Donald Duck: Uncle Scrooge’s Money Rocket, by Luciano Bottaro – The second in the Disney Masters series features the work of another Italian artist and writer, showcasing three imaginative madcap tales. In the titular story, when the Beagle Boys find out about Scrooge’s private island where he plans to store his money, he instead uses Gyro Gearloose’s rocket to hide it on the Moon instead. Instead, they end up on Jupiter, which is not only solid with breathable air, but home to green people who speak English and eat metal. Meanwhile, Rebo, the S.L.U.G. (Supreme Leader and Unquestioned General) of Saturn, is attempting to conquer Jupiter, but can’t come up with an effective robot design.
One of his generals tries to abduct Gyro, but accidentally takes Donald instead, and he saves the day by messing up the Saturnian war machines without even trying to. The story seems to shift gears a whole lot, as if Bottaro wasn’t sure where he wanted it to go, and characters suddenly turn mean just to keep things running. I know Scrooge is often mean to Donald, but usually only when he actually does something wrong. Here, Scrooge and Gyro initially decide to take Donald with him to help with the work, then maroon him on an asteroid when the rocket is too heavy, only to later realize that the weight calculations didn’t work out because Huey, Dewey, and Louie had stowed away. And the Jovian who rescues Donald from the asteroid later sells him to a science lab. The follow-up, “The Return of Rebo,” written thirty-five years later, has Scrooge conspire with the editor of a magazine he owns to fake a UFO encounter with Donald dressed as an alien, only to have the Saturnians abduct both Donald and Scrooge, along with a bunch of Huey, Dewey, and Louie’s toys that they use as models for weapons. The third comic is unrelated to the other two, instead focusing largely on another character Bottaro used quite a bit, Witch Hazel from “Trick or Treat.” Scrooge finds her sneaking up to his window to watch TV, while also figuring out ways to get free advertising for his products on quiz shows.
Again, the plot is kind of all over the place, but Hazel herself is entertaining.
<img The biography in the collection mentions Bottaro's affinity for "near-psychedelic deformations of characters' shapes," which we can see in the space travel scenes, as well as with the rubbery forms of the Saturnians and the bizarre geometric patterns of the scenery and buildings on Jupiter (as per the volume's back cover).
The comics might not make a lot of sense plot-wise, but they really deserve to be seen.
Now, Then, and Everywhen, by Rysa Walker – This was a book I got on Kindle through an Amazon Prime promotion. It’s a prequel to the CHRONOS Files series, which I’ve never read. As such, there were aspects to the universe I wasn’t familiar with, and I couldn’t really say whether that affected my understanding or enjoyment, but I suspect it did. Towards the beginning, there was some discussion of an extremist cult called the Cyrists, seemingly related to the Branch Davidians (“Koresh” is the Hebrew form of “Cyrus”), but it never plays an important role; I understand it was integral to the plot of an earlier book. Even more confusing was the switch between two different time-traveling narrators, Tyson Reyes and Madison Grace. Tyson works as a historian, going back to time to learn about the KKK in the twentieth century. Both leads find out about changes in history that have both John Lennon and Martin Luther King killed considerably earlier than they originally were. There’s a fair amount of focus on the Beatles, and how white supremacists hated them because they refused to play to segregated audiences, then used John’s “more popular than Jesus” comment as an excuse. The actual 1966 concert in Memphis when someone threw a cherry bomb on the stage, which was apparently one catalyst for the group giving up on touring, plays a significant role. It turns out that a group from the future is playing a game where they try to change history, regardless of how many lives are lost or ruined in the process. While a lot of the back story was lost on me, I appreciated the focus on a particular part of history as the crux of a time travel adventure.