Hot on the trail of a story about mysterious goings-on at an Antarctic research centre, Fantasio gets through a security cordon at the docks to investigate an impounded cargo ship that has travelled directly from there. The reason for the cordon is down to the ship being under quarantine, so it’s with some surprise that Fantasio bumps into a man fleeing the ship, desperate for help and clearly unwell with a virus. The man is only infectious by touch, so Fantasio enlists Spirou to take them to the Count of Champignac to seek a cure – something the Count can provide on the condition he’s given a rare toxin that, unfortunately, is kept back on the Antarctic base. So a trip southwards is called for, but somebody doesn’t want them to succeed.
The opening sequence alone is worth the cover price, beautifully set up and drawn, laying the groundwork for the remainder of the tale. Such is the confidence of the creators in their audience and their characters that the story is allowed to unfold at its own pace and reveal its mysteries as it progresses. There’s plenty to enjoy throughout, too, from the travails of Spip who fears he may be infected with the virus too, clandestine operatives thwarting progress and a rather dramatic arrival via parachute on the southern continent.
Spirou and Fantasio books always manages to balance a well-paced thriller of an adventure with comic levity and pantomime reactions combining to deliver a perfect package each time. It’s no wonder the pairing has stood the test of time. I’m particularly enjoying Cinebook’s decision to alternate older and newer stories, meaning we get to benefit from both Franquin’s and Tome and Janry’s visions. If you’re yet to discover these recent English adaptations, but are familiar with Asterix and Tintin, then it’s rather a no-brainer for you to pick this one up next.
And if you liked that: Plenty more Spirou and Fantasio available at www.cinebook.com