When the United States Congress sends an expedition to the Wyoming Territories to prepare the area for settlement, there’s only one choice for the guide--Lucky Luke. Unfortunately for Lucky, the evil Senator Stormwind and his henchman Bull Bullets will try any rotten trick to keep the expedition from succeeding.
Rene Goscinny provides a nice mix of “serious” Western action and slapstick comedy in Lucky Luke: The Black Hills. Luke, who basically plays the straight man to the four absent-minded scientists he’s assigned to escort West, handles the action. He’s the one who gets to run along the tops of train cars, throw punches, and ambush the villains. It’s also Lucky’s quick draw that keeps one of the villains from taking revenge after being beaten fair and square by the surprisingly agile (and quick with a foil) Professor Frankenbaum.
The four professors are a riot. They’re not stupid, they’re just so focused on categorizing that they don’t see what’s happening around them. It’s their running commentary that provides a lot of the book’s humor. While their innocence tends to lead them into trouble, it also gets them out of it. The entire sequence with the Professors and the Cheyenne Indians is just wonderful--especially the bit with the Professor explaining the dangers of firewater to one of their Native American captors.
Bull Bullets is the eternally frustrated villain--a more intelligent Snidely Whiplash. No matter how well he plans, he’s continually foiled by Luke’s luck. I especially enjoyed Bull’s attempt at creating a rockslide that would crush the expedition.
Goscinny’s script works on several levels. First there’s the adventure aspect; then there’s the situational and verbal humor; finally, he includes a bit of satire, making this volume a true “All Ages” title.
Morris’s art style is perfect for this type of story. His characters look goofy without being caricatures. In fact, there are a couple of panels where Luke is almost good-looking.
In general Morris’s backgrounds are simple, but he incorporates more detail in his wide-angle scenes, which invites readers to linger over the panel and check out what the ancillary characters are doing. The panel depicting “Omaha . . . a restless town” is very well done.
If you’re a fan of such Westerns as Bob Hope’s Paleface, the Marx Brothers’ Go West, or Abbott and Costello’s Ride Em Cowboy, then you need to pick up this book.
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