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For a long time I owned all the Tintins depicted on the back cover of "The Adventures of Tintin" and thought I had it all, until I learned about the existence of 3 other titles: "Tintin in the Congo," "Tintin Et L'Alph-Art" (his very last unfinished work), and this one, which happens to be his very first Tintin Adventure. Naturally, I quickly obtained all three.
This being the very first Tintin ever, it is a remarkable work and is a must have for any Tintin lover. However it is not the Tintin you would expect. First of all, this hardbound edition contains a photocopy of the original black and white strips. There is no color edition. It contains almost twice the number of pages as regular Tintins, so it is a good deal for the money. The Tintin and Snowy look somewhat different from the ones we know. In fact, Tintin starts out this adventure without his famous tuft of hair, so you need to read it to find out why his hair sticks up like it does now. The artwork is less detailed and less elaborate than we're used to. Nevertheless it retains a air of elegant simplicity that makes it a masterful work of art.
Another major difference is the rapidity of the action. At that time, Herge was writing this adventure strip by strip for a weekly Belgian newspaper, unlike later adventures when he created it page by page. The adventure therefore moves much more quickly in order to keep readers interested in getting the next edition. Because of this some of the action appears unreal and much is left to impossible coincidences. Nevertheless, nearly all the action "tricks" that Herge uses to rescue Tintin in later adventures can be found here. Police chases, encounters with trains, mobsters, etc. are also prevalent. In fact many of these action incidents are reworked almost exactly in Tintin in America.
As far as the content, one must keep in mind that this Tintin was written in the 1920s - a time when Europe felt threatened by Communism, and also written for an anti-Communist church-run newspaper. The Russians are therefore depicted in the most unfair way, a bias that Herge had to apologize for later in life. Unlike his thorough research for later adventures, Herge bases Tintin's Soviet experiences on just a single book he had read, written mostly for propaganda purposes. Despite this major weakness, I would highly recommend this Tintin adventure. The political views therein are merely a sign of the times...And come to Russia!
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