This latest book takes an unexpected turn with the storytelling, but a welcome one at that. Rather than have outsiders blundering into the jungle domain of the Marsupilami and family we instead get what is, to all intents and purposes, a wildlife documentary.
Deep within the jungle is the caldera of a dormant volcano, home to ancient cacti. These cacti periodically eject a foul pollen into the atmosphere. This forces the local creatures to take refuge but it also, it transpires, forms part of the Marsupilami species’ rights of passage. Reluctantly the Marsupilami gathers his children, treks to the sleeping volcano, and deposits his children inside, sneaking away once they’re distracted. The reason, however reluctantly done, is to test the resourcefulness of the young ones. There are dangerous plants and hungry creatures to contend with, so it’s the three Marsupilami children against nature.
As a ritual it is indeed an odd one, but by and large, it’s played for laughs, not least through the protracted and desperate hunting of a disheveled jaguar. So beaten and battered is he that his sense of smell has faded and he has only one eye. And lots of scars, complete with stitch marks (naturally).
The cartoon peril is forgivably light and slapstick, but what holds it all together is this interesting approach to the story (you can almost hear Attenborough narrating the text). The fleshing out of the three children is also welcome, all of whom have remained rather flimsy as characters up until now.
I’m particularly enjoying Batem’s artwork too. Not a direct copy of Franquin’s but with enough nods and acknowledgments to capture his spirit. All-in-all, a great cartoon book.
And if you liked that: You’ll enjoy Spirou & Fantasio too