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True fans of Donald Duck (the comic book character; quite different from the animated character) know that what has made him so endearing to generations of comic book readers since the 1940s is his ability to be an everyman. Donald is weighed down by the same stresses that affect all of us - bills, employment, home repair, family issues, romantic aspirations, and even his own limitations. He faces the same obstacles that we do and so responds in a similar fashion. When Donald is angry and evil, he is no more angry and evil than we can be when at our own worst, when he is humorous or clever, he is no more so than we are when at our most playful, and when he is heroic (a rare but wonderful feat, indeed), it is a heroism that feels honest and earned...something we can aspire to feel in our own lives.
That's the true joy of Double Duck. It takes our quintessential everyman, caught up in a world of bickering, exhaustion, and unfair parking tickets, and thrusts him into the hero role of a wonderfully escapist spy fantasy. At first, Donald is the same bumbling clod that any of us would be in such a context, but, eventually, his own brilliance, resourcefulness, and heroism begin to shine. Fortunately, Donald never becomes a James Bond. He doesn't magically transform into a thoroughly unrealistic hero that performs the impossible; he just becomes a practical guy who makes good use of the resources that are presented to him. We can have fun taking part in Donald's successes because they feel like the kinds of victories that we, ourselves, could have accomplished if we were in his shoes. In a sense, that makes this a more captivating spy story than most others in the genre.
As the story moves forward, writer Fausto Vitaliano does an excellent job of balancing humor and adventure while weaving an elaborate mystery that manages to create a real sense of paranoia in the comic as it develops. Things get downright exciting, even while remaining incredibly fun. For most of this story, Double Duck begins to feel like comic book history in the making, something that belongs alongside the legendary Disney works of Carl Barks, Floyd Gottfredson, and Don Rosa. It's the kind of work that's absolutely appropriate for and accessible to a child, yet is appreciated best by an adult who can fully appreciate its sophistication.
Unfortunately, by the end of volume 2, the revelations at the end of this story (no spoilers yet) does much to undo the wonders of an otherwise unforgettable tale. The true fun of a mystery (especially in spy novels) is that, no matter what you think the answer is, the author knows what you're thinking and has a better solution in store. In this case, though, Vitaliano clearly had no idea what I was thinking because my solution made complete sense and utilized subtle clues that I had assumed Vitaliano had purposefully dropped throughout the story. Meanwhile, Vitaliano's solution came out of left field, made very little sense, and was a downright ridiculous solution to an otherwise semi-credible spy story.
[SPOILER ALERT]. Read on only if you want to know how this story SHOULD have ended:
There are three important clues we're given throughout this story about who Primerose is and why B-Berry stole the computer, and all three are evident right at the start of the series.
1. B-Berry clearly indicates that he is taking the computer so that he can take down the entire Agency. Of course, that does not work with Vitaliano's ending at all.
2. No one ever sees K-Kay other than Donald and Daisy until near the very end of the story. No agents ever verify that they know her as a result, and we never even see J-Jay assign her to get Donald.
3. J-Jay's secretary is frequently seen listening in on conversations, most notably once when J-Jay informs Donald that no one else knows a certain piece of information that they are discussing while she listens.
I therefore assumed that the secretary was Primerose, that B-Berry and B-Black knew this and were trying to get vital info away from her before she could contaminate the entire Agency, and that K-Kay was her agent of last resort who could keep tabs on Donald and kill him if necessary. All of this makes far more sense than the idea of K-Kay stealing money from the agency and covering her tracks by walking around, wearing a J-Jay costume for weeks without anyone noticing the difference.
Regrettably, what begins as a masterfully crafted story for all ages ends as a silly kids' comic and leaves one feeling disappointed. Fortunately however, this first story arc (spread out across this and the next volume) is not the end of Double Duck. As his stories progress, perhaps so too will the mysteries and revelations that keep us reading. There's so much potential here, and I have high hopes that Boom! will eventually tap it. In the meantime, this is still a great volume so long as you don't hold out high hopes for last second revelations.