By Daniel Pennac and Tonino Benacquista, illustrated by Achdé
Another couple of months and another volume of Cinebook’s English reprints of Lucky Luke comes out – but this time there’s a big difference. The names on the top aren’t Goscinny and Morris, as this is one of the volumes produced more recently, in fact this is a very recent volume – published in 2010.
After Goscinny’s death in ’77, Morris used various other writers to fill the great writers shoes, and following Morris’ death in 2001, French artist Achdé (Hervé Darmenton) assumed the artistic duties. And just that little line on the cover “in the style of Morris” tells you that these continuing stories are meant to be very much in keeping with all that has gone before.
And artistically, it’s a very, very good match. It does indeed capture every bit of the laid back Cowboy and his world, nearly as well as Morris always did. Occasionally there’s a rougher, more cartoon style edge to the work perhaps, but that really is me picking fault where I have no need to. This certainly looks like a Lucky Luke comic.
(The Daltons find out there’s a new head cowboy cleaning up America… from Lucky Luke Versus The Pinkertons, published by Cinebook)
If I had a fault, it would have to be with the storyline. Or more specifically with the subtext that writers Pennac and Benacquista bring to the story. The basic plot is very simple, very traditionally Lucky Luke:
“It’s the start of the 1860s, and the Old West is changing—a change that comes as a shock to the Daltons when they’re arrested not by Lucky Luke, but by… Allan Pinkerton! The man is determined to turn bandit-hunting into a modern, rational business—even at the cost of the American people’s personal freedom. It’ll be up to Lucky Luke to ensure that the USA is protected against all evil-doers, rascals and lawmen alike…”
But in that summary, there’s the hint of the problem… that mention of Pinkerton’s actions threatening the personal freedoms of the American people. There was just a little too much of that here for my liking, a desire to be too clever, to make a non too subtle point about modern culture, the ever-increasing role of the state in keeping tabs on its people, where personal freedoms are cast aside for the good of the state. When Pinkerton sets about amassing power, working his way in with President Lincoln, setting up his famous detective agency and beginning his mission to spy on everyone, criminal and honest citizen alike, there’s no subtlety in the execution, it merely screams out that this is allegorical for now.
(Lucky Luke – obselete? From Lucky Luke Vesrus The Pinkertons, published by Cinebook)
But, put that quibble aside and what you’re left with is a very good Lucky Luke tale, with our hero finding himself somewhat retired by the over-jealous Pinkerton.
Plots are set in place to allow Pinkerton to create his a super-detective network, grab the ear of the President and begin cleaning up America. It starts with the Daltons as you’ve seen, but sooon the prisons are overflowing with every misdemenour imaginable, and the Daltons are allowed their freedom on an early release scheme.
But even retired, Lucky Luke is still Lucky Luke, and not only can he not resist pulling down over-jealous Pinkerton agents, he also can’t stand by when he hears that the Daltons are headed to Pinkerton’s HQ for revenge. All points now lead to Pinkerton’s agency headquarters and everything gets resolved in satisfyingly back to square one fashion, just as it should be, and of course, we’re still treated to the final panel of our “poor, lonesome cowboy, a long way from home” heading into the sunset.
All in all, it’s not completely satisfying, but dammit from a first effort by a writing and art team, it’s a pretty great start. The art works far better than the story, but Achdé had done previous Luke volumes and had settled into character by this point. I hope, I trust, the writing team will settle down as well. If and when they do, this could keep Lucky Luke going for many years.