Disney // 1991 // 612 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Mike MacNeil (Retired) // October 3rd, 2007
"Suck gas, evildoer!"
Riding high on the success of Duck Tales, Disney put another duck-centric cartoon on the air in 1991 -- Darkwing Duck. Imagine a parody of the superhero and spy genres, set in the same universe as Duck Tales (although in the city of St. Canard as opposed to Duckburg), with a healthy dose of Looney Tunes-style comedic violence and sight gags, and you've got a pretty good idea of what Darkwing Duck is all about. His sidekick, Launchpad McQuack, is straight out of Duckburg. By day, his alter ego, Drake Mallard, watches over his adopted daughter, Gosalyn. He tangles with a fairly extensive rogue's gallery, and occasionally joins forces with the clandestine S.H.U.S.H. to combat the Fiendish Organization for World Larceny (F.O.W.L.).
Darkwing Duck: Volume 2 offers up 27 episodes on three discs, broken down like so:
* "All's Fahrenheit in Love and War"
Darkwing and Launchpad want a vacation, but first they need to solve a string of bank robberies.
* "Whiffle While You Work"
Drake Mallard lectures Gosalyn against the evils of video games, only to become addicted to her favorite game. Soon Gosalyn and Darkwing have entered a video game tournament. It's all fun and games...until Quackerjack shows up.
* "Ghoul of My Dreams"
Darkwing has to overcome his crush on Morgana to stop her from robbing the citizens of St. Canard as they sleep. He also has to contend with her accomplice Nodoff, ruler of Dreamland.
Drake Mallard gets suckered into a convict reform program. Now he has Tuskernini as a houseguest, and he needs to prove that the old boy is up to his old tricks again.
* "Toys Czar Us"
Quackerjack is making dangerous toys for all the children. Oblivious to all this, Darkwing has decided he needs to focus less on crime-fighting and more on being a good father to Gosalyn.
* "The Secret Origins of Darkwing Duck"
In the distant future, a museum janitor with a striking resemblance to Darkwing Duck regales some kids who have a striking resemblance to Gosalyn and Honker with the lost origin of Darkwing Duck.
* "Up, Up and Awry"
Megavolt is on the loose again, but Darkwing's more preoccupied with the appearance of Gizmoduck, who upstages DW at every turn.
* "Live, the Negaverse, and Everything"
Darkwing stumbles upon Negaduck's secret hideout, which turns out to be an alternate universe in which all of Darkwing's friends are foes and vice versa. Oh, and Negaduck's in charge of everything, so DW's a fugitive.
* "Dry Hard"
The origin of The Liquidator. Pay no mind to the fact that he's already shown up in a few of the preceding episodes (and presumably on Darkwing Duck: Volume 1).
* "Heavy Mental"
Launchpad gains telekinetic powers, and does battle with some similarly powered baddies.
* "Disguise the Limit"
Negaduck starts committing crimes in a purple ensemble, which leads everyone to believe that Darkwing has turned criminal. DW retaliates by undergoing a transformation that allows him to shape-shift into whomever he looks at.
* "Planet of the Capes"
Darkwing spends some time in an alternate universe in which everyone has superpowers.
* "Darkwing Doubloon"
A "Tales of the Dark Knight"-style episode, set on a pirate ship on the high seas. If you've ever wanted to see Darkwing and Negaduck firing cannons at one another, you're in luck.
* "It's a Wonderful Leaf"
Bushroot and his army of pine trees decide to ruin Christmas for everyone else.
* "Twitching Channels"
Darkwing and Megavolt get sucked into -- you guessed it -- an alternate universe, this time one populated by humans, in which Darkwing is the star of a hit cartoon series.
* "Dances with Bigfoot"
Gosalyn takes center stage as the Crimson Quackette, as she searches for Drake Mallard, who's gone missing.
* "Twin Beaks"
Yeah, that's a Twin Peaks reference in the title. Come for the sly pop-culture references, stay for the evil sentient cabbage and intergalactic cows!
* "The Incredible Bulk"
DW gets ahold of Bushroot's new fertilizer, which turns out to be the botanical equivalent of steroids.
* "My Valentine Ghoul"
It's an old-fashioned love triangle when Negaduck comes between Darkwing and Morgana -- but he's really just trying to bring her back around to a life of crime.
