Tintin: The Secret of The Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure

The Secret of The Unicorn
The classic adventure story is back! Tintin, boy reporter and detective, and his dog Snowy team up with their friend Captain Haddock in a wild search for lost treasure. Along the way, they’ll meet kidnappers, thieves, sharks, and more!

In The Secret of The Unicorn, Tintin discovers an antique model ship, which turns out to be the ship commanded by Captain Haddock’s ancestor Sir Francis Haddock. After several confusing and hilarious encounters with a pickpocket and the indefatigable detectives Thomson and Thompson, Tintin is kidnapped by the Bird brothers, criminal antique dealers who have set up a thieves’ den in historic Marlinspike Hall. Tintin escapes and discovers a secret message leading to the legendary treasure of the famed pirate Red Rackham, killed in battle by none other than Sir Francis!

In Red Rackham’s Treasure, Tintin and Captain Haddock sail in search of the pirates’ treasure. They encounter the brilliant but absent-minded and extremely deaf Professor Calculus and hijinks with Captain Haddock’s beloved whisky ensue. Eventually, the friends and their crew, find the treasure island…but no treasure! Further research unearths the undersea wreck of The Unicorn, but still no pirate treasure. Returning home, Captain Haddock buys Marlinspike Hall, his ancestral home, and he and Tintin make a stunning discovery in the cellars where Tintin was held prisoner!

Herge’s art is crisp and efficient. He excelled in using simple lines and shapes to communicate action and emotion. Every panel of the comic strips is a smoothly interlocking puzzle piece in the plot, and every line and figure counts. Herge’s text is lengthier than most contemporary comic strips or graphic novels, but his economical and masterly art pulls the breathless reader through the funny, exciting and mysterious twists and turns of the plot.

These two titles are new editions, published to correspond with the release of the Spielberg film in December 2011. Each title includes an enlarged gallery of characters with brief descriptions at the beginning of the story and bonus material at the end. It begins with a brief timeline of Herge’s life and work and some trivia “Discover something new and exciting about Tintin and his creator Herge!” and then additional context for the stories is given. Then there is the “Explore and Discover” section, which matches Herge’s art with real-life photos and people and adds more trivia about the stories.

I carefully compared these new editions to both Little Brown’s hardcover omnibuses from the 1990s (vol. 3 and vol. 4 – both are out of print, although new editions were reissued in 2007) and their full-size paperbacks from the 1970s and 80s which are still available. I compared them panel by panel looking for changes and updates and was pleased to find only a few minor changes in punctuation and layout of the text. The biggest change is the font, which is a much lighter and more italicized form of the original. This may discourage kids from picking up these titles, since they are already more dense in text than most contemporary graphic novels.

Parents may be concerned about Captain Haddock’s heavy drinking. However, it is an integral part of his character and although usually played for laughs, is also frequently shown as a problem that gets both the Captain and Tintin into trouble and can be very embarrassing to the Captain.

Parents and librarians eager to introduce Tintin to a new generation will be pleased with these new, affordable editions with their fascinating additional features. While the full-size editions remain my personal favorites, the bonus features in the new editions make these an enticing option for filling in or starting a Tintin collection in your library!

Recommend this exciting pirate/mystery adventure to parents who are reluctant to allow their children to read comics – the amount of text will reassure them that these are indeed “real” books. Fans of mystery and adventure will also enjoy these classic comic strips.

Tintin: The Secret of The Unicorn
by Herge
ISBN: 9780316133869
Little, Brown and Company, 2011

Tintin: Red Rackham’s Treasure
by Herge
ISBN 9780316133845
Little, Brown and Company, 2011