The first volume of Fantagraphics projected reprinting of the complete Disney comics of Carl Barks is out and it is excellent. The volumes are to be in chronological order by volume although the stories are not arranged chronologically within the volume--a very minor problem. "Lost in the Andes" is perhaps Barks' best known story, also one of his best, and far superior to "The Golden Christmas Tree" which is the first long story by chronology. So placing it first makes a lot of sense. Every page, gag, and cover that should be in this volume chronologically is here. The long stories lead off the volume and are followed by the short stories. The short stories are actually reprinted in chronological order of Barks submission dates except for "Toyland", which should follow the radio quiz show story instead of preceding it, again, a very minor criticism.
The printing is excellent. The art size is about 98% of the size the comics were published back in 1949, and a little larger than the size in modern Disney comics. You won't notice the difference unless you lay down an original comic book page next to the reprint. The height is less than an eighth of an inch shorter in the book than in the old comics. Contrast this with Archive Editions, which typically reprint old comics about 83% of original size and it is obvious to the eye that they are much smaller. The coloring is very close to the original comic book coloring, except the yellow is a bit brighter and more gold. But it is clearly an attempt to reproduce with honor the look and coloring with which the comics were originally published. It is arguably better since the registration is generally much better than in the old comics.
With one exception, the stories appear to be printed here exactly as originally published over 60 years ago (although I have not compared all the short stories to the original comic books). The exception is "Race to the South Seas". Apparently the negatives for "Race to the South Seas" and "Darkest Africa" (to be reprinted in a future volume) were lost or are unavailable. When these two stories were reprinted in Europe in the 1980s, they were published from redrawn versions by Daan Jippes, apparently re-inked over blowups of the original comic book printings. "Race to the South Seas" is very good (to be expected from Jippes) but there are subtle differences in details throughout the story as well as less subtle differences in the drawings of the South Seas islanders. When Another Rainbow published the Carl Barks Library 25 years ago, it used the redrawn versions of these two stories. The notes at the end of the book notwithstanding, Fantagraphics used the exact same "Dutch Version" drawings that Another Rainbow did two decades ago. Comparing the Fantagraphics book with the Another Rainbow book clearly shows the drawings are the same. Comparing either with the original March of Comics giveaway clearly shows that it is different from both the reprints. Perhaps their intent was to not use the "Dutch Version" of the story, but that IS what they printed. Perhaps they can use modern scanning techniques to restore the original version of "Darkest Africa" before they reprint it. Otherwise the Barks content of this volume is almost perfect in every way. My commendations to Fantagraphics.
The notes and commentary, especially that of Don Ault, are excellent. Young kids will probably skip over the text, but adults will find reading it rewarding. Even long time Barks fans and scholars--I count myself in that number--are likely to find new and interesting facts and insights.
Small things I would like to see in future volumes: Covers and gag pages reprinted with the stories they were originally published with instead of isolated at the back of the book. A table of contents at the beginning of the book.
You can stop waiting. Buy this book. Buy future volumes. It really is Barks done right. The Another Rainbow books were done by fans for fans. They attempted to get it right and did a phenomenal job under trying conditions set by Disney. They made it possible for this and other later editions to happen at all. The Fantagraphics edition is clearly done with the mass market in mind, and it should succeed there, but it can also be appreciated even more by the connoisseurs.
CORRECTION: "Darkest Africa" was not re-inked by Daan Jippes, but by Dick Vlottes. Apparently the version of "Race to the South Seas" in this book is a composite of Barks and Jippes versions, but mostly Jippes. If the book gets a second printing, they intend to use the Barks version, which, unfortunately, was not yet available at press time (and may not be even now).
ADDENDUM, 8/19/12: Most of the relatively minor flaws in this book are corrected in the second reprint volume, Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge: "Only a Poor Old Man" (Vol. 1) (The Complete Carl Barks Disney Library), which I have also reviewed. The coloring, in particular, uses a shade of yellow much truer to the original. That volume reprints the first 6 issues of Uncle Scrooge and is also highly recommended.