This is the second published volume of Fantagraphics Complete Barks series. It will be the 12th volume of the completed series.
I'd gotten the impression that the series was going to present the stories in chronological order (although the volumes would be published out of order), but it seems like they've loosened a bit up on that promise for this second volume. This book presents the early Uncle Scrooge stories produced between 1952-1954. The ten page Donald Duck solo-stories Barks produced within the same period have apparently been moved to the adjacent volumes. Oh well, I'm not really complaining. Uncle Scrooge is a popular character, and I can see the attraction of producing a 'definitive' first Scrooge volume that includes the early 'origin'-stories*. This book certainly feels very much like a complete and attractive entity for new readers.
The coloring is still excellent. There were some complaints about the yellow color in the first volume, and it's been tweaked a bit for this second volume. It's less 'golden', and there are no stories in which this color dominates too much. The coloring still sticks pretty much to the original coloring - which was mostly very good - and my only real complaint is that they've chosen to keep the inconsistent colors used for Uncle Scrooge's clothes (I assume this was done by different colorists for the original books). This was before his jacket had been established as being red in later stories. It's not a major problem, though. I'm nitpicking here.
So basically this book presents some of the greatest comic book stories ever produced in an attractive no-nonsense manner which is slightly (and fashionably) 'retro' and mirrors the way they were originally published in the 1950s, but which should still appeal to modern kids. I approve!
A LOOK AHEAD
Based on me having borrowed the European Barks edition from my local public library, here's what you should (approximately) expect from the series in the future:
- About 12 or 13 glorious five star volumes from the 'golden' era, in which Barks was on a roll, and pretty much every story was an amazing classic. I assume Fantagraphics will publish these volumes first, so you can expect pretty much pure gold for the next few years of publication. Best comics ever made! Seriously!
- 2 initial volumes of early stories. These stick pretty close to the formula used in the Donald Duck animated shorts Barks had worked on previously. They frankly feel a bit slow and dated. But still... it's fascinating to see how Barks personal vision quickly evolved from this. And around volume 3 Barks starts to get REALLY funny and REALLY dynamic REALLY fast.
- maybe 4 or 5 volumes (worthy of maybe 3 stars) in which Barks was experiencing creative burn-out (particularly around 1958-59) or was writing second-rate Junior Woodchucks stories for other artists. I assume the stories written for other artists will be published in the redrawn versions by the great Daan Jippes (these were redrawn a few years ago for the German/Scandinavian Barks Library), so the art will certainly be attractive enough, but these stories aren't particularly inspired efforts.
- the rest (approx. 11 volumes) will feature a mix of classic stories and some lesser works, in which Barks was repeating himself a bit. I'd probably rate most of these volumes four starts or four-and-a-half-stars - the beautiful cartooning still makes them very much memorable.
The volumes in this series aren't numbered on the spine, and each book works as a stand alone item. So if you aren't a completist or collector you'll be able to pick and chose between the volumes based on which periods you find interesting.
*) note: the earliest stories in this volume ARE sort of 'origin'-stories, but only in the loosest sense of the term. They aren't the earliest Scrooge stories, but they define Scrooge as a new main character for his own comic book series. They also include a few brief flashbacks to his youth.