Top critical review
One person found this helpful
The one where Tintin uncovers the slave trade
on 14 April 2010
There's a great deal going on in The Red Sea Sharks, but strangely, at the same time nothing much really happens. Although based on a real story that Hergé read in the newspapers about modern day slavery, Tintin and Captain Haddock's part in uncovering the illegal trade of humans is rather haphazard, the two of them (with Snowy) hopping on planes and boats without really seeming to arrive anywhere and get started on an investigation. An unfortunate tendency of their transportation to catch fire, blow-up or fall apart might have something to do with this.
Recurrent motifs are really all The Red Sea Sharks have going for it in place of a clear linear investigative plot, from the problems with their transportation to Captain Haddock, a man normally averse to the stuff, continually finding himself with water splashed in his face. This kind of thing is common in Hergé's work, but usually takes a back seat to the main story, providing balance, character and even a certain amount of symbolism (The Calculus Affair is a masterclass in its use and in the manner in which it is storyboarded), but here it's taken to the length of almost self-parody, overwhelming the main thrust of the story.
There's a sense of self-parody also in the amount of characters from past Tintin adventures making reappearances. The Emir, Sheik Bab El Ehr and prince Abdullah are the principal characters, the story mainly constituting a sequel to Land of Black Gold, which of course brings in Oliveira da Figueira, but there are a whole raft of characters brought in stretching right back to Dawson from the Blue Lotus, to General Alcazar, Allan, Rastapololus, Dr. Müller, Bianca Castafiore, Calculus (not really adding to the story) and Jolyon Wagg - I think even Mr Cutts the butcher makes a reappearance.
The overall impression is that the story never really gets going - the problems in Khemed and the trade in Mosquito aeroplanes never really add up to much, while the slave trade is more or less stumbled upon in passing - and it's all much too cluttered. Hergé is clearly delighting in the characters he has created, wanting to reintroduce them to his readers, but he doesn't really give them anything to do or any reason to be involved in the underlying story. The artwork, usually so clear and expressive also feels cluttered, giving a sense that Hergé has lost his way with the Tintin series. Much would be regained in terms of simplicity of storyline and beauty of clear-line artwork in the next adventure, Tintin in Tibet - perhaps Hergé's most personal work - but the signs of the Tintin series having peaked with the three mid-period double-length adventures are now clearly evident.