Tintin in America (1932)

Tintin in America
(1979 edition, Originally published 1932)

For the longest time I always thought Tintin in America was one of the weakest of the series, which makes sense considering it was only the third one out of 23 (24 if counting the unfinished Tintin and Alph-Art). Now after reading it for the first time in many years, I think it's a fantastic comic. However, as a Tintin comic, it is one of the weakest. When I first think of the Tintin series, I think of the classic characters with strong contrasting personalities, Hitchcock-esque suspense, and sinister villains who seem deeply-rooted in their world with many contacts. The trio of Tintin, Captain Haddock, and Professor Calculus is an iconic combo of characters that defines the series and their distinct personalities play off of one another really well.

As Tintin and his dog Snowy are basically the only main characters at this point, Tintin in America lacks all of that. However, taking it on its own merits, it's incredibly enjoyable. It's so fast paced, that there's no room for suspense and character development, but there's no need for any with how the story is structured. The plot is hilariously absurd, the idea of a single freelance journalist being able to take down the entire gangster circuit in 1930's Chicago is both far-fetched and flat-out funny. It all fits though, because with the snappy pace, the absurdity works wonders.

A perfect example of the pacing is right at the beginning, Tintin just arrives in Chicago and is immediately led into a gangster trap. It never lets up, each page will usually have some gangster's attempt to snuff him out. It's hard to tell if the gangsters are really incompetent, if Tintin is just really lucky, or if he's just ridiculously sneaky. Whatever the case, it just adds to the comedic qualities. It's a rare case of a book begging for a film adaption, as this would work perfectly as an over-the-top "cops and robbers" kind of film.

The worst part is the misleading cover artwork. It implies that it's mainly him with Native Americans, but that only takes up a small part of the comic, when one of the gang leaders (Bobby Smiles, what a name) escapes into the west and tricks the Americans into thinking that Tintin is one of their enemies.

If someone's never read a Tintin comic and is looking for a place to start, this is not a good starting point. I would say The Crab with the Golden Claws is a good introduction, introducing Captain Haddock. That or The Calculus Affair, which is where all the characters, suspenseful plots, and the world were really perfectly defined. It was the first I read and perhaps my favorite. However, as just an entertaining stand-alone comic, Tintin in America is an exciting and often hilarious time.

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