Review by Frank Plowright
For several volumes now, and indeed around 25 to come, a one line review could suffice: another five stunningly plotted and drawn comedy masterpieces from Carl Barks.
The stories reprinted here conclude Barks’ 1948 contributions to Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories. He now has a broader cast at his disposal, with a cameo from Uncle Scrooge his first appearance in this series, and has mastered the disciplines of the format, turning out winner after winner.
In his erudite introduction Geoffrey Blum notes that Barks returned to the themes or gags from these five tales later in his career, in all but one case to diminished effect. The one improvement concerned a giant clam, here well worked into the opening story, but not the focus of a tale in which Donald goes diving for pearls.
Donald becoming obsessed with winning a quiz show was a rare entry in this series not originally written by Barks. Blum explains that records indicate he was paid for revisions to the script. Unless pointed out, one wouldn’t really know it wasn’t entirely the work of Barks, although the rather feeble ending harks back to his earliest days on the feature. The remainder, though, is high class slapstick.
Scrooge makes his Walt Disney Comics and Stories debut a year after his introduction, but his purpose here is just to set the plot up. Donald’s fox hunting exploits are as inept as anything else he turns his hand to, but Barks brilliantly first has him snatch victory from the jaws of defeat before restoring the ignominy.
Huey, Dewey and Louie playing truant was a theme used previously and one that would recur, and the twist this time is the new truant officer patrolling the area whose efficiency has cowed the other children. The kids, though, are made of sterner stuff.
This volume closes with an entirely uncharacteristic tale of Donald Duck experiencing nightmares. The alien creatures he dreams of are tame by general standards, but surprisingly potent for a 1940s comic from the always conservative Disney organisation. Other bad dreams play out, as successive attempts to prevent them fail, before Barks delivers an imaginative waking sequence that solves the problem.