By Jarrod Jones. He is the terror that flaps in the night. He’s the beloved Nineties Disney property who has a snazzy new tie. He… is, well… you know.
It’s almost impossible not to give Joe Books’ Darkwing Duck my full endorsement. Okay, wait — let’s stop right here. Why are you looking at me like that?
I don’t know if there was a memo sent out that most people just didn’t read, but comic book adaptations of beloved television properties have been riding high as some of the more thoughtful and, ironically enough, inspired books published today. Did everybody just sort of gloss over the fact that IDW’s Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye was named the best ongoing series of 2015 by ComicsAlliance last year? Or that Oni Press’ Rick and Morty has been given a thumbs-up from show creators Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon? Those ringing endorsements weren’t created in a vacuum, folks — these books are legitimately good. And I would place Darkwing Duck among that top-tier echelon any day of the week.
Why’s that? Because everything I ever loved about the character (and, to be candid, I have always loved this character) is on full display in Darkwing Duck. Not only has it deftly captured the outright zaniness of the fondly recalled Saturday morning cartoon, somehow it perfected its formula.
Aaron Sparrow and James Silvani (writer and artist, respectively) approached the television show, surveyed its schtick, and applied it to the sequential artform. Then, just for sheer hell of it, they went out of their way to make this comic book adaptation one of the most consistently funny series anyone’s read in a long while. (That’s not hyperbole; you need to read it to believe it.) Despite what you may think about the creative process, that’s not as easy as it sounds.
While I could go on at length about how precarious it can be to hang the success of any series, comic book or otherwise, solely on pandering to those nostalgic multitudes who vaguely profess to love certain properties (I’m looking at you, TMNT), Darkwing Duck makes no bones about what it actually is — a loving ode to a cartoon series that expired far before it could realize its true potential. Now it has arrived at a time when the character is perilously close to disappearing into the ether of our collective consciousness forever. Sparrow and Silvani understand this, and it’s a sentiment that is definitely not lost on me.
There’s a reason why DW’s “new” look is little more than a collar-and-tie combo applied subtly underneath his iconic floppy fedora and double-breasted suit jacket. (They replaced that stupendous turquoise turtleneck, much to my chagrin.) They’re picking up where the cartoon left off, so that fans can appreciate the enduring charm of Darkwing Duck while new readers can hop on to get an idea of what all the fuss is about. As far as I’m concerned, Aaron Sparrow and James Silvani are the rightful heirs to Tad Stones’ throne.
Each issue zings past us with magnificent comic timing, moving just as brightly and fluidly as if it were conjured from a storyboard cobbled together in a Disney animation studio. And if the combined might of Sparrow and Silvani weren’t enough, colorist Andrew Dalhouse is along for the ride too, giving Darkwing Duck an HD phosphorescence that you’ll just have to check out to properly appreciate.
The combined efforts of all three creators provides a sting to the knowledge that the Mouse House is still defiantly sitting on the potential of a new DW animated series. Until Sparrow and Silvani get the call to bring Drake Mallard back to Saturday mornings (one can only hope), Joe Books’ Darkwing Duck is literally the best anyone can hope for. It’s as magnificent now as it’s ever been. Don’t pass this one by.
You can pre-order ‘Darkwing Duck: Orange Is The New Purple’ TPB here.