Lucky Luke Volume 35: The Singing Wire
By Goscinny and Morris
1861. Abraham Lincoln orders that the First Transcontinental Telegraph line, currently interrupted between Nevada and Nebraska, be completed. Two teams, one heading east from Carson City and the other west from Omaha, will meet up in Salt Lake City. Lucky Luke joins the eastbound team. But when a $100,000 reward is offered to the first team to arrive, there’s suddenly more to fear than the natural obstacles of the journey: A saboteur seems to be at work!
We’re reprinting a tale from 1977 here, towards the end of Goscinny and Morris’ collaboration on the tales of the man who shoots faster than his own shadow. Now this is a good thing, as the tightness of the storyline attests.
It certainly helps that the story is a very simple one, something goal driven; get Luke involved with the joining of the telegraph (the singing wires of the title) and see where it all goes, from one set-piece to another, gag to gag to gag. These are often the best sort of stories for Luke, allowing the comedy to develop along the way, rather than being forced by a character driven story.
In all honesty there’s so little I can say about this that I haven’t already said. I’ve reviewed so many now, and I mean no malice by saying they start to have the simple repititious charm of a damn fine sit-com that delivers good, dependable funny every week with the same core cast each time placed into some new situation or other. So it is with Luke.
I really enjoy this regular serving of Lucky Luke, a new one comes out, I settle down on the sofa and simple have a wonderfully relaxed, ridiculously old fashioned and simple fun time in the wild, wild west. I do like that.
(The morse code by the way reads 2560km, or roughly 1590.71 miles according to Google – lovely little touch eh?)
And this time round I get to follow Luke’s adventure across the US as part of the pioneers of telecommunications. Morris’ character is that perfect cipher in many ways, often relatively uninvolved in the events of his own story, and that’s just the case here, with Luke definitely taking a backseat in the story, as the supporting cast come to the fore, delivering the conflict and the gags, with Luke often no more than a pay-off image at the side of the panel, looking nonplussed when something or other goes wrong with the task of bringing the telegraph to the wild west.
(Clever visual gag #1 (of many) tier one sets up the gag with the telegraph, tier two’s single panel is the payoff, with Luke playing his role of bemused observer as usual.)
And of course, by this stage Morris has his line down so well that even a nonplussed Luke is a great looking Luke.
Even better, are those moments we get to see Luke fire into action. It’s too easy sometimes to simply skate over the great artwork, but sometimes it’s well worth stopping and actually looking closely at Morris’ delightful, csupremely confident line. It’s lovely….
(Morris’ art is, by this stage, so refined, so tight, as this lovely blow-up panel of Luke attests.)
Lucky Luke as a series has now gone on for so long with these Cinebook reprints that it would be easy to get complacent about them. But that would do the books, and their creators, a disservice.
This term I had the great pleasure of seeing one of our Year 6 pupils at school cast around the library for the next thing to try, having burnt through our Tintin and Asterix collections, suddenly take a chance on “that cowboy comic”. We have a lot in the library, as all my review copies find their way there. Every day or so he’d be back, rush in, grab the next volume to check out. Absolutely loves them. That’s why they’re so great, they’re another perfect gateway comic, something that’s just simply bloody well done, unshowy, simple, quite brilliant.