s best friend turns out to be her worst enemy for reasons that don’t entirely make sense, but hey, just go with it, it’ll make for cheap emotional drama. And it’s also not just that Oeming’s art mixes an awkward sub-Jim Mahfood cartoony look (I’ve not read Powers for awhile, is this what his art looks like there, too? Or is he trying to channel Mahfood to be “down with the kids”?) with some surprisingly shoddy storytelling (What actually happens in the silent scene flashback to when Taki and Olivia get their powers? What is that “tap tap”?), either. There just seems something kind of tone-deaf about this for me, as if both Bendis and Oeming really wanted to do a kids book, announced it, and then thought “Well, we don’t really know what that actually means, so we’ll do a kind of retrofit Ultimate Spider-Man story with our friends and family” instead.

That said, I really liked the color, and thought the format was really nice. But this is the point where I can look like the bad guy when you both tell me that it was great.

DOUGLAS: I agree that the format’s lovely: a 96-page color hardcover for $10 is a really nice price point, and the format is exactly the kind of thing that librarians who deal with this stuff love to stock. (It’s even got a volume number on the spine! Smart.) How long has it been since the last time Marvel published an original graphic novel, anyway? Quite a few years, I think, but this was definitely the right way to go for a story like this. I just wish it were a better one.

You’re right, Graeme–there’s some very weak storytelling going on here in places, surprisingly for a team as experienced with each other as Bendis and Oeming. (And in a kids’ comic, it’s important to maybe spell things out a little bit more, rather than being super-subtle.) Bendis mentioned in a couple of interviews that his daughter suggested the key twist in the story, and I’m not even clear what that twist is. This kind of eccentric, hurry-up-and-wait pacing can work well in a project like Powers, but in an all-ages book like Takio, it’s the creators’ responsibility to hit the ground running from page one.

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