Review by Frank Plowright
Carl Barks sets considerable store by little people. In the broadest sense his stories often present the ideal of standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves, and in the literal sense they frequently feature in his plots, which can be taken as allusion to ordinary people in the real world. Given the way he draws them there’s an undeniable cuteness. There’s also the charm of them being able to conceal themselves while causing havoc. Having introduced one such race in space last time, ‘Pipeline to Danger’ features another set, a miniature race of Arabs occupying a volcanic plateau in the Sahara, where Scrooge is inspecting his oil wells. Barks rather oversells the contrast over the opening pages, Scrooge constantly reiterating what a big operator he is, although doesn’t bother to conceal the little people when they are introduced in some very nice silhouette panels, complete with miniature camels.
However, for all the cuteness of the tiny ducks, it’s a very straightforward story with few jokes or slapstick set pieces, more an adventure than a comedy. As such it works well enough, certainly scoring higher than average, but ranked against Barks’ own work it’s lesser.
Correspondence revealed in the articles forming part of this series has revealed that by the early 1960s Barks was beginning to feel fatigued with the strain of constantly coming up with new ideas for characters he’d worked with for over fifteen years by then. He berates himself for resorting to taking ideas from his older stories, yet for the most part he’s creating viable new stories around those ideas, and if not always 100% fresh, they’re entertaining fun. That noted, it’s difficult to make much of a case for back-up strip ‘Yoiks! The Fox’ being anything other a slim plot stretched too far. In order to seal a deal, an eccentric seller demands Scrooge prove his sportsmanship by winning a fox hunting contest. The jokes are too reminiscent of earlier Barks stories where a creature is chased, and nine pages is excessive considering how exquisitely Barks generally paces his plots.
Both stories are more easily found in the recent Uncle Scrooge: Island in the Sky along with several other Barks stories.