"All the News That's Fit to... Well, You Know"
I cannot begin to describe the joy I experienced when my older sister sent me an electronic gift card for Amazon.Com for Christmas. 'Finally,' I thought, 'I can get my hands on some books I've always wanted!' Namely, of course, Darkwing Duck books.
These books came from all sorts of different locations from across the country, so it took a span of perhaps ten days before I received them all. There are seven of them in all, four of which are in a series, and five of which are adaptations of released episodes. Most of them came in almost new condition, and the others were fairly used, but not dog-eared or dilapidated much to my relief. At first I thought about reviewing them strictly in size order, but then I figured it would be best to go in publishing order, then size. So without further ado...
Published in 1991 by Golden, a division of the Western Publishing Company, as "A Golden Star Reader," Darkwing Duck and the Robot Plants was written by Barbara Bazaldua, and illustrated by Phil Ortiz and Diana Wakerman. My copy of this book originally came from the Weston branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library in Missouri, as indicated by a stamp in the blank first page of the book (the Dewey Decimal codes are still stuck on the book's cover, too). For whatever reason, this book was withdrawn from the records of Mid-Continent on October 22, 2002, as indicated by yet another stamp. So as you can see, this particular volume of "Robot Plants" has quite a history behind it. Just thought you'd find that amusing. Another amusing factoid is that this book was listed as "Darkwing Duck and the Robot Planets" on Amazon.Com. I have only recently sent them a comment to correct this error in the event that some little kid's hopes get up by something as exciting as planets inhabited by robots, only to be let down when they receive the book. And no, I would not know how that feels... ahem.
The cover of "Robot Plants" has an image of Darkwing sneaking along a dirt trail on a grassy hill, following a trail of leaves with his gas gun drawn. His cheek feathers appear to be missing, although I believe that Ortiz and Wakerman meant to show that they are hidden from view by his caped shoulders. Also on the cover image, Bushroot is shown poking his head out from behind a tree, wearing a headset of some kind and pressing a button on a complex remote control box. Creeping out from behind Bushy is one of the robot plants, which I'll describe later. In all honesty, this cover isn't particularly exciting at all. Silly, yes, but not exciting. If DW was moved more to the right, and we could actually see his cheek feathers, we'd have a winner. Instead we have a cheekless DW and a whole lot of empty space. Not exciting at all. And Bushroot could've used another line in his evil grin to indicate more teeth, because he looks like he has buck teeth in this picture.
Okay, time to open 'er up. The story begins with Gosalyn looking dejectedly at the plants she was growing for her school project. She is also carrying a stereo, apparently turned up to full blast. Her plants are withered and dying, and the irony is that Gosalyn was trying to find out "if playing music helps plants grow." Darkwing (described as "[t]he famous secret agent") is covering his ears and cringing from the noise. "Your loud music is killing them," he yells. "Plants don't like loud music-- and neither do I!"
DW then puts on his hat and cape and heads out of the house for walk for some peace and quiet. What bothers me here is that, for one thing, Darkwing is wearing his costume in the house, and even dares to go outside with it on. Won't his neighbors see him?! Won't they get suspicious about what Darkwing Duck is doing in Drake Mallard's house? Alas, our first plothole, and unfortunately not the last. Gosalyn asks her father if he can pick up new plants for her project, to which he replies that the flower shop is closed and that he'll pick up new plants tomorrow.
Now comes our next four plotholes, and we're only seven pages into the book. I'll number them for your convenience: (1.) DW had failed to notice that Bushroot was lurking just outside the front door, thinly disguised as a rosebush. (2.) However, Bushy doesn't look anything like a rosebush. He looks more like his normal self with rose heads pasted on various parts of his body. In other words, really bad cover. Not even Darkwing's inability to grasp the obvious is bad enough not to see through this trick. (3.) With such an awful disguise, I'm surprised that no one in Darkwing's neighborhood recognized Bushroot immediately. He wouldn't have fooled anyone... except maybe the Muddlefoots, minus Honker. (4.) Bushroot was spying on Darkwing and Gosalyn to figure out how to "get his leafy hands on Darkwing's famous gas gun," which apparently can shoot "laughing gas, tear gas, hiccup gas, and forgetful gas." The plothole here is this: why would Bushroot exclusively want the gas gun? Why not Negaduck, or Quackerjack, or maybe even Steelbeak? Heck, ANY villain with a brain would eventually figure out that DW's gas gun is a powerful weapon. Don't get me wrong, I love Bushroot to itty-bitty bits, but come on! Bushroot is meek as far as most villains go. You would have had a much more exciting story if someone else was trying to steal the gas gun... unless, of course, you took Bushy entirely out of character and made him psycho, which is exactly what he looks like on the next page.
Page eight has the most disturbing image of Bushroot you'll ever see, aside from Spug's Vines Carnage illustrations. He looks totally demented as he fiddles around with robot parts and places them inside a cactus. Another disturbing thing here is that our plothole count is now up to seven. Bazaldua describes Bushroot's roots "tingling with excitement" as he works in "his science laboratory." Hold up-- (5.) since when does Bushroot have a lab? (6.) I can understand if he has a lab in his greenhouse for working with plants, but not for robotics; that's more of Megavolt's department. (7.) Bushroot gleefully exclaims that "[o]nce the gun is [his], [he'll] be able to pull off the most wonderful crimes!" He's out of character for saying that; Bushroot would never commit a crime without good reason, not even for fun. He usually commits crimes out of revenge or necessity, nothing more. That's what makes him so meek and innocent and loveable, and what makes viewers feel sorry for him. This line alone is yet another reason why they should have used a different villain for this story.
