After the disaster that was last story, we return to something with a semblance of normalcy to it. Scrooge still has a screw loose: he tries to find a diamond mine from a three-thousand year old lead, but he doesn't get away with every tantrum he throws. Even Donald beats up some guy. Amazingly, that's a positive: after nine years, I couldn't bear to see Donald as the butt of every joke. I'm glad he's finally asserted himself. Something I like considerably less is the portrayal of the Berbers in this story. They're armed with rifles, haggle a lot, and trade in camels only. They're also white, which is kind of weird. I know European stories rarely show people of color, but it feels strange here -- it already did in Spain.
The Beagle Boys are in this story! They prove so utterly inconsequential that the Ducks don't even notice they're there. Which, to be fair, at least leaves the Egmont Beagles with their dignity intact for once.
This story runs mainly on Scrooge being an idiot, and jokes about deserts and oases. Oh, and Scrooge finds a huge diamond hidden in a rock. And apparently the Phoenicians wrote on parchment? You know, I like adventure stories for their interest in history and foreign culture. Not sure how I feel about these research errors.
In the end, the Ducks find a giant underground spring, turning that part of desert into lush green lakes and Scrooge building a hotel there. If you want the same plot beats, but infinitely better, just read Barks' Riches, Riches, Everywhere! Next Time: Walking on Eggshells in the Alps
In the concluding tale of this saga, we find ourselves in Munich, where Scrooge is being his usual stupid self. But when he hears of a machine that can turn banana peels into eggs (is this some Bavarian expression I fail to understand?), his business sense starts tingling. He briefly hides the machine and its blueprints in an antique car at the local museum, but they get stolen overnight by the Beagle Boys. Scrooge and company chase them all the way to Switzerland on a tandem, where they capture the Beagles in some kind of local festival.
Scrooge is as erratic as ever, but it's mitigated by some elements that show some genuine comedy. Scrooge has gotten more physical, but it's no longer just Donald who gets the brunt of it, either. The chase element also helps to keep the story moving, even if 44 pages are still quite padded for a story on this scale.
The art in this story is weird. It's very sketchy, as if nobody inked it. I'm not the biggest fan. Next: Concluding Thoughts
Adventures from Uncle Scrooge's Treasure Chest - concluding thoughts
In retrospect, the stories I was most familiar with from this series turned out to be the best. While the idea of a series of 44-page adventures speaks to the imagination, the reality is that the length of a story doesn't matter nearly as much as the quality of the artist filling those pages. Neither Carl Barks nor Don Rosa ever had 44 pages to fill, but they managed to make considerably more epic stories, with better characters and plots that made more sense. I have a feeling I shan't be returning to the Treasure Chest series any time soon, save for one or two stories. Most of the stories don't stand out, because they all share the same formula: Scrooge goes on some wild quest, Donald just wants a holiday but gets threatened by Scrooge, he's forced to work himself to the bone, and Scrooge always comes out as winner in the end. Some very obvious swindle may or may not be included.
You could see the artists come to grips with the material in The Rain God of Uxmal, with its clear Barksian influences and dated portrayals of native Central Americans. 5/10 The second story, White Gold of the Matterhorn, was only slightly less dated in its portrayal of the Japanese, but managed to keep me entertained with the staging of its explosive climax. 6/10 The artwork and coloring got better over time, as was shown off in The Excursion to Key West. However, with so much of its story hinging on the nephews not telling Scrooge about one crucial thing, the plot was stretched too thin. 5/10 From childhood, Picasso Heist in Barcelona was always a favorite story of mine, and it didn't disappoint. It remains arguably the best story, with the memorable Mercedes Pujol and the fantastical printer. 8/10 Another story I've grown to appreciate is Grand Canyon: Hair and Back Again, with its memorable villain, a chase through Disneyland, and antics in the Grand Canyon. 7/10 Another memorable one-shot villain was Betty Scott from The Tartan of the Clan McDuck. Although it mangles the McDuck lore to some extent and has a very unconvincing ghost, this story arguably had the best pacing of the entire series. 7/10 The series then takes a turn for the stupid, when Scrooge lays claim to the island of Manhattan and proceeds to ruin it financially in Uproar in Manhattan. Oh, what could have been. 2/10 Next, Scrooge completely loses his marbles by turning Venice upside down in Adventure in Venice. This story is not offensive to anyone in particular, but to the reader's intellect. 1/10 We somewhat recover our senses On the Queen of Saba's Trail, although not without a heavy dose of modern-day orientalism. Gone are the picturesque landscapes of yore, too. 4/10 And finally, we end up more or less where we started, with a wild chase through the Alps and a wondrous money-making machine in Through the Alps on Eggshells. Next time Scrooge is going on an adventure, I'll be staying home! 5/10
All in all, I do not recommend this series. The relevant stories have been printed Uncle Scrooge already. Those pretty much give you a best-of. Better stick with other long-form stories.