Review by Frank Plowright
These five stories originally published in 1949 display the increasing broadening of the cast from Donald Duck along with his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie. Uncle Scrooge made his series bow in the previous volume, but here plays a greater and more devious part, and appearances from Gladstone Gander would initially be more frequent.
His part here is in a tale of digging up a beach attempting to locate a lost jewel. Gladstone is idle and manipulative, but Carl Barks hadn’t yet allied this with the concept of it being prompted by his infuriating good fortune. The tale concludes with Donald putting one over on his cousin.
Scrooge’s design hadn’t yet been solidified, so he appears here in a black jacket and red tie rather than his later customary and distinctive red coat. The plot of that story takes some strange and unpredictable turns, but begins with Donald wanting to raise a sunken ship. The solution Barks supplies was decades ahead of its time, and a variation has now been used in reality, with air displacing water until the ship once again floats.
The cover story sees Donald working at a ranch, and confidently making the foolish promise to replace any horses stolen if he’s entrusted with running the place with the owner absent. Barks conceives an ingenious con job central to the story, with Huey, Dewey and Louie’s persistence central. Later in the book there’s another troublesome villain at large, but Donald’s more concerned at ridding the house of the wildlife menagerie his nephews have accumulated.
A final story is a surreal gem, centred on Donald and his nephews at opposite sides of a canyon toying with echoes. The kids want money, so have set up a coin box labelled “Depozit 10 cents for echo”, but Donald’s a step ahead of that, and the tale proceeds with him fetching an escalating selection of objects in the expectation that their sound will be duplicated as an echo.
The cartooning is excellent, the gags are excellent and the plots are excellent. This is a collection of Barks at his peak.