It was the hottest publishing event in the fall of 2018: America’s fastest-shooting cowboy heads to Paris, home of the world of BD publishing. When cultures collide, hilarity results!
It’s not perfect, but it is entertaining…
Letterer: Design Amorandi
Translator: Jerome Saincantin
Published by: Cinebook
Number of Pages: 48
Original Publication: 2018
What’s Going On?
Lucky Luke comes across the torch from the Statue of Liberty on display in the middle of the country. Jolly Jumper assumes it’s an ice cream stand and we’re off to the comedic races!
Nope, it’s just Auguste Bartholdi, touring with part of his latest creation in an attempt to raise funds to build the rest of the Statue of Liberty. Luke gets drafted in to provide security for the trip, particularly against one businessman who wants to own the same land the Statue is scheduled to be built on.
That takes Luke to Paris, where he gets to tour the city and save the work-in-progress Lady Liberty from diabolical plots.
Is It Any Good?
For the most part, yes. It goes a little too far with all the cultural references at the expense of the plot, but I enjoyed it.
There’s a certain structure that works best on a book like this. The jokes are important and a big draw, but they need to happen in the framework of a larger plot. It’s ok for the jokes to extend a scene past the bare minimum. That’s where you want the jokes to occur — during the plot.
In this book’s case, we start with a misunderstanding between Bartholdi and his hand statue with the local Native Americans. Lucky Luke gets caught up in-between. He’s able to calm the heated exchange, but there’s still a series of jokes about how it looks at first like a roving ice cream stand. Even the Daltons get in on the gags.
The story is taken care of in that it gets Bartholdi and Luke together, as well as laying out all the necessary exposition. The humor occurs in and around that.
When Lucky Luke enters the hyper-secure prison he’s taking the Daltons to, there’s a page-long gag about how security won’t let him or his horse in without taking off their shoes. It helps to sell the point of the ridiculously secure prison, and it tells a funny gag that mirrors the modern world well.
There’s a bit with a canary that I’m not sure I get. It looks like a gag on the “Get Out of Jail Free” card from Monopoly, but I’m not sure if that was the point or if there’s some kind of French cultural thing going on here that they couldn’t translate to work properly.
Also, did they need a full page to show that the prison warden is super detailed about security or that he’s going too far with it? No, but that’s OK. It’s funny. That’s humor in the framework of the story, with just a slightly larger beat than usual.
When the book has those moments, it’s great.
Then the Action Moves to Paris
The problem with this book is that it loses some of the plot halfway through when the action moves to France. All of the work done in the first half is to set up the story, but then the conflict feels squandered.
There’s not much drama. The attempts made to destroy the Statue are so simple and so easily overcome that it’s tough to get too worked up over them. One leads to a half-hearted and quickly ended chase, but I just didn’t find much of it entertaining.
It felt like the plot was a victim of the need to stuff as many Parisian references into the story as they could. To that end, the book is a rousing success.
You get references to cobblestone roads and their use in the May 1968 riots, to poets and novelists and architecture. You get Victor Hugo, because he fits into the time frame, as well.
But I get it — this is a big event in France. This is a cultural icon of theirs — well, technically, it’s Belgium’s, but it was published through France — that’s coming to visit their land, so it’s natural to want to milk every gag out of Luke’s reactions to the readership’s home country.
Overall, as weird as this might sound, this book feels like it has too many jokes. It’s out of balance for what a strong volume of “Lucky Luke” can be.
The humor is good, the art is great, but the whole isn’t as good as the sum of its parts.
( I did really enjoy the gag about how Luke looks Belgian because he’s dressed in black, red, and yellow, though. And any comic that includes a character named Augie — in this case, Auguste Bartholdi — is a worthy one… )
The Art of Achde
Achde’s art is convincing. He’s obviously working in the style of Morris. It says that right on the cover.
He’s not a complete copy of Morris’ style, but it’s close enough. The characters are well-designed. They fit into this world.
His storytelling matches Morris’ style, too, with occasional wide angles showing crowded locations paired up with closer angles that remove backgrounds in favor of solid colors.
Achde does deviate from it here and there. There is a full page splash in this book and two half-page panels on another. That kind of bold imagery is not what Morris or his entire generation would normally have drawn. I give him credit for that.
Part of me wonders, though, if the “In the Style of Morris” part doesn’t go too far. The coloring style of the original Lucky Luke is no doubt largely influenced by what was possible with printing presses of the time. The reason everything is so simple with bold solid colors is just that it’s all the presses could handle.
I’m not saying they should go to a full 3D sculpted coloring style with the series, but I’d like to see it mixed up better. Keep the art in Morris’ style, but change the colors to another style that’ll help tell the story well.
Sidebar: Things That Remind Me of Asterix
One’s a direct reference. The other comes out of my head.
First, there’s this reference to the Sphinx:
But everyone knows how the Sphinx really lost its nose! That’s right — blame Obelix!
(In truth, nobody’s completely sure what happened to the nose. The stories of Napoleon’s men shooting cannons at it for practice are probably apocryphal. There are signs it was gone before 1400 A.D.)
The other reference is more direct:
Parc Asterix is just north of Paris. It’s celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. EuroDisney/Disneyland Paris is not too far away from there, either, but I don’t think Auguste is referencing Mickey Mouse there. I suppose you could argue that point and say that Jul is leaving it to the reader, but I’m still betting on the Gauls.
I’m torn. It’s far from the worst Lucky Luke book I’ve ever read. There are lots of good parts, but it does rely too much on the cultural references for its humor, I think. If you live in France, that might just be the draw for you.
Heck, I love “Asterix in Belgium” despite some of its story shortcomings, for similar reasons. Either I’m a complete hypocrite, or just a normal human.
“A Cowboy in Paris” is not a bad book. Compared to most of the post-Morris Lucky Luke books I’ve read, it’s practically a gem. It’s just missing more in the story department to make it a great one.
I like it, but my enthusiasm is muted.
— 2019.003 —
Buy It Now
It’s good news for those of you who are “print only.” Cinebook published a print English language edition of this book about a month or two after it hit shelves in Paris. You can pick that up at Amazon now:
Or, you can get it digitally through Amazon, Izneo, or Comixology: