July Books 4) De Sterrensteen, by "Willy Vandersteen" [Peter Van Gucht & Luc Morjaeu]
After my sampling of Suske en Wiske last month, young F was anxious that I should get a decent impression of the more recent stories in the series, and lent me this one from 2008 in which our heroes fly to the newly established Belgian base in Antarctica to investigate strange goings on there (the story is therefore in part advance publicity for the actual base, which opened for business in 2009). As with De Apenkermis forty years earlier, the core sf element is meteoric radiation which causes animals to acquire human intelligence and makes them conspire to take over the world; as with Het Aruba-dossier, poor aunt Sidonia is sidelined from the story from the beginning and doesn't get to travel. Indeed, Suske and Wiske themselves are almost left behind and have to smuggle themselves into Antarctica. (This gives rise to one of several metatextual moments in the book, when Suske indignantly asks whose names are on the front cover anyway; at another point it is so cold that the speech bubbles freeze as they leave the characters' mouths.) I do admit that it is a bit cleverer and actually funnier than the other volumes I read, though the entire problem could have been solved pretty quickly by Jerome working to Professor Barabas's orders, with Suske, Wiske and especially Lambik just getting in the way (when Lambik gets hit by meteoric radiation, he suffers an explicitly Hulk-like transformation and gets in the way even more). The Suske en Wiske line doesn't look to be in immediate danger of fading away.