Bottled City is a section where we take a look at a classic moments in whatever field we choose, be it comics, Television, movies etc.
Book 13: The Seven Crystal Balls (1944)
Still shying away from any overtly polticial material and inspired by the curses supposedly visited on expeditions exhuming pharoah tombs Herge crafted his most chilling volume here. It’s an unnerving tale that pushes the series as close to ghost story as it ever has and one sequence in partiucalr has an edge to it that makes it mildy unsettling. However this is Tintin we’re talking about, so it’s hardly horror to scar children with but it’s surprising how strange some of the events here and while there is a rationale provided it isn’t exactly air tight. Some of the story elements remain pleasingly underexpalined adding to its odd air.
This is another taut and strong book, Herge taking his strengths and ability to craft compelling mysteries and the addition of supernatural flavour here, it really flows. It’s good to see the characters expanded upon as well, with Calculus playing a central role as both a personality and a plot device and Haddock contiunes to refine his acerbic personality. Supporting characters are well utilized, with the return of Alcazar and Castafiore having a positive bearing on the tale and it’s always nice to see how these people bounce off each other, even if it’s just in glorified cameos.
The matruity of the writing and tonal unease lends an atmoshere to this and sets up a delicious cliffhanger making this volume another favourite of mine. It gladdens my heart to know that this book and its continuation may provide the structure for the Tintin sequel, should it occur, and under Peter Jacksons watchful eye it should be a faithful and engaging romp.
Book 14: Prisoners of the Sun (1949)
Like the last two parter I’m sad to say that this volume falters in the resolution to its gripping mystery. The tone shifts from spooky goings on and mystique into a more traditional Tintin goes travelling adventure and some of the magic is inevitably lost. It’s still fascinating to learn about Incan culutre and again there’s nothing partiuclary wrong with the story and its events, it just feels like a bit of a let down.
The main reason lies in what I believe is a narrative cop out at the very heart of the story. There’s a deus ex machina resolution that while shows Tintins ingenuity it is so convenient it really rankles with me. Now I know you may think I’m crazy for complaining about inconsistencies in a fun children’s book series which is littered with coincidence and chance but this still feels like a cheat. I don’t wish to spoil it as it provides the crux of the story which ties my hands in a reviewing sense. No other book in the series hinges so much on a twist so I shall tread carefully.
A Chang like character (see The Blue Lotus) is introduced which does give Tintin a new foil to engage with and offers the readers a much needed window into this culture that feels authentic. It’s not a bad book by any means but I can only imagine it being a disappointment, especially afte r the four years of waiting its initial readership had to endure. A rationale is given for some of the previous books odd lurches but they still feel a bit underwritten and since that means the previous books beautiful strangeness remains relatively untouched I can only be delighted.
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