The adventures of Spirou and Fantasio continue. The last we saw of the two adventurers was in Running Scared, when both had just been swept away by a deadly whirlpool. Valley of the Exiles opens on a somber note, with a notice that search parties have given up on the two and they are presumed dead…
But, of course, our two intrepid adventures have survived and discovered the object of their search: The Valley of the Exiles. After a number of encounters with increasingly weird and dangerous wildlife, Fantasio runs into a particularly dangerous specimen and it’s up to Spirou to save the day and get them both out alive. No one has ever escaped from the Valley before, but there’s a first time for everything, right? With his determined pet squirrel, a tattered notebook from a previous dead explorer, and a little mysterious help, Spirou’s going to get them out or die trying.
There’s not really much plot in this installment. Most of the story was set up in the previous collection of comic strips and this collection has three things going on: the weird and wacky creatures (with plenty of groan-inducing, punny names), the history of the Valley of the Exiles as told through the journal and through Spirou’s extrapolations, and Spirou’s desperate escape attempts, trammeled with the crazed Fantasio.
The art continues the same loose, sketchy quality of the previous installments with lots of cartoon humor, as the characters bounce about and run into the crazy creatures. The flora and fauna include carnivorous lily pads with tongues, inflatemingos that look like balloons, and pretty much anything that could be a mouth is a mouth. There’s less opportunity for some of the racist depictions found in previous volumes since most of the story is just Spirou and Fantasio.
Fans of classic Belgian comic strips such as Asterix will want to add this to their collections, but while some kids may find it funny, it’s hard to think of an audience for this in the general public. Librarians will do better to stick with the classic Asterix and Tintin comics and only collect this series if they have serious students of comic art who will find them in the adult section.