My old colleague from "WTFB" is back with another Kim Possible story, one that presents me with something of a dilemma. On the one hand, it features good characterizations and displays Richard's immense erudition while (mostly) keeping under control the "info-dumping" tendencies that rather overwhelmed the final chapter of Richard's earlier "Claws of the Kitten." On the other, it forces me to buy into the idea of Kim interacting with... gremlins. To be fair, this isn't quite as big of a stretch as it seems. Though most of Kim's adversaries lived just inside the boundary of believability -- that is, if you crank current levels of scientific progress (for good or ill) up an additional "notch" or two -- Kim and Ron Stoppable did battle one regular villain (Lord Monkey Fist) who dabbled in the supernatural, and they met space aliens on one or two occasions. I think it's fair to say, though, that, like James Bond, Kim Possible seems to belong in a quasi-realistic setting and should not, as a rule, be mixing with genii, leprechauns, sprites, and other "fantastic" characters. Richard's interest in classic 1930s-model airplanes was a solid enough jumping-off point for a story in which Kim and Ron solve a mystery for a group of vintage-flyer enthusiasts. The gremlins simply make it harder to take the plot seriously.
Fittingly, Richard's version of the gremlins owes more to the Disney version of same -- the one that surfaced in a couple of WWII-era Disney comic books but was "talked to death" as a feature-film property before finally being shelved -- than to the wacky characters who appeared in several Warner Bros. cartoons. From what little I know of the Disney-flavored sprites, Richard seems to have characterized them quite well. The use of the little guys has a certain built-in advantage in that it gives Ron's pet mole rat Rufus a chance to shine; by helping the gremlins drive off a threat to their young ("widgets," in gremlin-speak), Rufus establishes "first contact" with them. The continuing existence of gremlins in the modern era, however, raises some questions. Do gremlins only hang around vintage aircraft? (I can see the Smithsonian Air and Space people laying in a BIG stock of insect repellent right about now.) If "Yesterday's Airport" were ever to close, then where would the gremlins go?
Richard does throw us a big, fragrant "red herring" before revealing the identity of the villain behind the plot against "Yesterday's Airport," but he never does clear up why the first suspect was such a pain. (Can there be such a thing as a negative "Mary Sue"?) He also gives Kim and Ron relatively little to do from a physical standpoint; the gremlins do the heavy lifting during the final "battle" (which really isn't much of one) against the bad guy. Overall, this story doesn't quite measure up to "Claws of the Kitten," despite its brisker pace and nice vintage flavor. But it still should be enjoyable reading for any Kim Possible fan.