By Morris & Goscinny
In this latest volume of the adventures of the man who shoots faster than his own shadow, Lucky Luke finds himself called into public service as the Secretary of State requests his presence as a guide for visiting Grand Duke Leonid, in the US to talk trade as the personal representative of the Russian Czar.
The problem is that Grand Duke Leonid has fallen in love, thanks to a few too many pulp Westerns and the work of Fenimore Cooper, with the idea of the Wild, Wild West and before he gets to sign the treaty in Washington, he wants to experience everything he’s read so much about:
(The entire plot of the book, Luke doing a comedy spill of his roll-up and the horses getting the final laugh – what more could you ask for? From Luke Luke Volume 29: The Grand Duke, by Morris & Goscinny, published by Cinebook)
And there you go – that’s the entire setup for a damn entertaining story in a couple of panels right there. To be honest I could leave the whole thing here, stick a few more pages of art up and just tell you over and over that Morris and Goscinny are absolute masters of getting the most out of such a simple setup.
Over the next 40 odd pages we get sabateurs, bandits, blown up bridges, ghost towns, nefarious saloon owners, gold rushes, and all the fun of the old West as Luke tries his very best to keep his very important charge safe and out of trouble, even going so far as to manufacture some wonderfully ridiculous situations of imaginary danger just to keep the Grand Duke happy.
(The bandits he can handle, it’s the Grand Duke who’s causing Luke the problems.)
Luke and the Grand Duke travel across the West, by train, by stagecoach and on horseback, with Morris and Goscinny milking every last drop of funny out of every situation they can put their characters into. Luke’s big problem is that the Grand Duke really doesn’t want to be safe – he wants everything he’s read about, and even manages to inject a little Russian danger of his own into the proceedings:
Like all Lucky Luke tales, this is reliant on the fun and humour of the set up, with the world’s most laconic cowboy a mere passenger along for the ride. The laughs have to come from both the set ups and the supporting cast. And with the Grand Duke Morris and Goscinny deliver the goods yet again.
Although Lucky Luke, at it’s core, may simply be a recurring concept, with a different supporting cast generating the plot each time, there’s never a chance for the general repetition to get tiring thanks to the relentless invention on the smaller scale within the themes, within the story, of Morris and Goscinny. These two men work so hard to deliver gag after gag, funny situation after funny situation, with a character they’re completely at home with.
It’s continued success, the enjoyment I get from each volume, is a mix of that reassuring familiarity, the fun of seeing how many different twists and turns they can put poor Luke through and the sheer superb craft they both display on every page, every panel. And it’s a success that, every couple of months, I get to luxuriate in, all thanks to Morris & Goscinny and the continued publishing schedule of Cinebook.