Tintin adventures, meet Asterix art. Spirou, explorer and adventurer, and his associate Fantasio are off on another adventure, this time to search for mysteriously missing explorers, a lost city, and a…cure for hiccups?
Spirou and Fantasio are trying to lead an expedition to Yurmaheesun-Shan, on the border of Nepal. They hope to find traces of a 1938 expedition that disappeared. The country was closed to outsiders in 1950, but is currently in the midst of a civil war and a few traces of the long-lost expedition have reappeared. Spirou is having money problems though. His lecture series on previous adventures has been cancelled because it’s so frightening. But Dr. Placebo is impressed by Spirou’s dangerous adventures and thinks they’re just the thing to cure his patients afflicted with hiccups. He offers to finance the expedition if Spirou and Fantasio will take a group of his patients along with them.
Against Fantasio’s warnings, Spirou agrees to take them along and they’re immediately plunged into the thick of danger in Yurmaheesun-Shan, dodging the army, border patrols, rebels, and bad roads. The patients turn out to be a group of complete nuts, including a circus act, a gangster, and other oddities. And, to the disgust of their pet squirrel Spip, there are no real nuts! Their guide, Gorpah, boasts that he’s experienced: “Me guided young foreigner with little white dog before! Me can show many yetis!” He’s definitely picked up some familiar salty language. The team discovers the valley, but Spirou, Fantasio, and Spip are swept into a raging whirlpool and disappear forever. Or do they?
The art has the sketchy, lively appearance of an Asterix comic with lots of caricatured faces, exaggerated appearances, explosions, and action. Drops, lines, and swirls around the characters’ faces indicate surprise, indignation, and terror, while their eyes pop in shock and jeeps bounce through the air. This title was originally written in 1988, but the depiction of non-European races hasn’t changed from the 1950s with all the local inhabitants portrayed as yellow, buck-toothed, and speaking broken English. The army characters are remarkably similar to depictions of Japanese from WWII propaganda, with crew cuts and exaggerated ears and teeth. Just to round it out, Spirou’s hiccup patients include a stereotypical Chicago gangster (complete with a gun in a violin case) and an Arab sheikh. Spirou and Fantasio are taken a little more seriously, with most of the humor coming from the crazy events that happen around them. Wordplay, gags, bulbous noses, and wild explosions abound.
Fans of classic humor and adventure comics will enjoy the wild ride and accept the caricatures as part of the style and the time, but parents and selectors who are concerned about gunplay, stereotypes, and the occasional underwear joke will want to stick to Herge’s more accepted Tintin titles.