"All the News That's Fit to... Well, You Know"
On to book two of my book review! The Silly Canine Caper was written by Justine Korman, and was illustrated by Don Williams. Like "The Robot Plants," it was published by Golden, only this book is a classic "Little Golden Book." For a book from 1992, it still looks pretty good. The cover is speckled with white bits of wear, especially along the spine's fold, and there's a few stains on the cover and first page, but other than that it's still very good quality. I'm guessing my copy previously belonged to a child; there's a shiny blue star sticker on the cover. (The sticker, by the way, is teal blue foil with an uneven cut so that it looks rather crooked.) I'm guessing the child wasn't very young, either: the kid didn't write his / her name in the cover.
The story begins at SHUSH Central, where Darkwing and Launchpad are waiting to hear about their latest mission from J. Gander Hooter, who has yet to arrive. Launchpad is listening to music on his Duckman radio (get it? Walkman? Duckman?) and dancing to the beat. Darkwing is clearly annoyed by his sidekick's "wacky wiggling" and tells him to cut it out. But as soon as LP pulls off his headset, he knocks over a stack of papers. He bends over to pick it up, but in the process knocks over a fish bowl on a small table, which splashes on Director Hooter just as he enters the room.
Darkwing is beyond humiliated by this and screams: "Launchpad, that does it! No more stumbling sidekick! From now on, I, Darkwing Duck, scourge of evil, will fly solo!"
Launchpad, broken-hearted, leaves the office, but he waits out in the hall and listens in on Darkwing's conversation with Hooter. Hooter shows Darkwing photographs of different SHUSH agents involved in very strange activites: rollerskating while wearing a tutu, sharpening a carrot in a pencil sharpener, and playing banjo while hanging upside-down from a tree branch just to name a few.
"Agents all over the world are forgetting their missions, even their names! They're all turning... silly!" Hooter explains. SHUSH's only clue to what's going on are robot puppies, found to send out the Silly Signal that "turns agents into idiots." Darkwing's job would be to find out who is sending out these mechanical mutts, and it just so happens that SHUSH labs has developed a gadget to help track the puppies down. As it turns out, it's a radar tracking map camouflaged as one of Darkwing's capes.
Just as Darkwing is starting to admire his new technowear, a blip on the radar screen shows up, and he runs away to track it down. The SHUSH scientist who invented the cape chases after him: "Wait! I haven't shown you how all the switches work!" But Darkwing doesn't take heed, and he follows the radar right to Hooter's office. Hooter has become the latest victim of the Silly Signal, sitting on the floor and giddily cutting out duck-shaped paper chains. A robot puppy with a wind-up key in its back yaps as it runs out of the room, and Darkwing gives chase: "My mission - to save all SHUSH agents from certain silliness!" (By the way, they spell SHUSH like this in the book, but it's incorrect: "S.H.U.S.H." Only F.O.W.L. is spelled that way. Not that they're mentioned anywhere in the book, but I have countless resources to back me up on that one.)
Darkwing continues to follow the robot puppy on the Ratcatcher, not realizing that somebody's following him in the Thunderquack. Hmm, I wonder who that could be? Okay, enough sarcasm, I was just being funny. Or at least I tried. Anyway, Darkwing follows the puppy to an abandoned dog chow factory, which he enters through the back door on tiptoe. He hides behind a moderately-sized pile of boxes, only to discover the villain of the story, and the culprit behind this crazy caper: computer-whiz Madam Anna Matronic! Dun-dun-DUN!
Matronic feeds the robot puppy a "battery yummy," or in layman's terms, a doggie treat suitable for robot doggies. Darkwing gasps as he realizes the entire factory is up to the gills in mechanical mutts. He fiddles around with his cape to find a switch that will protect him from the Silly Signal. Unfortunately, he accidently turns on rock music from the cape's radio, and he is discovered. After yelling at the puppies to stop dancing, Matronic commands them to grab Darkwing. Darkwing grabs his gas gun, but before he can do anything, the puppies clamp their surprisingly large teeth on his cape.
Madam Matronic ties Darkwing to a table and points a Silly Signal ray gun at him. Per Darkwing's last request, she explains why she invented the Silly Signal:
"I was trying to make my robot critters smarter. But my experiments backfired! My robots became totally silly, instead. Then I realized I had the perfect weapon. I could turn all the SHUSH agents into helpless twits!"
Ingenius, or dumb luck? You decide.
Darkwing closes his eyes and braces himself for the blast from the Silly Signal... but just as Matronic fires, Launchpad, wearing his headphones, leaps out of his hiding spot and takes the blast for Darkwing.
"Launchpad!" Darkwing cries.
But Launchpad is okay, for the Silly Signal had no effect on him! Matronic is confused by this and wonders aloud why it didn't work. Darkwing laughingly suggests, as Launchpad unties him, that perhaps the Signal doesn't work on people who are already silly. To which Matronic replies, "No one is that silly." She examines her ray gun, only to make the classic villain's mistake of accidently firing it on herself!
As Madam Matronic giggles and skips around, feeding battery yummies to her puppies and playing with them, Darkwing asks Launchpad how he managed to save him."Simple!" says LP. "I blocked the Silly Signal by turning on my radio headphones!" He dances around as he explains this, only to bump into a table of glass beakers and knocking it over. Darkwing laughs and says, "You're a dunce of a dancer. But you're a pretty perfect partner!"
Darkwing and Launchpad head back to SHUSH Central, where Hooter and all the agents have returned to normal from the Silly Signal. Hooter congratulated them both. He concludes: "As you can tell, the lab finally found a cure for the Silly Signal. Everything is back to normal." He adds with a "silly" grin, "Well, everything except my office!" For Hooter's office is completely strewn with chains of paper ducks!
I must say, this story was a lot better than the last one. I only have a few complaints: (1.) The story really didn't get into just how the robot puppies aided Madam Anna Matronic in distributing the Silly Signal. (2.) I never saw any switches drawn on Darkwing's radar cape. I only saw the map, and the blips, but that was it. Where are the switches?! (3.) The storyline's a bit thin in this one, but then again, it probably had to be for the sake of little kids with short attention spans who are reading this book. Other than that, however, this story was great. I wish they could have made it into an episode. At the very least, it would have been nice for the viewers to see the development that takes place in DW and LP's relationship. I'd also like to share a theory with you all: considering how easily Darkwing fired LP, I would think that this story takes place shortly after "Darkly Dawns the Duck." Remember in that episode that DW didn't want anything to do with LP at first? In later episodes, Darkwing doesn't get that horribly frustrated with his sidekick, so "The Silly Canine Caper" had to have taken place early on in their partnership.
An enjoyable story, good artwork, a female villain for once, and puppies. An excellent combination.
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