* "Dead Duck"
Darkwing Duck dies. Yep.
* "A Duck by Any Other Name"
A newscaster thinks he's discovered Darkwing Duck's secret identity. Problem is, he thinks it's Launchpad.
* "Let's Get Respectable"
In one of the funniest episodes of the set, Gosalyn and Honker give DW an "image makeover" to make him more appealing to specific demographics.
* "In Like Blunt"
Darkwing teams up with Derek Blunt, a secret agent with striking similarities to a certain fictional British spy with a license to kill.
* "Quack of Ages"
Quackerjack goes back in time to prevent the yo-yo from ever being invented. DW, of course, follows.
* "Time and Punishment"
More time traveling! Quackerjack and Megavolt travel to the future, and Gosalyn hitches a ride. Turns out a few decades without Gosalyn in his life turns Darkwing into an extremely grim vigilante.
* "Stressed to Kill"
Seems like the entire population of St. Canard is so stress-free that they don't mind Megavolt and Quackerjack robbing them.
* "The Darkwing Squad"
Darkwing is in charge of training the new S.H.U.S.H. recruits. It's only a matter of time before they all don purple capes.
Darkwing Duck was always a fairly uneven show, mostly because it was trying to do so many things at once. Watching Darkwing Duck: Volume 2, I noticed that the lesser episodes of the set tended to fall into one of three categories: 1) wacky slapstick/sitcom situations; 2) broad spy spoofs; or 3) superhero yarns. None of which are bad, necessarily; the folks behind Darkwing Duck are pretty good at executing each type. Most of the episodes in Volume 2 fall into that last category. Darkwing's foes are apparently inspired by Batman's enemies from Arkham Asylum, except, um, cartoonier. Take Bushroot, for example -- he's a plant-duck. The episodes involving S.H.U.S.H. strive for secret-agent satire. The leader of the organization is named J. Gander Hooter. And any time the writers get bored of parody, they can always drop an anvil on DW's head.
That's all well and good, and indeed, bad Darkwing Duck episodes were still better than a lot of the cartoons that were airing at the time, but the show gets really good when it transcends its conventions, as quite a few of the episodes here on Volume 2 do. "Life, the Negaverse, and Everything" and "Time and Punishment" stand out because they add a little depth by showing Darkwing being genuinely worried about Gosalyn's well-being. I'm not saying my cartoons need a lot of complexity, but there's a shortage of sincerity on Darkwing Duck. It's refreshing when the writers set aside the sarcasm once in awhile. Other exceptions that jump to mind are "Ghoul of My Dreams" and "My Valentine Ghoul," both of which feature Morgana. Morgana is essentially Morticia Addams with a beak, but she's never afraid to show her affection for Darkwing.
"My Valentine Ghoul" also gets bonus points for featuring Negaduck, as does any other episode that includes the anti-Darkwing. I mentioned that Darkwing Duck has some great villains, like Bushroot and the crazed Megavolt, but Negaduck is far and away the best. The others are a hoot to watch, and the show can gain a lot of comic momentum pitting the inept baddies up against Darkwing, who's equally inept, but Negaduck actually seems menacing.
I laughed a lot while watching this set, which speaks to the effort that went into adding some sophisticated jokes into the mix. It also speaks to my propensity to laugh at cartoon characters falling from heights, but let's focus on that first part. For example, Morgana justifies a crime spree by saying she'll finally be able to pay off her student loans, and when Darkwing finds himself confronted with native islanders, their language sounds a lot like, "Homina homina, E pluribus unum!" The riffing on Twin Peaks in "Twin Beaks" was also a lot funnier than it had any right to be.
Darkwing Duck had a limited budget, and it sometimes shows in the animation, which is uneven, but not a big problem. The complete lack of extras is a different story. Anything at all that could shed some light on what went on behind the scenes would be appreciated, but Disney dropped the ball. All we get are "sneak peeks," which are, you know, commercials. Advertisements.
Darkwing Duck: Volume 2 packs a lot of animated entertainment into its 27 episodes. Disney has a bad habit of releasing these shows without any special features, and I was disappointed to see them to continue the trend here.
Aw, I couldn't find Darkwing Duck guilty -- he's got crime to fight!
Review content copyright © 2007 Mike MacNeil; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 612 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Not Rated