Donald Quest (#1) – Stefano Ambrosio

3 out of 5

The appeal of the characters and lively printing of the Disney comics has definitely made me pick up several of their recent ventures, but – as many of these are translated works – either the slight stiltedness of the dialogue puts me off or, more often, that these are all self-contained stories.  When things like Archie (the defining self-contained non-hero comic for me) were bought for me, I definitely loved reading them, but when the purchase decision impacts my wallet, I find I tend to prefer some type of ongoing story unless there’s some over-riding element – a writer, especially expressive art or humor – that would otherwise influence my purchase.  Because Disney has a house style, especially for the Mouse crew, the art can only do so much, and the yuks have been of a rather predictable sort.

‘Donald Quest’ – already notable for hitting here first before overseas (interestingly, most of the Disney comics IDW and the like are putting out are originally Italian) – was seemingly shifting our cast to a stylized riff on fantasy / sci-fi, with flying ships and enchanted hammers and energy-shooting monsters.  While the character models are still from the usual playbook, this gives the art a fresh setting and so reinvigorates those some models to my eyes; Donald Quest is a very exciting book to flip through, with fun creepos, steam-punk gears and levers, and a silly science-less landscape of floating island ruled by dudes like Scrooge McDuck.  But most importantly, as Donald begs himself into a position that promises adventure – ridding McDuck’s home invaders – the opening foibles (involving fellow crusader Mickey and a spell-flinging Magica) have a ‘to be continued’ on the final panel.  Ongoing adventures!

Alas, at this point, the fun genre switch-up feels just like a paint job.  There’s not much sense of ‘Feudarnia’ – our McDuck island – being a fully realized location, and all of the featured characters feel like they’re written as cameos, i.e. ‘Isn’t it cute how we’ve reimagined THIS character?’  And an extra oddity of an in-universe set of trading cards detailing good guys’ / bad guys’ strengths and weaknesses is used too infrequently to afford much world-building.

So despite the promise of continued adventures, it still ends up sort of reading as an isolated story.  That being said, the writing does flow well, jokes and slapstick, and the art, as mentioned, is quite lively; I enjoyed studying all the little parts visible on the flying machines.  Reading some other reviews on this issue from people more familiar with the writer and the Disney books, it sounds like I could have faith that the material will gain definition along the way.

But so did Archie, after you read enough issues.  Alas, my wallet is involved in my decisions nowadays, so the fleeting, though polished, entertainment the book offers isn’t enough to keep me in tow for issue 2.