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Even the most enthusiastic Tintin fan must admit that this, the first of the Adventures of Tintin, is one of the least impressive of the entire series. (The best order to read them is probably to start with Cigars of the Pharaoh and go through to the end, and then go back to read the first three for completeness.) It's not just the monotonous propaganda of Le Petit Vingtième's anti-Communist agenda, or the crudity of the artwork; it's also the way in which Tintin escapes from every threat by simply beating up the Soviets (at one point taking on five armed guards and defeating them almost unscathed). The climax, where he finds the secret bunker where Lenin Trotsky and Stalin have stored the wealth they have stolen from the Plain People of Russia, reminded me of the opening scene from The Naked Gun, only much sillier and executed more earnestly and much less competently (the bunker is located under a fake haunted house).

For all that, there are some points of interest. For the Tintin fan, it is notable that Snowy / Milou contributes a running commentary for the reader's benefit, a role he rather lost in later books. Some of the individual frames show the latent genius of the 22-year-old artist (one in particular foreshadows the cover of The Black Island; another sequence where Tintin gets frozen into a block of ice is reminiscent of the very last frame Hergé ever drew of him, where he is faced with the prospect of being frozen into a clear plastic block as a sculpture).

It's also worth reflecting that when the police in Berlin give Tintin a hard time, this isn't yet the Nazi regime, which was still four years in the future; but the German occupation of Belgium was little more than a decade in the past, and Belgian troops were still in the Rhineland, occupying a strip from Aachen to Kleve, an would not leave for another year. Tintin does get a hero's welcome at the iconic Tempelhof airport in Berlin on his way back, but it is a case of mistaken identity. In the last frame he arrives at the equally iconic Gare du Nord on Place Rogier in Brussels, demolished half a century ago, to general rejoicing. I don't think there is a single speaking female character in the book.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 16th, 2013 08:31 pm (UTC)
I always love how this book is dismissed for its propagandistic anti-Soviet content when he was basically right on the rubbishness of actually existing communism. Though I suppose there is good propaganda and bad propaganda.

Do Tintin's combat abilities become more realistic as the books progress? In The Blue Lotus (one of several books I have read some of in a language other than English) he at one point is able to beat up four burly Sikh MPs in the International Concession in Shanghai.
Aug. 16th, 2013 09:20 pm (UTC)
he was basically right on the rubbishness of actually existing communism

You know a lot more about the early Soviet period than I do, but it was news to me that Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin hid the riches they stole from the Russian people in a vault under a fake haunted house!!!!! (Of course Communism was a very valid target, but Hergé was no Orwell, especially at this stage of his career.)

Do Tintin's combat abilities become more realistic as the books progress?

Yes; or, rather, he starts using his brain more frequently than his fists to get out of trouble (though continues to display a magical ability to dodge bullets fired at close range). The Blue Lotus is still one of the early ones.
Aug. 16th, 2013 10:33 pm (UTC)
Plain People of Russia
Now I want to read Flann Brionovich's "Cuttings from the Kruschev Lawn"

Sorry -- needs work!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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