by Edgar P. Jacobs
Euro-comics admission time – I’ve never read any Blake & Mortimer before this. <gasp> I know, I know, almost sacrilegious and a massive gap in my comic knowledge, but there really were very few opportunities to get hold of Euro comics translated into English up until now and I completely missed out on previous Blake & Mortimer reprints. But, thanks to Cinebook, all that has changed and I’m now really enjoying the incredible breadth of material they’re sending my way….
Blake & Mortimer is a classic of Euro-comics, with Edgar P. Jacobs a much lauded exponent of the ligne claire style. Mortimer is a nuclear physicist, Blake the ever so suave head of MI5, who find themselves time and again pitting their not inconsiderable wits against all many of science villains and bizarre threats. They’re very much the products of the incredibly fertile science fiction becomes fact post-war years, where nuclear energy was an untainted wonder, where science filled the world with new wonders everyday and where authors such as Jacobs were eager to play with the new technology.
In S.O.S. Meteor; Mortimer has been called in by the French government to investigate the increasingly strange and dangerous freak weather conditions that are plaguing the country. Mortimer, convinced that these so called natural phenomena are nothing of the sort becomes embroiled in the investigation, falls foul of a villain well known to B&M readers, finds himself implicated in tricky missing persons case and on the run from the French authorities. Luckily for him, Blake is also in France, investigating an espionage case that will neatly dovetail with Mortimer’s case by the end of the book. The whole thing progresses as two separate but parallel investigations with our two heroes only coming across each others path on the final page of the tale. Along the way we get a diabolical plan, a lot of futuristic science threats and an awful lot of explanation:
(Mortimer and Professor Labrousse discuss the weather – at length. From S.O.S. Meteors by Edgar P. Jacobs)
So, Blake & Mortimer. Talked about in hushed, reverential tones – “you might think Tintin and Herge are great, but have you seen Jacobs’ work?” – that sort of thing. Which is why writing a review where I go “hmmmm” is going to get me so slagged off. But that’s what I thought. More often than not here it just doesn’t work for me – there’s too many times when it drowns in it’s own dialogue, stalls when it should be action packed and just had me slogging through it rather than enjoying it. I’m sorry, I know it’s a classic – but it’s not for me. I can see why people adore it, can see why it’s spoken of in such reverential tones, but there’s a difference between seeing how something is technically good and actually enjoying it.
(The things I loved about Blake and Mortimer – part 1 – gorgeous artwork. From S.O.S. Meteors by Edgar P. Jacobs)
And even though I didn’t enjoy it for the most part, didn’t get it overall, there are certainly moments where I thought it was rather magnificent: Take the art as a whole and it’s ligne claire / clear line style and you can lose yourself for hours looking at Blake & Mortimer. And when Jacobs gets it right it’s rather thrilling in a good, old fashioned way – such as the 10 page chase by foot, car, postal van and train by Blake midway through the story – that was wonderful.
(The things I loved about Blake and Mortimer – part 2 – some fantastic set pieces – this one with Blake evading capture for ten pages was particularly wonderful. From S.O.S. Meteors by Edgar P. Jacobs)
But for every moment of enjoyment there were too many where I found myself rather (say it quietly and maybe they wont notice) bored by it all. It’s good, certainly from a purely technical viewpoint it’s quite marvellous work. I can see why it’s beloved, but it just doesn’t do it for me.
And there’s part of me that feels let down by this and there’s a big part of me that wonders what is wrong with me that I can’t enjoy this masterpiece. That part of me wondered whether to even put this up, that part of me still questions whether I should. But I have to be honest and tell you all what I think, hoping you’ll understand that this is just my opinion, nothing more. I’m beginning to feel that I’m just not that well suited to looking at more traditional works, first the classic Bond strips and now this – maybe I should stick to slightly more modern or less traditional fare from now on?
Blake and Mortimer, despite me really wanting to enjoy it, despite me knowing and acknowledging how technically great it is, just didn’t work for me. For you, perhaps it will.