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The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 4: Red Rackham's Treasure / The Seven Crystal Balls / Prisoners of the Sun (3 Volumes in 1) Hardcover – April 1, 2007
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Volume 4 of the 3-in-1 Tintin series begins in the middle of an adventure, concluding the story begun in The Secret of the Unicorn. (Keeping all the two-part stories together was not possible in the 3-in-1 format because chronologically, the Unicorn/Rackham and Crystal/Prisoners two-parters are back to back.) Red Rackham's Treasure follows Tintin and friends as they search for the pirate booty procured by Captain Haddock's ancestor, Sir Francis Haddock, in the West Indies. They receive some unexpected help in the form of a hard-of-hearing inventor named Professor Calculus, who would go on to become one of the most endearing characters of the series. (Herge admitted that the character was one "whom I never suspected would take on such importance.") It's a lot of fun, with some submarine and diving adventures, humor from the Thompsons, and an unexpected (but satisfying) ending. The Seven Crystal Balls begins on a light note, as Captain Haddock tries to adjust to his new life as a gentleman following the events of Red Rackham's Treasure. He wears a monocle and frequents the music hall, where in a not-unusual coincidence he and Tintin happen to find General Alcazar (The Broken Ear) and the dreaded diva Bianca Castafiore. However, it's the act of fakir Ragdalam with Madame Yamilah, the amazing clairvoyante, that reveals the central adventure: the scientists excavating the tomb of Racar Capac have incurred the curse of the Inca. Despite the efforts of bungling detectives Thompson ("With a P, as in Philadelphia") and Thomson ("Without a P, as in Venezuela"), the explorers are stricken, and one of Tintin's closest friends disappears mysteriously, leading to a trip to Peru in the second part, Prisoners of the Sun. After The Seven Crystal Balls set the eerie stage, Tintin and his friends continue their adventures in Peru. There Tintin rescues an orange-seller named Zorrino from being bullied, and the young man becomes their guide in their quest to find the Temple of the Sun. But they find more than they bargained for and end up in a hot spot. The perils of this engaging two-part adventure are especially harrowing in their combination of the supernatural and the real, although the resolution is a little too deus ex machina. Calculus and the Thompsons provide their usual comic relief.
The 3-in-1 format provides excellent value, but the small size (about 40% smaller than the single-story paperbacks) makes it harder to enjoy the detail in Herge's layouts. --David Horiuchi
Original Language: French
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Top Customer Reviews
What sets Tintin apart from all the rest, I feel, the brilliant quality of the artwork. The level of detail, right from the wheels of flight 714 about to land on that tiny island (flight 714), to the shadow effects of walking in a hidden passage to the Inca empire (prisoners of the sun), to the shape of the waves on which Tintin in a coffin is floating (cigars of the pharaoh), or the jaguar in which Tintin chases the gangsters (the calculus affair), the details are just fantastic and the right amount, without creating too much noise and distraction - as is the case with many of the DC comics - iron man, the incredible hulk, etc.
The stories range from contemporary to looking ahead in the future - swing wing planes, rockets to the moon, hidden cameras/espionage. The subject matter is political, and in my opinion slightly controversial at times. Especially the way Herge stereotypes native people in India (Cigars of the Pharaoh, Tintin in Tibet), or in the jungles of Amazon (The Broken Ear). But even here, Herge is way above the shady and simplistic plots of the like of Phantom and Flash Gordon.
The collection is more readable towards the later comics, some of the earlier ones contains situations which are too improbable and rely far too much on luck for Tintin to get himself out of danger.
Of course, you have been reading these in order, because if for some strange reason you start with Volume 4 then you begin with the second-half of an adventure that began in "The Secret of the Unicorn" (see Volume 3). Although Hergé offers a bit of a recapitulation in the form of a conversation overhead in a bar at the beginning of "Red Rackham's Treasure," you will really not be up to speed on this one. The main thing is that having collected all the clues regarding the titular treasure, Tintin and Captain Haddock are prepared to go forth and find it. However, almost as important as the search for the treasure is our introduction to the final pivotal member of the Tintin family, as Professor Cuthbert Calculus offers the service of his small shark-proof submarine for exploring the ocean floor. Tintin refuses the offer, but it turns out that Professor Calculus always hears somkething other than what somebody is really saying. Adding to the fun are the Thom(p)sons, who come alone with orders to protect Tintin.
"Red Rackham's Treasure" is mostly a pure adventure story, with Tintin using the small submarine and a deep sea diving suit to look for the treasure of the Unicorn. But there is still some detective work left to be done to decipher the final cryptic clues left by Sir Francis Haddock concerning the treasure's location. I still like Hergé's two-part adventure that sent Tintin to the Moon, but this two-parter is not far behind. This is the last of the Tintin stories Hergé wrote during World War II, and after this point we will definitely see his stories become much more allegorical in terms of post-War Europe. But this time around it is just Tintin, Snowy, and company out having fun beneath the deep blue sea.
Tintin's next two-part adventure is included here as well, beginning with "The Seven Crystal Balls" and concluding in "Prisoners of the Sun." The story begins with Tintin on the train reading how the Sanders-Hardiman Ethnographic Expedition has returned a trip to Peru and Bolivia. The gentleman reading over Tintin's shoulder predicts trouble, drawing a parallel between what happened with the curse of King Tut-Ankh-Amen's tomb and these explorers violating the Inca's burial chambers. "What'd we say if the Egyptians or the Peruvians came over here and started digging up our kings?," asks the gentleman; What'd we say then, eh?" The comment is important, not only because tragedy does strike the seven members of the expedition as they fall prey to the Crystal Balls of the book's title, but because one of the themes that Hergé develops in this particular epic is the respect Europeans should have for other cultures and ways of life.
This point has been implict in many of Tintin's adventures, but it is a dominant element this time around. Assissted by his good friend Captain Haddock, Tintin becomes embroiled in the mystery, which takes a more personal turn when Professor Calculus is kidnapped. One interesting twist in this story is that Snowy actually ends up causing more trouble than the Thom(p)sons. There is a seriousness to what happens in "The Seven Crytal Balls" and "Prisoners of the Sun" that reflects a significant turning point in Hergé's work, laying the ground work for his greatest tales, the two-part Moon story and "Tintin in Tibet."
"Prisoners of the Sun" concludes the epic Tintin adventure as the Sanders-Hardiman Ethnographic Expedition returns from a trip to Peru and Bolivia exploring Inca burial chambers when all seven members fell into comas induced by mysterious crystal balls. Tintin is already involved in the mystery when Professor Calculus is kidnapped and put aboard a steamer bound for Peru. With Snowy and Captain Haddock in tow, Tintin arrives in South America ready to rescue his friend and solve the mystery of the curse of the Incas. This involves a journey through the Andes Mountains and the jungles of the rain forest.
There is seriousness to what happens in "The Seven Crystal Balls" and "Prisoners of the Sun" that reflects a significant turning point in Hergé's work. The point that Europeans need to respect the cultures of other peoples is not only explicitly articulated by Tintin in these volumes, but is reinforced by the attention to details he puts into Tintin's visit to foreign lands. The ability of Hergé to grow as a storyteller over the course of his distinguished career is impressive and these stories deserve the accolades they have received and the affection with which they have been embraced by generations of readers. I have always liked his foray into science fiction with the two-part Moon story, but Hergé never did anything any better than this Incan epic. "Prisoners of the Sun" also has one of Hergé's best running gags: no, not the perpetual confrontations between Captain Haddock and the llamas, but the attempt by the Thom(p)sons to use dowsing to help solve the case.