The latest “Blake et Mortimer”

For those who have never read “The Yellow M” or “The Mystery of the Great Pyramid” by Edgar P. Jacobs, the following item of news is not particularly relevant: a new volume of the Blake and Mortimer series has appeared, called “La Malédiction des Trente Deniers”.

The series  of Blake and Mortimer was started in 1947 by Edgar P. Jacobs, an earlier collaborator of Hergé. He wrote and drew the eight original volumes of the series. Both the drawing style and the plots of some of these graphical novels are superb, including the above and “The Secret of the Espadon” (“The Yellow M” being in my opinion Jacobs’ ultimate realisation). Written and set in the 50’s, these novels are much more political that Hergé’s Tintin series, reflecting on the cold war atmosphere of the time and on the threat to (European) civilisation of mad scientists in a post-nuclear world. The fond depiction of an “Olde England” that is almost caricatural at times is also an enjoyable part of the novels. The longing for a British Empire that was quickly disappearing while the novels were written is obviously accompanied by an ethno-centrism that verges on racism and xenophobia at times. The World cannot be saved but by cultivated anglo-saxon men! (Characteristically, there is no female central character in the series… One [lame] explanation is that, the series being published in a kid magazine, Le Journal de Tintin, the editors were afraid of Belgian censorship if they included attractive  intelligent women!!) His attempts at science-fiction were less convincing, even though the drawings of “Time Trap” are also superb (in particular, the surroundings of La Roche-Guyon).

As Edgar P. Jacobs died without completing his latest novel, Les 3 Formules du professeur Satō,  his collaborator Bob de Moor drew the second half based on the notes left by Edgar P. Jacobs. The result was fairly unconvincing but it started a process of “new” Blake and Mortimer drawn by different authors in the style and setting of the “older” Blake and Mortimer“La Malédiction des Trente Deniers” is the latest of a collection of eight volumes, most of which are disappointing either because of the drawings (“L’Affaire Francis Blake”“Le Sanctuaire du Gondwana”) or because of the plots (“Les Sarcophages du 6ème Continent”, “L’Etrange Rendez-Vous”, “Le Sanctuaire du Gondwana”). The major exception is “La Machination Voronov” that involves internal fights within the Soviet nomenklatura and the threat of a bacteriological selective weapon activated by KGB dormant agents (as well as the first show of Paul McCartney!), while “L’Etrange Rendez-Vous” has some valuable parts. The latest in the series, “La Malédiction des Trente Deniers”, published a few days ago, is thus a pleasant surprise. The scenario was done by Jean van Hamme as some of the previous ones, but the drawings are from René Sterne (who died before the completion of the book) and Charlotte de Spiegeleer. Those drawings are enjoyably in line with the originals, even though some of the Ligne Claire of Edgar P. Jacobs is lost (as in the poor cover). The plot is a wee too much Indiana Jones-esque, (or Dan Brown-esque) with a dangerous religious artefact and former nazis pursuing the heros, but the Athens of the 50″s is very well rendered (although Greek characters are very caricatural) and the pace of the story is clearly reminiscent of the old Jacobs’. Since this is the first volume of two, I can only hope for the drawing style to remain the same in the second volume, without yet another artist to intervene and blur the references even further!

One Response to “The latest “Blake et Mortimer””

  1. […] second part of La Malédiction des Trente Deniers has now been out for a month. This is volume 20 in the Blake […]

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