by Raoul Cauvin and Willy Lambil
The Bluecoats is another one of those Cinebook titles which is attempting to introduce us English speaking folks to a series that’s hugely popular in Europe, having 53 albums published so far. It’s a comedy series set in the American civil war by the writer of the Cinebook series Cedric and essentially it’s a screwball slapstick comedy of errors done military style – think Asterix without some of the clever wordplay.
It’s stars are two radically different Union soldiers; the straight cut, always eager, first to volunteer Sergeant Cornelius Chesterfield and his antithesis Corporal Blutch, a man who’ll do anything and try any scheme to avoid what he sees as just another risk to life and limb. The strange thing is, the two men have a bond, beyond the uniform, they genuinely seem to like and look after each other, despite all the frustrations army life and their two clashing personalities throw at them.
(Now, where do you think they’ll find two “volunteers”? From The Bluecoats Volume 3 by Cauvin and Lambil, published by Cinebook)
The Skyriders sees our mismatched twosome as the last two cavalry men in the unit after their rather bonkers cavalry Captain gets himself captured by the Confederates. They find themselves pressganged into service on board a strange new French device – the tethered observation balloon. Not being the most competent of soldiers and even worse balloonists sees them putting most of their superiors in traction before they eventually master the idea and start sending word of the Confederate troop movements.
But their luck can’t hold and they find themselves untethered, floating free and through luck rather than judgement manage to come back down to earth with a bump, right on top of their commanding officer. Faced with the threat of get back the Captain or else, Chesterfield and Blutch borrow the balloon and head off behind enemy lines…
(Chesterfield and Blutch manage to be a danger to their superiors even at that height. From The Bluecoats Volume 3 by Cauvin and Lambil, published by Cinebook)
The Bluecoats is funny. Not rip-roaringly so, but in a very satisfying and amusing way. The whole book is one long series of slapstick routines fixed around the characters of the men and the difficulties with mastering the balloon. But these moments of repeated slapstick, whether it’s our two leads trying and failing to master the whole balloon thing or the repeated injuries suffered by the men in charge at the hands of Chesterfield and Blutch is done really well and there’s a lovely rhythm to Cauvin’s dialogue, especially between the two men, that had me smiling and enjoying myself all the way through the book.
And in Lambil’s art there’s a playfulness with his simple cartooning backed up by a great sense of storytelling throughout his pages. That combination of Lambil’s lovely art and Cauvin’s nicely timed slapstick makes The Bluecoats into a really nice comic album, amusing rather than outrageously funny, but as a lightweight, comedy piece it does everything it sets out to do. Simple, easily and with quite a lot of style.