Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Review: The Adventures of Tintin Vol. 1 by Herge

The Adventures of Tintin Vol. 1 by Herge

As you might guess from the title, The Adventures of Tintin Volume 1 includes the very first adventures of the young reporter as they appeared in Le XXe Siecle, a Catholic Belgian magazine published in the 1920s and 1930s.

The first adventure has Tintin going to the Soviet Union to report on conditions there. Several agents try to stop him, providing some action and jokes. When he makes it to the USSR, he discovers a lot of duplicity and abuse by the government. Soviet officials show off a factory that's operating at 100% efficiency, smokestacks smoking and metal clanging inside. Tintin sneaks in and finds two guys burning hay and banging metal sheets together. On a bread line, the distributor only gives loaves to people who enthusiastically admit they are communists. Other people are literally kicked to the curb empty-handed. Tintin goes in and out of jail, eventually returning to the West and delivering his report. The book delivers a surprisingly grim view of the USSR, though mostly justified if we remember the Ukrainian Famine, among other abuses. Even so, the grimness is lightened by the action and the absurdly competent Tintin, who can beat pretty much anybody in hand-to-hand combat and can rebuild or repair planes, trains, and automobiles. He's also a master of disguise. As a kids' hero, that makes him pretty awesome.

The second adventure has Tintin going to the Belgian Congo. The story begins with a caveat:
In his portrayal of the Belgian Congo, the young Herge reflects the colonial attitudes of the time. He himself admitted that he depicted his Africans according to the bourgeois, paternalistic stereotypes of the period. The same may be said of his treatment of big-game hunting and his attitude towards animals. [p. 145]
Tintin and Snowy start out for the Congo on a ship, where they have comic run-ins with a parrot and a stowaway. The stowaway becomes an ongoing villain for the story, sometimes tying Tintin up to feed him to the crocodiles or send him down the river. The adventures are another mixed bag of comedy, action, and improbable feats by Tintin. The fun is a little marred by the black-face, primitive locals, but the book is still fun enough for a kids' comic book.

Overall, they are a nice diversion from my regular reading.

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