Review by Frank Plowright
The way Don Rosa’s work schedule rolled out between 1997 and 1999 means that this chronological printing of his output breaks into two distinct halves, or a third and two thirds if you want to be picky. The first three stories are comedies, and the remaining four are adventures, including a further supplementary look at Scrooge McDuck’s past. It’s another case where the strict chronological presentation of the series works against effective sequencing, which would have broken the four adventure stories with the funnier work. Not that the adventure stories lack for funny moments, and if the sequencing is what a reviewer seizes on as criticism, pretty well everything else must be fine.
It is, with everything so good there is no standout story. It’ll come down to personal preference whether you prefer the rollicking comedy of Huey, Dewey and Louie joining the Junior Woodchucks or Scrooge’s bull racing escapades in Java during his time on the Cutty Sark.
The most heartwarming story is ‘The Quest for the Kalevala’, with the Kalevala being Finland’s most famous book, an epic collection of myths passed down via verbal tradition and collated in the 19th century. Rosa creates a new story around the primary characters, involves a couple of familiar faces in updated roles, and has a good role for Donald Duck, his unthinking heroism a facet of his character generally ignored. It even includes the rarely seen epilogue page created for a Finnish hardcover edition.
As a reader of superhero comics alongside his love of Carl Barks’ duck stories, Rosa was very aware of continuity, which was never a facet of Disney material. The characters’ circumstances remained unchanged. If Donald Duck earned a fortune at the end of one story, he’d be back to having to take any job offered in the next, Scrooge was always rich and Gladstone was always lucky. Rosa contemplating some of this, and following up on other stories, time and again produced great material, and as his introduction notes, almost every story here is a sequel of one kind or another. The title story sees the ducks return to the valley of prehistoric creatures from a Barks story, and Rosa follows up some of his own, notably finding another use for the universal solvent seen in volume six, and searching for the legendary Lost Dutchman’s Mine. The key element, however, is originality. The story springboard may come from the past, but Rosa builds new material around it that’s fascinating, entertaining and frequently hilarious. We also learn how Huey Duey and Louie transformed from the energetically mischievous tearaways of their cartoon introduction and just why Gladstone is so lucky.
In his accompanying notes Rosa isn’t as harsh about his art as in earlier volumes. Good. It’s first rate, and character rich. He packs a significant amount of gags into his backgrounds (see sample art). In one story Scrooge mentions misplacing his walking stick, so check the backgrounds of panels leading up to the comment to discover where it is. Rosa usually pulls this type of gag without drawing attention to it making the backgrounds worth studying. Other games he plays are including a dedication to Barks on every splash page, and littering pages with visual references to previous stories. They never intrude, and his notes explain all.
This is yet another solid gold collection that ought to delight adult and child alike, and up next is The Three Caballeros Ride Again.