I was never a big fan of Herge’s Tintin. I didn’t read the stories as a boy and the series just never grabbed me, but when I saw the artwork on the first Tintin adventure – Tintin in the Land of the Soviets – I was amazed by it and wanted to read the story. It looked like a European version of a Golden Age newspaper serial, which, of course, is what it was, only the later, slicker, colour version with which I had been (vaguely) acquainted had disguised that from me. Tintin adventures always have a sense of fun, but this one brims over with anarchic energy. True, the material throughout relies heavily on slapstick (there is a banana peel sequence) but when slapstick is performed with such brio it manages to be funny or at the very least engaging.
I especially like the story’s opening sequence when Tintin catches a train to Soviet Russia. A Soviet agent leaves a bomb … It’s never even made clear if the agent is in the same compartment as Tintin and Snowy, or where exactly the agent leaves the bomb. Details like that do not matter. The bomb explodes wrecking all of the train’s carriages and killing everyone on board, it seems, except Tintin and Snowy. The boy reporter is then charged by the Russian authorities with ‘misappropriating ten coaches and causing the disappearance of 218 people’.
Overall, it’s like a punk album recorded on an independent label by a band who then got signed up and standardized by a major. Wonderful.