Review: ‘Mickey Mouse: Dark Mines of The Phantom Metal’
Mickey Mouse: Dark Mines of The Phantom Metal
Writer/artists: Andrea “Casty” Castellan, Romano Scarpa and others
IDW Publishing; $12.99
The latest trade collection of IDW’s Mickey Mouse comics takes its very dramatic title from the lead story, which is the most fantastic and exotic of the three long-form action-adventure stories contained within the 120-page, six-by-nine-inch package. It’s a translated reprint of a 2011 Italian comic by Andrea “Casty” Castellan, which sends Mickey, Goofy, and their archaeologist friend Eurasia Toft searching for Atlantis…off the British Coast.
There they encounter a seemingly mad Count Zoox—a lisping, top hat-wearing eccentric with more than a passing resemblance to Disney’s Alice In Wonderland‘s Mad Hatter—as well as a weird underwater mining operation, a mysterious metal with unique properties, and our heroes’ occasional enemies, The Horde of the Violet Hare. Casty packs in many of the qualities that make for the best Disney comics adventures, while there’s little in the way of threat or danger in any of the villains’ machinations. The resolution is clever, too, allowing for a sort of fairy tale discovery, wherein a miracle of the ancient world can’t be brought intact in to the “real” world the comic is set in.
As with all IDW’s Disney comics, this one is a bit of a hodge-podge, with stories ranging from full-length adventures to one-page gag-strips and produced between the years 1930 and 2011 by creators whose works were originally published in Italy, Australia, The Netherlands, The United Kingdom, and America…but mostly Italy.
The other adventure stories are more mundane than the title story, both set in Mouseton and featuring Pegleg Pete…or is it just “Pete” when he doesn’t have a pegleg…? The first of these is a 1976 story by Romano Scarpa called “The Twelve Buttons of Napoleon,” in which Mickey and his pal Ellroy help one of the world’s most devoted collectors of Napoleon memorabilia recover what Pete stole from him. The other, weirder story is also from Scarpa, and dates to 1977. Entitled “The Weregoof’s Curse,” it involve’s Pete’s mad scientist cousin using a formula to turn Goofy into a werewolf who cat-naps cats that the rogues will then transform into more valuable animals.
Breaking them all up are a series of shorter, comedic pieces featuring Mickey, Goofy and, in one instance, Horace.
The specific strategy of IDW’s classic Disney comics is particular enough that it has its upside and downside. On the one (four-fingered, white-gloved) hand, they get the work of great European cartoonists in front of the eyeballs of young American readers and offer an interesting sampler of various takes, styles, and genres featuring some of the most iconic Disney characters. On the other hand, they can feel almost random in their assemblage and will likely leave fans of a particular creator, character, or mode of storytelling disappointed, as the focus shifts so dramatically from story to story.
Regardless of whether you consider the wide-ranging anthology approach a virtue or a detriment, it’s nice to know that these sturdy, reliable comics featuring the world’s most famous mouse are out there, ready and waiting to usher young readers who grew up with the ubiquitous cartoon character into the world of Disney comics…and comics in general.
About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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