Review by Frank Plowright
In interviews Carl Barks talked about attempting to pack as many gags as possible into his stories, and that takes a giant step forward with the strips reprinted in this volume switching from three tiers per page to four. The first tale under this new arrangement sees Huey, Dewey and Louie making a pact avoid a bath (“soap softens the brain”) and concealing themselves around the house as Donald slips from sly to exasperated mode. Packed with visual gags, the nephews helping themselves to the chocolate Donald is trying to tempt them out with is particularly well conceived.
A quote from Barks on the contents page notes he was working for the Disney animation department when the order was given that Donald Duck should have some nephews. Originally considering them a poor idea, there is no little irony in so many of his best short stories featuring Huey, Dewey and Louie. They’re always around to pester Donald, and when Barks later conceived the idea of the Junior Woodchucks, their superior knowledge infuriates him.
The bath time story is a gem, and introduces Donald’s unfeasibly large dog Bolivar, but it’s the best in the book by some way. The idea of Donald and his nephews running competing boat hire businesses or Donald being carried away by the thought of selling photographs to newspapers and magazines both have their moments, but neither is a jam-packed gag fest. Donald as a chemical genius after a bang on the head starts well, but veers off course with a trip to the moon followed by a rushed conclusion. It’s almost as if two stories had been stitched together.
The collection concludes with stories from summer 1944, just over a year since his first ten page story. Judged on that basis, the work was excellent, and it would only improve.