To be Disneyfied is often treated as an insult. It is a term used to denote taking something serious and making it into something whimsical and lighthearted. While the term is common in popular culture as a slang insult, it should also be noted that Disney is not necessarily stuck in the 1930s and 1950s. It remains a company that appears somewhat wholesome, but it is also a company that still manages to come up with new ideas all the time, and an appreciation of how far the company has come can be seen in a series like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Whereas at one time the only female role for a Disney character was as princess in distress, the modern company at least seems interested in fitting in with the changes underway in popular culture. Thus while series protagonist Abigail Bullion fits a broad definition of princess (the daughter of an industrialist), her actions do not.
Thus far in this series she has been identified as an intrepid explorer, horse stuntswoman and even train robber, and this is very much of a departure from the regular in terms of how Disney has historically handled its heroines. With the threat posed by the Big Thunder Mountain Mine, both in physical terms and economic ones, the character has been forced into situations which are not similar for Disney characters, especially its princesses. In this final issue as Abbey and Chandler are led back into town by Willikers, they learn of the impending cave-in of the mine, and rush off to help.
What follows is not as much out of the box as might have been hinted at earlier in this series. The ending is fulfilling but also perhaps too wholesome. While there were some signs that things would be really different here, it ended up close enough to the Disney script to be recognizable to what has come before. It still represents a step forward for the company, just not as big a step as it might have accomplished, turning Abbey into something a bit more than what she ended up. The finale was still fun and worthwhile, but ended up lacking that little bit extra to make it special, a good ending to a series which could have been great.
Story: Dennis Hopeless Art: Tigh Walker and Guillermo Mogorron
Story: 8.4 Art: 8.4 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Read
The expansion of Disney and Marvel into the fictionalization of Disney theme park rides might seem like a strange undertaking, but it has worked effectively in this series. It tells the story of Abigail Bullion and her sometimes corrupt, sometimes naive father, who also happens to be the owner of the Big Thunder Mountain gold mine. As Abigail is introduced to this world she learns of the adventure associated with it, but also of the injustices which seem to take place there. The workers are mistreated and the mountain itself seems ready to make a stand of its own.
In the previous issue Abigail became a full-fledged train robber as she understood just how bad it was for the workers in the town. The stolen gold was going towards the provision of goods that were otherwise unobtainable, and she realized that her father was misguided at best in his endeavor. This issue follows directly on those developments, but goes about it in a less engaging way, as the various character and plot elements seem to diverge as Abigail is involved in another train heist, and as her associates go about their own pursuits. Equally her father is ready to open the mine again, despite his hesitation to do so, which allows him to be framed less as the villain and more as an unsuspecting dupe.
Thus far this has been one of the most entertaining titles to come out of Marvel in a long while despite being off almost everyone’s radar. As it stands though this penultimate issue misfires almost as much as it succeeds, with a clunkier story telling than the previous issues. Small details like Abbey, who otherwise just arrived to this world, becoming a master markswoman capable of shooting the hats off of people riding on top of trains seem silly in comparison to the rest of the story. The fun ride thus far will mean that this is a must read for those that have bothered to expand their reading list a bit beyond the ordinary, but with this mediocre issue it seems like the finale will determine the overall quality of this series.
Story: Dennis Hopeless Art: Tigh Walker and Guillermo Mogorron
Story: 7.8 Art: 7.8 Overall: 7.8 Recommendation: Read
The third issue of this series takes a bit of a turn not only from what we expect to find from the story line but also from what we expect to find from something bearing the Disney name. Thus far this series has been an entirely entertaining story about a young girl named Abigail, cast in the princess/anti-princess role which is common enough at Disney, as she has to settle into the midst of her father’s gold mining operation in the Old West. The casting of Abigail as the series lead is maybe a bit of a stretch for Disney, but then so too are her princess credentials. She is from a time in history when villains were often known as industrialists, and thus her noble status comes from the power of the dollar as opposed to a hereditary status.
Although previously introduced, it is apparent that her father is far more of a villain than it might seem. Although he runs what appears to be a successful gold mine, he seems eager to extract every penny’s worth of the mine that is possible. This leads to bare attention paid to his workers in what makes a comparison to a good comparison to the likes of Henry Frick. This might be a setup for some kind of last minute switch or revelation, but this issue is so heavy on the social commentary that it is hard to believe that it is coming from such a large corporation. Amidst all of this commentary there is also a a decent amount of action as Abigail and her cohorts are forced into various situations requiring some resolution be it a runaway horse or a flash flood.
It is likely that many have stayed away from this series because of what they might expect from it, and rightfully that is an injustice. It does bear the name Disney and it does feature a young heroine, but there is not so much of the Disney formula apparent here. While it is definitely rated G, it fills its pages with strong writing, and surprisingly stronger commentary, all surrounded by well written characters. Those looking for something a bit more edgy in comics have probably overlooked this series, but those looking on for quality need not look much farther.
Story: Dennis Hopeless Art: Felix Ruiz
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy
When turning its rides into works of fiction, Disney usually gets a free pass in the initial steps of the story. This is because the creative minds behind the adaptations are usually adept enough at capturing what makes the ride so fun to begin with, even without the roller coaster effects. If one remembers the opening scenes of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, they will remember the wealth of visual reminders about the rich environment in which they are populated. The same can be said for the first issue of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Instead of playing pirates, it instead looks at another iconic realm of childhood fantasy, the Old West. As Disney is occasionally known to do, it cast a female lead character in place of the male protagonist better known to the same period, and it paid off with a different angle told to a familiar enough story.
This second issue follows Abigail after she has been trapped in the mine’s rumblings. As with the first issue there are again a few things that are out of place with the story, such as the ease by which she causes a fissure in a humongous rock, but this is a story that is not meant for the analysis of the minor details. It is an avenue to fun, and it carries on with it as she manages to find her way back to the surface with the aid of the masked man, only to find out that her savior is also a thief, having made off with the load of gold on the eponymous railroad. She chases the train down with the help of her faithful horse, but it leads her into another unexpected conflict.
After escaping from the fertile ground caused from a mixing of the Old West with the Disney property, the series still proves that it has a lot of heart, even if the story falls off a little bit. This is not an edgy comic, but it also doesn’t try to be, instead going for a family level of fun. If the latter is indeed its goal though, it really does succeed, and doesn’t let up. Those that are used to comics for other genres and attitudes might find this series a bit trying, but for those that like the medium as a whole for all that it has to offer, they are likely to find a title to love here. It is innocent and fun, but executed pretty well, and deserves more praise than just being a good children’s title.
Story: Dennis Hopeless Art: Tigh Walker
Story: 8.9 Art: 8.9 Overall: 8.9 Recommendation: Buy