Review by Frank Plowright
Unlike the Fantagraphics hardcover reprints of Don Rosa’s work, the stories in these collections aren’t printed chronologically, and as such they’re far clearer in marking Rosa’s artistic progression. ‘Last Sled to Dawson’ was only two years into his professional career, but there’s a sizeable difference between the confident and expansive pages when compared with ‘Nobody’s Business’, published just under a year earlier. Not that the latter is poorly drawn, it’s just that in the intervening period Rosa had learned how to de-clutter his pages, and present more effective viewpoints.
‘Last Sled’ is a landmark for Rosa. His previous work had followed themes Carl Barks used in his duck stories, but this is the first time Rosa employs characters and locations popularised by Barks, and while not exactly a sequel, it points the way to his later Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, by adding to the mythology. A life changing moment in Scrooge’s life was when he struck gold in Alaska and laid the foundations for his vast fortune. Rosa returns Scrooge to Alaska in the present day when a sledge he lost decades previously is about to emerge from a glacier, and reintroduces Scrooge’s great lost love Glittering Goldie along with an old foe, Soapy Slick. It’s a story steeped in nostalgia, only manifesting for Scrooge near the end, but for Rosa throughout. Barely a year into his career he had no idea exactly how often he’d be able to revisit Scrooge’s past, indeed whether he’d ever be able to do so again, so poured the love into what might have been his only chance, taking the opportunity to establish how Scrooge owns the hill on which his money bin sits. It has laughs, danger, excitement, a great chase scene and a satisfyingly sentimental and unpredictable conclusion.
‘Nobody’s Business’ is a clever ten pager. Scrooge bemoans his two nephews. He views Donald Duck as a shiftless spendthrift, and Gladstone Gander as an idle loafer who exploits his uncanny luck to see him through life. Attempting to better them, he supplies each with $1000, challenging them to invest it profitably in 24 hours. Rosa’s jokes are well conceived, playing into the personalities of all concerned, and there’s a fitting conclusion. Considering this was only Rosa’s second duck story, it’s a gem.
Not as successful is the over-egged two page strip completing the book, dashed off at short notice to fill pages after an editorial miscount in 1987. Gary Leach’s script stretches a thin joke too far, and Rosa produces uncharacteristically large panels to fill the pages. It’s well drawn, but definitely page filler.
This paperback edition is now long out of print, but recoloured versions of all three stories can be found in Son of the Sun, the first volume of Fantagraphics’ hardcover series reprinting all Rosa’s duck stories in American publication order.