Well, this was a revelation. A completely new take on the character of Lucky Luke. And it’s flippin’ marvellous.
Matthieu Bonhomme has created a fresh tale of the lonesome cowboy that tones down the humour and drives up the adventure. Think of it as an alternative Earth version of Luke. It’s a little more serious, more dangerous, and there’s even a little blood. Jolly Jumper’s here, but he doesn’t speak (although his snorts can be understood by Luke), and there are plenty of nods to past adventures throughout.
Rather than copy Morris’s style, Bonhomme has taken it as the basis for a less exaggerated cartoon depiction. Luke’s nose is still a little large, but not the scale that Morris drew it. In fact, Bonhomme’s art is what really sells this book. It’s just wonderful. He’s an exceptional draughtsman, setting tone, mood and setting with the minimum of clutter and fuss. Each panel is beautifully laid out to maximise dramatic effect. There are even call-backs to the way Morris would lay out a page which was nice to see, such as the Apaches pinning down the wagon. The icing on the cake is his keen eye for colour, with each page using a restricted palette of complimentary solid colours and the occasional blend to make each and every spread something you’d want to hang on your wall. Incredibly lovely work.
But what of the story? There’s a price on Luke’s head. Wanted posters are up and the reward money is too tempting to resist. After a near-miss with one bounty hunter, Luke saves three sisters pinned down with their cattle by the Apaches. Even they know Luke’s a wanted man, but accept his help in getting across the Apache land before the Apaches can regroup and come for them again. Won over by his gallant, rugged charm, all three sisters are falling for the cowboy, although his head is focused on keeping them all alive. But there are more dangers ahead, and it could just be that Luke’s met his match in more ways than one.
If you’re a regular Lucky Luke reader you’ll recognise a few faces as they crop up, or references to past events, but you most certainly don’t need to be aware of them to enjoy this. And if you’re not a reader because the humour of the Morris books was never your thing (time to give them another look, if that’s the case), then this may be more to your taste.
Bonhomme is an exceptional artist and gifted visual storyteller who has breathed fresh life into a classic character. That’s no mean feat, and he should be applauded for the achievement. A remarkable book in every respect, and I can only hope there’ll be more of them.
And if you liked that: There are Lucky Luke books galore at www.cinebook.com, and check out The Marquis of Anaon while you’re at it