I have to admit I was a bit disappointed that none of the three tales collected in Volume 7, the final set of "The Adventures of Tintin," constitute classic examples of Hergé's beloved comic book stories. But that seems a minor concern when you consider the epic scope of Hergé's body of work. It is not that these are bad stories, especially compared to the ones collected in Volume 1 of this series, but rather that Hergé so often provided classic tales, with Tintin traveling to the Moon or diving beneath the sea, that these final three adventures do not measure up.
"The Castafiore Emerald" begins with Tintin and Captain Haddock out for a walk and discovering a band of gypsies camped near the rubbish dump. This offends the good captain, who offers the gypsies the use of a large meadow near his hall. However, no good deed goes unpunished and he receives a telegram announcing the imminent arrival of Biana Castafiore, the Milanese Nightingale. Meanwhile, the broken step on the front staircase earns Haddock a badly sprained ankle and the opportunity to roll around the adventure in a wheelchair. The diva and her entourage then descend upon the hall, literally adding insult to injury by giving the captain the gift of a parrot. But as Castafiore repeatedly points out, she has brought along her jewels, including an emerald given the signora by the Maharajah of Gopal. The gypsy fortuneteller had already predicted the theft of the jewels and we expect her prophecy to come true, even though Castafiore is constantly yelling about her jewels missing. "The Castafiore Emerald" derives its comedy from the clash of characters with Tintin staying out of the way for the most part. Of course, by this time in the series Hergé is completely comfortable with his cast of characters, which shows in the interplay, Hergé also does a delightful take on that new fangled invention, the television.
"Flight 714" is sort of the generic Adventure of Tintin, with a little bit of everything that . A Qantas Boeing 707, Flight 714 from London touches down at Kemajoran Airport in Djakarta, java, last stop before Sydney, Australia. Disembarking is our hero, Snowy, Captain Haddock, and Professor Calculus. As they stretch their legs the good Captain spots a forlorn figure and slips a $5 bill into the man's hat. Once again no good deed of Haddock's goes unpunished and it turns out the old man is Mr. Carreidas, "The millionaire who never laughs." Well, Professor Calculus quickly takes care of that and Carreidas insists on flying Tintin and his friends to Australia on his special jet. Haddock is looking forward to a pleasure trip, an ordinary flight and no adventures, but fate has something else in mind, to wit: a hijacking, a cutting edge prototype means of transportation, an exotic island in the middle of nowhere, an evil scientist with truth serum, a gigantic stone head pagan idol, a threatening lava flow, the return of an old familiar villain, a space ship, and Tintin running around a lot with a gun. Pretty much all of these elements have popped up in the previous twenty Adventures of Tintin that Hergé had told over the previous decades. For that reason this particular adventure strikes me as more of a curtain call for Tintin and his friends than anything else, even though this is the penultimate tale and the Thom(p)sons are no place to be seen.
"Tintin and the Picaros" is the final adventure of Tintin, although there is not any sense of this being the end of the road (except for the surprising discover that suddenly Captain Haddock can no longer stand the taste of alcohol). As the story begins the Captain and Tintin are discussing the state of affairs in San Theodoros, when General Tapioca's dictatorship continues to rule in place of their old friend Alcazar. Then news comes that prima donna Bianca Castafiore has been arrested by Tapioca as part of a conspiracy to over throw the government. But when Tapioca charges Haddock, Tintin, and Professor Calculus as being part of the conspiracy a series of charges and countercharges, as well as outright insults, fly back in the forth in the headlines between Haddock and Tapioca. Finally the Captain agrees to accept Tapioca's "invitation" to come to San Theodoros to discuss the matter. Haddock is pretty much trapped into agreeing, and Calculus insists on going to Madame Castafiore's rescue, but Tintin refuses to go, knowing this has to be a trap. The title of the book refers to the Picaros, which is the name of the rebels in the mountains who want to take back the government of San Theodoros and return Alcazar to power. In this final Adventure of Tintin we are back on familiar ground for the most part, both in terms of the geography and the characters. We know, of course, that Tintin has not abandoned his friends and eagerly anticipate some clever way of arriving upon the scene at a most opportune moment. However, this turns out not to be the case, and when Tintin does arrive on the scene you know that Hergé is providing a standard adventure for his hero and his friends, and not something special.
But while "Tintin and the Picaros" and the other two tales found here are average adventure at best, there can be no doubt that taken together these 21 stories (23 if you count the two earlier "flawed" adventures) are a major accomplishment in the field of comic books. I only wish I had made a point of reading these classics two or three decades earlier, because with "The Adventures of Tintin" Hergé created one of the landmark comic book series since Cortes discovered pre-Columbian picture manuscripts in 1519. In terms of owning these stories your choice is between these smaller, hardbound books collecting three stories each, or the larger softcovered versions. I admit I first read most of them in the larger format but have the smaller hardback versions for the comic book section of my library.