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5.0 out of 5 stars The one with the coloured-haired Thompsons and the fireworks, 9 April 2010
This review is from: Land of Black Gold (The Adventures of Tintin) (Hardcover)
The appearance of Thompson and Thomson in a Tintin adventure is more often than not an annoyance, their bungling of investigations and malapropisms having a very limited scope for comedy - a little of them goes a long way. Strangely however, when they have a larger role to play in a Tintin adventure, as here in The Land of Black Gold and later in the Mission to the Moon books, they can be surprisingly entertaining.

It's the Thompsons who - quite literally - drive Land of Black Gold forward, discovering in a rather explosive manner that there is something untoward going on with the nation's oil supplies. It's evidently not instigated by the auto-repair company that they initially set their suspicions on, but rather stems from a dispute between two Arab sheiks in Khemikhal. They set off to investigate, boarding the ship where Tintin, suspecting those on board the ship to be involved in the affair, has also managed to find himself a job as a radio operator.

The Land of Black Gold has probably the most troubled history of any Tintin adventure, but little of that shows in the final version. Started in 1939, abandoned in 1940 at the start of the war and not restarted until 1948, Hergé had in the meantime created several other Tintin adventures and adopted the new full-colour 62-page format that is now the familiar layout. Captain Haddock had also first appeared in those interim stories and only appears at the rewritten start and end of this adventure to explain his absence. Even then, the 1949 collection was significantly revised in 1969 to update the changed political climate in the Arab states, removing offensive and controversial references to Palestine and the Jews.

The changes certainly make it a better work - certainly from an artistic viewpoint, the clear-line drawings much more refined, with Hergé's studio artists filling out backgrounds and using better reference materials - but the story itself is also classic Tintin, superbly balanced between the political machinations that Tintin tries to unravel and the entertainment provided by the Thompsons. At this stage, even with the absence of Haddock and Calculus, a cast of regulars is starting to form with Dr Müller (The Black Island) and Oliveira da Figueira (Cigars of the Pharaoh) reappearing - not to mention an amusing one-frame cameo by Bianca Castafiore - while others who will feature again are introduced, notably Prince Abdullah, the son of Emir of Khemikhal. The characterisation of the child as a naughty and sometimes quite vicious prankster is extremely well done, as strong a personality as any of the regulars, but it's definitely Thompson and Thomson who provide the main pleasures of Land of Black Gold, the consequences of their errors carrying through wonderfully into Destination Moon.
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