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The one where Tintin is ejected out of a plane
on 8 April 2010
Tintin's adventure in the Balkans perhaps doesn't have the same exotic allure as his excursions to the Andes, to Tibet, to the Sahara or the Moon, and consequently King Ottokar's Sceptre is somewhat underrated among the Tintin collection. Hergé however puts no less effort into his research and his creation of a political background for the state of Syldavia, going as far in this book as to include a brief brochure laying out the troubled history of the nation that comes across as realistic and authentic, giving the story a little more political depth.
The story doesn't skimp on action and intrigue either, Tintin's investigative nose getting him into a lot of trouble when he refuses to take the hint and mind his own business. Returning a lost briefcase found in a park to a professor in the study of ancient seals, Tintin gets wind of something suspicious going on related to Syldavia and volunteers to accompany the professor on his visit there acting as his assistant. Even Professor Alembick starts behaving strangely as the trip commences, but before he can act on his suspicions, Tintin finds himself ejected from the small aircraft while they are on their way to the capital Klow.
The story's plot to overthrow the King of Syldavia is a product of the time of its writing, King Ottokar's sceptre being originally serialised in the Petit Vingtième from August 1938 to August 1939, the situation between Syldavia and Borduria reflecting the Anschluss of Austria by German forces in March 1938. It's no coincidence then that the name of the author of this plot, Müsstler, is made up of a combination of Mussolini and Hitler.
As one of Tintin's earlier adventures, the artwork here isn't always as slick and polished as it is in some of the later books, (often done in collaboration with the assistants at Hergé's studios), although when redrawn for collected publication in this edition, Edgar P. Jacobs (Blake and Mortimer) was employed to redesign Syldavian costumes, work on new backgrounds and the recolouring of the story, adding considerably to the whole feel of the work. The sense of pacing here however is pure Hergé and classic Tintin, purposefully driving the story forward, leaving little visual clues and puzzles to be worked out. The story achieves a wonderful balance then between action and intrigue, with every page revealing another little twist or amusement (including the first appearance from our diva Bianca Castafiore) as the story gains momentum.