Asterix and the Civil War? No, just the very funny Tuniques Bleues
The Bluecoats Volume 4: The Greenhorn
by Raoul Cauvin and Willy Lambil
The Greenhorn is just the 4th volume of Cauvin and Lambil’s Les Tuniques Bleues series to see print in English (another 50 to go) and it’s another quite delightfully funny series that Cinebook have uncovered for us.
There’s very little deep characterisation, or drama here – essentially it’s all about taking a group of cliched, stereotyped, two-dimensional characters and putting them into a series of ridiculous situations, throw in some slapstick, play on a few repeated traits and pull it all together to make it work. And make it very funny.
Here’s what I said to set up Volume 3:
“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.”
And, it’s just the same here – the characters are the same, the themes are the same, only the circumstances have changed. As I read it, and really enjoyed all the daft situations, the analogy to Asterix kept coming back to me. Both in the writing and the art – it’s clever, it’s inventive around a narrow idea and best of all, it is genuinely funny.
(It’s a lazy comprison sure – but that’s just a fight straight out of Asterix isn’t it? Lovely wordplay as well… outside , outside, outside, crash, outside it is then. From The Bluecoats Volume 4: The Greenhorn by Cauvin and Lambil, published by Cinebook.)
This time round, just like that cover should tell you, it’s all about Chesterfield’s unrequited love for the Colonel’s daughter Emily at Fort Bow.
Chesterfield and Blutch have a few weeks leave from the craziness of the 22nd Cavalry and crazy Captain “Cha-A-Arrge” Stark and all Chesterfield wants to do is visit Emily. But it looks like some young greenhorn Lieutenant has gotten there first which sends the incensed Chestefield to a local hostelry.
Things don’t go well (as you can see from the page above) and a chain of events is set in motion…. Indian Chief Gray Wolf’s son gets caught up in the ensuing trouble, an ultimatum is issued, various men attempt to do the right thing and it all spirals up into the realms of grand farce, with Chesterfield, Blutch and the greenhorn Lieutenant winding up at the front in the 22nd Cavalry. Not what any of them had planned…..
(More great slapstick, another over the top character, and great crowd dialogue that just builds the gag wonderfully. From The Bluecoats Volume 4: The Greenhorn by Cauvin and Lambil, published by Cinebook.)
Just the two snatches of artwork from the book here in the review really tells you what you need to know of The Bluecoats. The slapstick comedy of errors is done really well, the wordplay is clever and silly at the same time. And add in those clever touches and repeated motifs and it gets better – such as Blutch’s continuing attempts to never do anything remotely brave or dangerous, as evidenced above.
We find out late on, as the Greenhorn Lieutenant finally overcomes his fear, grabs Blutch’s horse and heads into battle, that Blutch’s careful combat avoidance training even extends to his horse, whom Blutch has spent a lot of time and effort getting into the right mindset:
“That poor beast is going to forget everything I’ve taught her all these years”
but later on….
“Corporal Blutch, you’ll find your horse in a little grove about a mile from here!… After the battle, I saw her go in there, and she refused to come out!”
“Good ol’ Polka, just like I taught her!”
And there are bits like that all the way through. The whole book does everything really well, with great wit and some really nicely constructed gags. All in all, it’s rather grand. Cauvin’s timing and rhythm in setting everything in motion works unerringly well, whilst Lambil’s simple, playful and expressive cartooning is a perfect match to the fun of the writing.