The Bluecoats Vol 7 – The Blues In The Mud
Raoul Calvin and Willy Lambil
While out on patrol, Blutch and Chesterfield encounter an unusual soldier: a woman wearing a Union uniform, who has come to join the army to look for her brother and uphold the family’s honour. Blutch is unconvinced, but the sergeant, won over by the combination of bravery and a pretty face, agrees to help her. That, however, means taking her along for Captain Stark’s demented charges – a prospect that could drive anyone to shirk their duty or desert…
I’ve previously described Bluecoats as a comic sitcom, Asterix in the American Civil War, your standard screwball comedy, lots of slapstick, but lacking in some of the finer wordplay of Asterix. No surprise that that description stands for this volume. I imagine it stands for all of them.
Bluecoats stars two chalk and cheese Union soldiers, Sergeant Cornelius Chesterfield the solid military man, first to volunteer and damn proud to be there and his antithesis Corporal Blutch, who intends to get through this war alive and with all major body parts in exactly the same state as they were at the start. The general storyline involves manufacturing comedic situations in which the pair can become involved. Boiled down to that it sounds bland. In actual fact, it’s a guarantee of a smile on my face each time I read it.
It might become tiresome if it wasn’t for the skill of both Lambil and Cauvin and the genuine affection you have for the characters. Sure, Chesterfield despairs of Blutch’s cowardice, as Blutch decries Chesterfield’s willingness to get them both killed, but they will fight for the other, will invariably end up going out of their way to rescue the other from this scrape or that weird set of circumstances.
This time around they’re saddled with a Union uniform wearing woman, searching for her missing brother, and if he has deserted, do the right thing for the family’s honour… obviously Chesterfield is hugely impressed, and not a little smitten…
Blutch… not so convinced. He can sense there’s something amiss. Hell, we all know there’s something amiss. That’s not a problem, in fact, it’s part of the point to The Bluecoats, the stories are deliberately not convoluted, we’re meant to figure them out way before Chesterfield and Blutch, all the better to laugh when the inevitable happens.
As the story goes on we learn more of this woman, Chesterfield and Blutch get involved a little too deep in her problems, and everything leads us to a very muddy battlefield, where Blue and Grey quickly turns to orange-brown and muddy soldiers just start taking random swipes at each other.
Here, the laughs are pretty good all the way through, but my fave came when possibly insane Cavalry Captain Stark happens upon the pair outside their tent, kicked out by their new friend trooper ‘John‘, who’s refusing to share a tent with two men…..
The payoff to the gag comes a spectacular 11 pages later, as Stark goes to lead a cavalry charge….
It’s not just the gag of him losing his voice that works so well, it’s the men’s confused reactions that really nails the gag. Great stuff.
Lambil’s artwork is consistently spot on, too easy to overlook at times, the eye playing over it swiftly to go with the story, rather than lingering on the fine carttoning lines within. It’s only really when you stop and observe closely that you realise just how skilled and subtle Lambil’s work can be…
As always, The Bluecoats is funny, but sometimes I wish it could be just that little bit cleverer all the way through, wish the gags were always that good, and wish something of the inspired madness of Goscinny’s dialogue, the speed of his character’s conversations came through a little more with Cauvin’s Aterix-esque scenario. As it is, The Bluecoats is funny, warm, and a guarantee of a good smile for an afternoon’s reading. It could be more sure, but that’s not a bad thing for it to be anyway.