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Customer Review

on 9 April 2010
Rather unusually for a Tintin adventure, The Shooting Star starts off like something out of a pulp science-fiction story as Tintin and Snowy identify a huge fireball heading rapidly towards Earth on a direct collision course. The end of the world is only hours away the scientists at the observatory tell him (and how does Tintin spend his last moments on Earth? - listening to the speaking clock) ...except they've got their calculations wrong and instead of the fireball hitting the Earth, a smaller meteorite breaks off and lands in the Arctic ocean, causing a minor earthquake.

Professor Phostle however has identified a new and unknown metal on the rock that he names Phostlite, and organises an expedition of European scientists to the Arctic to find it and examine it, taking along Tintin and Captain Haddock, who will be in command of the Aurora. As if an attempt to sabotage the ship even before it leaves port isn't enough, a rival foreign ship is on its way to try and reach the meteorite first and claim ownership of its precious minerals.

As unusual as the science-fiction element is (Hergé does of course later take Tintin to the Moon long before a real manned mission ever got there, but Destination Moon/Explorers on the Moon was based on a lot of real scientific research, if not in every detail), it creates a thrilling end-of-the-world opening with doomsayers, portentous giant spiders, millions of panicked rats fleeing from the sewers and the tar on the roads melting from the extreme heat of the imminent final conflagration. Hergé maintains this entertaining tone throughout, with numerous mishaps on the journey, pratfalls and a great deal of humour at the expense of Captain Haddock's unlikely presidency of the Society of Sober Sailors - even the usually unflappable Tintin gets his share of knocks here.

The Shooting Star appears to be a fun, harmless diversion with no overt political statements, but written in 1942 while Belgium was under the control of the occupying German forces - the first Tintin adventure to be published in its now classic standard full-colour 62 page format as opposed to being first serialised and then reworked for collected publication - the reality of the story's creation is well hidden. It's notable that the scientists for the expedition are all from neutral European countries, but there were other controversial elements in the original version - the financier behind the evil rivals from the fictional country of São Rico was originally American and Jewish - elements that were suppressed after the first edition. What's left however remains a highly entertaining Tintin adventure, wonderfully drawn in the 'ligne claire' style, that isn't really all that more far-fetched than the usual stories.
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