on 15 November 2013
This is the fifth published volume of this series - it also happens to be the chronologically fifth book. The completed series will contain 30 volumes published out of order.
I saw another review which described the material in this volume as pre-Golden Age (ie from before Barks hit his absolute peak period). I'd rather argue that the Golden Age actually sets in somewhere in this very book. Barks had been doing well orchestrated hilarious ten page stories for some time before 1947 (there will be a number of perfect gems in volume 3 and 4 too) - but this is book is where he starts delivering classic longer stories too. The "Vulcano Valley" story still feels like an early story that doesn't quite work - It relies too much on repetitive dated jokes about laziness and constant 'siestas' in Latin American countries. However, "The Ghost In The Grotto" and "Christmas on Bear Mountain" itself is where it all clicks into place and Barks becomes a world class master. And of course "Bear Mountain" adds the immortal Uncle Scrooge character to the Barks universe.
I've chosen to rate this volume 4 stars. The story/art material is still almost entirely 5 star 'Best ever in the medium' stuff, but the actual physical execution of the first printing of this volume has been slightly compromised due to a production scheduling conflict. It had to be sent off to a different printer than previous volumes. Fantagraphics has had a economically tough year due to losing one of its owners to cancer (the great Kim Thompson, RIP), so I can certainly understand why a Christmas-themed volume of one of their bestseller book series couldn't be rescheduled until after Christmas. I guess hardcore collectors who want their finished 30-volume series absolutely perfect can buy a second printing somewhere down the line and give this first edition to some lucky kid. It's not like Fantagraphics are ripping us off anyway, these books are pretty cheap compared to earlier Barks editions. I'm not an angry costumer, but it's not quite perfect either.
Apparently the special boxed two-volume Christmas edition contains the high quality binding, so if you want it NOW you could chose to but that one.
The full message from the publisher (from the Barks Library Facebook page) reads:
"Due to a production scheduling error, we had to use a different printer for the standalone volume in order to meet our scheduled release date, which meant we unfortunately had to compromise on binding quality. However, the copies included in the Christmas Treasury box set do have the sewed binding.
We do apologize, and we were dismayed that we had to make the choice."