by Goscinny and Morris
C’mon, surely most of you at least have heard of Lucky Luke? Surely?
It’s one of the most iconic and well loved European series – or at least it is in mainland Europe. Sadly, the simple joy of “the man who shoots faster than his own shadow” hasn’t got the same recognition in the UK as his more famous contemporaries Asterix and Tintin.
However, Cinebook are committed to bringing all 31 of the best-selling and much loved Goscinny and Morris volumes into print. Here’s what I said last time with the review of Volumes 2 & 18:
“…..you may well be aware of the iconic image of the laconic cowboy with either cigarette or blade of grass hanging loosely from his mouth (depending on the version and how strict the anti-smoking lobby is where you are).
It’s a simple, repeating tale of the wandering cowboy, washing up in town at the start of a book and riding out once crimes are thwarted and injustices righted. Together with faithful and smart horse Jolly Jumper and a cast of supporting characters, often from US history, the fastest (and coolest) cowboy in the west has been delighting millions for decades. …. such is the nature of the stories that you really need no prior knowledge, no idea of Lucky Luke’s history to appreciate the classic cartooning and laid back tale in each volume.”
So, in actuality, I could simple write one generic review of Lucky Luke and simply switch around the paragraph that describes the specific action of that volume. It really is that formulaic.
But this is one of those cases where formulaic is simply repeating an essential, simple, yet rather brilliantly executed central idea. To complain would be to complain that Calvin And Hobbes was formulaic, or the best superhero stories, or countless others. The brilliance is in the idea, the brilliance comes with the creators, on top of their game mixing up the elements slightly and delivering a subtle riff on the last story. Formulaic? certainly. Does it matter? Absolutely not.
(And there’s your story. The simplest of ideas, an iconic character, two creator’s really working perfectly together – Lucky Luke by Morris & Goscinny, published by Cinebook)
In The Stagecoach we have a typically Lucky Luke set up wherein Luke is hired by Wells Fargo in a PR stunt – taking a highly publicised shipment of gold from Denver to San Francisco. But every villain and bandit for miles around intends to disprove the old adage of “Wells Fargo always gets through!” And it’s Luke’s job to protect the coach.
The fun in this Lucky Luke volume comes from both the storyline of the continual attempts to ambush the gold and the ridiculously caricatured passengers sharing the journey with Luke. Each one has something funny about them, some visual gag to be repeated for brilliant comic effect, whether it’s the inept gambler being tarred and feathered, the gold miner with a habit of a bad bet, the downtrodden and tiny husband with his overbearing and very large wife or even the driver of the stagecoach, who get’s this great visual gag early on in the book:
(Stagecoach and a handbrake parking manoeuvre – brilliant visual gag from Lucky Luke by Morris and Goscinny, published by Cinebook)
It shouldn’t be that much of a surprise that Lucky Luke, as done by Goscinny and Morris, is a piece of classic comedy adventure comics.
There’s a polish to the character and the storylines this far in, a relaxed shorthand where we, as readers, share the simplicity of a well told tale, created by two artists perfectly at ease with their character. The storyline moves along at a great pace, it’s littered with great visual gags and ends, as it begins, with a shot of Luke on his horse, leaving as he arrived, singing his lonesome song, ready to return next volume.