If (as they say) comedy is tragedy plus time, distance doesn’t hurt either, which is why it takes the Belgian team of Raoul Cauvin and Willy Lambil to properly make fun of the American Civil War with “The Bluecoats” (“Les Tuniques Bleues”). None of that bleak “Loveless” business of Brian Azzarello. “The Bluecoats” does for the North and the South what “Lucky Luke” did for the Wild West: it pares things down to amiable stereotypes. That doesn’t mean it avoids troublesome issues like slavery or regionalism or battlefield chaos; but they are tackled with a detached sense of humanity’s follies. Mostly we follow by-the-book (or is that dumb?) Sergeant Cornelius Chesterfield and cowardly (or is that smart?) Corporal Blutch, as they make a mess of things.
In tone and style, “The Bluecoats” perfectly blends “Beetle Bailey” and “Asterix”: the latter is an obvious model, which the Union “Bluecoats” being the brave Gauls and the Confederate “Rebs” serving the antagonistic role of the Roman Empire. It is not, however, as gag-packed, and Chesterfield and Blutch aren’t quite Asterix and Obelix. Still, their interplay is delightful: Chesterfield’s genuine love for his colleague and Blutch’s allergic reactions to responsibility make for an interesting dynamic. I suspect this is a series that grows on you with each volume: there’s a staggering 56 best-selling albums to date, (7 of them have been translated to English by Cinebooks as of this writing.)
“The Bluecoats” does get extra credit for frequent attempts at historical accuracy. One volume sports the footnote: “The writer actually researched this topic seriously! He knows you don’t believe him, but he did!”
RATING : GOOD ENOUGH, may get to be COOL! as I read more in the future.
Civil War? What is it good for? Inspiring Axl Rose and Guns N’ Roses.