The next day, Bushroot waits inside of a van parked in front of Darkwing's house and waits for the daring do-gooder to leave. He does so via the Ratcatcher (yet even more evidence that the neighbors should be really suspicious by now), and Gosalyn yells after him to pick up her new plants. What bothers me at this point is (8.) I think Darkwing or Gosalyn would have become suspicious of the van by now, and they haven't. Next two pages: (9.) Bushroot hops out of the van, only to have no one see him. He slaps on another disguise, consisting of a large white coat to cover his body, and a white hat big enough to cover all the petals on his head. Apparently, Bushy is (covincingly) disguising himself as a delivery man from the "Flower Power Shop," and as to whether it actually exists in Saint Canard, there is no indication.
Bushroot then proceeds to carry two large potted plants to the front door of the Mallard home. These plants are described verabtim from the book:
"The plants had long, stringy vines. They had flowers shaped like ears of corn. But they weren't real plants at all. They were robot plants that Bushroot had made. He called them plantoids. Inside their vines were tiny radio wires. Small microphones were hidden in their corncob-shaped flowers."
Gosalyn opens the door and can't get a good look at Bushroot through the plants and his clothes. Gosalyn, thinking the plantoids are from her dad, remarks that that she had never seen anything like them. To which Bushroot replies: "And you never will again." I don't know about you, but I can hear him saying that in a very sinister voice. Bazaldua's vision of Bushy scares me now. *grabs her Little Mikey teddybear*
After Bushy leaves, Gosalyn takes the plantoids inside and lugs them onto the windowsill. She then waters them and goes to her room to play music. Meanwhile, Bushroot hides behind a tree and takes out the same remote control box and headset we've seen on the cover. He presses a button and turns a few dials. This activates the plantoids and causes them to grow fingers on their vines and feet-like roots from the bottoms of their pots. They climb down from the windowsill and tear the house apart looking for the gas gun. Gosalyn catches them wreaking havoc in the kitchen and yells in surprise. Bushroot hears her through the plantoids' microphones and orders them to get Gosalyn out of the house. One of the them wraps its vines around her beak and legs, and drags her outside and across the lawn.
At that moment, Darkwing comes home and is horrified at the mess in his house. He calls Gosalyn, who of course doesn't respond. Darkwing stops to think. As he does so, the other plantoid sneaks up behind him to reach for DW's pockets. Darkwing turns around just in time (with a rather humorous illustration to go with it) to see the plantoid, which freezes and tries to look like a regular houseplant. Darkwing wonders where the plantoid came from and puts it on the windowsill. It is then that DW sees the first plantoid dragging Gosalyn along the ground outside. He runs for the door, only to be stopped by the second plantoid with a sticky vine around DW's legs. Darkwing rolls over, but the plantoid leaps onto his stomach before he can get up. The plantoid then uses its vines to weed (pardon the expression) through Darkwing's pockets and cape... and successfully obtains the gas gun!
A green light signals to a happy Bushroot that the objective of his plan is completed. He orders the second plantoid to bring him the gun. Darkwing chases the plantoid around the den before it can get out the door, then jams his hat over the plantoid's top. While the robot plant is stunned, Darkwing grabs the barrel of the gun. Both plant and duck get involved in some tug-of-war before the plantoid fires hiccup gas in Darkwing's face! As the plantoid gets away, Darkwing is overcome with a violent case of the hiccups. He bounces around the room and even knocks into the windowsill, apparently still housing Gosalyn's dead plants. The pot they're sitting in falls off the sill and lands on Darkwing's foot. He yells in pain, making the hiccups stop. He then looks at Gosalyn's plants and is struck with an idea.
Darkwing grabs Gosalyn's stereo and two pairs of earmuffs, then rushes outside to save Gosalyn. By now, the first plantoid has dragged her dangerously close to Bushroot's hiding place, and she is just barely hanging onto a baby tree to keep from moving any further. Darkwing jams a pair of earmuffs on himself and on Gosalyn, then turns on the stereo to "super blast" mode. The plantoids react violently to the noise, "trembling and twitching" as the first plantoid lets Gosalyn go, and the second plantoid drops the gas gun. Darkwing then turns up the stereo to "super duper blast" mode, and the plantoids whither and self-destruct. (10. But why would they be destroyed if they're not really plants? They're robots! Maybe these are sound-sensitive robots? Oh well, there's that last plothole for you.) Bushroot, who as you remember could hear everything the plantoids' microphones picked up, received the deafening music tenfold through his headset. When the plantoids are destroyed, he weakly crawls away, extremely shaken up. Darkwing smirks and remarks: "He won't bother us for a good long while."
"And if this is what loud music does, I'm never going to play my stereo too loud again!" says Gosalyn. Darkwing replies: "Well, if you ever forget and turn up the sound too high, I'll know what to do. I'll just wear my earmuffs." They share a laugh and then head back into the house for a light-hearted happy ending.
Okay, aside from the plotholes, the story's not too bad. The illustrations are average, and the plantoid concept is creative. I'm just wondering where the heck Launchpad is during all of this. Maybe LP is still doubling as Scrooge McDuck's pilot at this time. And I wonder where Darkwing had to go on his Ratcatcher in the middle of the daytime? What could have been so urgent as that? Ah, well... we'll just have to use our imaginations. Too bad imagination can't overlook those glaring plotholes... TEN glaring plotholes, even.
Rating: ** / *****
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