The first Blake and Mortimer adventure I read, The Francis Blake Affair, was a fairly straightforward spy adventure, so I was expecting more of the same when I started this next title. It was a bit of a shock to realize this was actually science fiction.
Professor Mortimer has made an important discovery on the island of Sao Miguel. His friend, Captain Blake of British Intelligence, arrives in answer to his call and they are plunged immediately into danger when Professor Mortimer’s car is sabotaged and his house burgled. Mortimer reveals that he has discovered a completely new mineral, orichalcum, said by Plato to be found only in Atlantis. Of more interest to Captain Blake are the radioactive properties the strange element possesses. The two men make a risky journey into the caves where Professor Mortimer discovered the element, only to be betrayed by their native guide who has been bribed by their old enemy, Olrik.
They manage to survive and make an astounding discovery deep underground: the fabled city of Atlantis, a technologically advanced utopia. But the utopia turns out to have its dark side; it is threatened by changes on the surface and the “barbarians” who share the underground world, as well as by a power-hungry traitor from within. With the help of Blake and Mortimer, the Atlanteans escape their doomed city and set out on a journey to a new world in space.
There is also, of course, a noble savage who swears to be their faithful servant and dies to save them, a brave prince of Atlantis who instantly knows Blake and Mortimer for the trustworthy gentlemen they are, a hideous jungle with flesh-devouring plants, and the “barbarians” (obviously ancient Aztecs), who are well-supplied with pagan rituals and sacrifices. Flying cars, ray guns, and a secret society that incorporates various aspects of fascism complete this clichéd adventure.
The story of a secret underground utopia might have been fresh and exciting when it was originally published in the 1950s, but all the elements are old and tired in 2012. There are gaping holes in the plot; what happens to all the “barbarians” left underground? Presumably they all die, women and children included. Speaking of which, I could see no women anywhere, not even pictured in the background of city life. Even for a comic written in the late 50s, this is a bit too much for me to swallow.
There’s not much detail in the art and even when we do get close-ups of faces, they’re mostly obscured by the various Atlantean styles of headgear, which are remarkably similar to motorcycle helmets. Most of the action is described at length in the text, while the dialogue consists primarily of exclamations. There’s no real sense of underground or the strange radioactive light that supposedly illuminates the caverns and cities.
Collectors of classic science fiction action stories might want to add this title, but if you’re collecting Blake and Mortimer for yourself or your library, I would skip this particular volume.
The Adventures of Blake and Mortimer, vol. 12: Atlantis Mystery
by Edgar P. Jacobs